As the global silk trade boosted Iran’s economy, the popular rhyme observed: “Isfahan, nesf-e jahan” – “Isfahan is half the world”.
Detail from “Salm and Tur organise the murder of their brother Iraj”, by Muhammad Zaman, from the Book of Kings (Shahnama) by Firdausi
CBL Per 277.16
In 1598 the city of Isfahan became the new capital of Iran, signalling a vibrant transformation of political, spiritual and cultural life under the Safavid dynasty.
Wealthy, successful and ostentatious, Safavid Isfahan was a hub for dazzling urbanity throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. New vistas opened up as a modern urban layout was drawn across this ancient city, and European merchant travellers published breathless accounts of their experiences.
Bringing together the internationally celebrated collections of the Chester Beatty with generous loans from the National Museum of Ireland, Meeting in Isfahan explores this cosmopolitan urban centre of trade, ideas and visual culture.
With 65 works from the Chester Beatty’s Persian, Turkish, Arabic and Armenian collections, as well as early printed books and maps from Europe, this exhibition features paintings and drawings by the most renowned artists of the Safavid period: Reza `Abbasi, Muhammad Zaman, Mu`in Musavvir, and many others.
“Youth in gold trousers” signed Reza `Abbasi (d. 1635)
CBL Per 260.2
Detail from “Iskandar marries Roshanak” signed Mu`in Musavvir, from the Book of Kings (Shahnama) by Firdausi
CBL Per 270.66
Mythical Chinese lion and kylin combat, unsigned
CBL Per 240.5