York-Noor Lecture looks at importance of storytelling on shaping history

Karin Ruehrdanz, curator of Islamic Decorative Arts at the Royal Ontario Museum, will explore how Iranian legendary history has been shaped by the Book of Kings as part of the next talk in the York-Noor Lecture Series.

A Near and Middle Eastern civilizations professor at the University of Toronto, Ruehrdanz will present “Firdousi’s Shahnama Illustrated: The Book of Kings Interpreted by the Iranians, Mongols and Turks” Sunday, Nov. 16, from 3 to 5pm, at the Noor Cultural Centre, 123 Wynford Dr. (Don Valley Parkway and Eglinton Avenue).

Ruehrdanz’s second talk in the series, “From Creation to the Last Judgment: Images of the Other World in Islamic Painting," originally planned for Monday, Nov. 10 at York, has been postponed due to the strike at York.

In her lecture at the Noor Cultural Centre, Ruehrdanz will explore how the epic Shahnama – Book of Kings by Firdousi created a grand panorama of Iranian legendary history. "Praising the rule of justice, undisputed leadership by the legitimate dynasty and loyal service to the crown by the warrior heroes, the epic became a vehicle to transport dynastic claims, aspirations of courtly elites and even sectarian ideas,” says Ruehrdanz. “Divergent interpretations of the epic are reflected in specifics of the illustrative cycle.”

The selection of subjects for illustration, the distribution of pictures, the iconography of popular episodes and stylistic particularities reveal the ideological program of royal patrons. In addition, the lecture will look at manuscripts from the 14th to the 16th centuries and connect the royal Shahnamas to legitimizing strategies of Mongol conquerors, Timurid princes, Safavid God-Kings and Ottoman sultans.

Ruehrdanz is a specialist on illustrated Arabic and Persian encyclopedias of natural history, on Central Asian miniature painting and on the formation of collections of Islamic art in Central Europe since early modern times. She is the co-author of Stories of the Prophets: Illustrated Manuscripts of Qisas al-Anbiya (Mazda, 1999).

For more information on the York-Noor Lecture Series, visit the Division of Humanities Web site.