The Heavenly Court
Persian Poetry and Painting
Come, whoever you may be, come.
Be you a heathen, a pagan, or not at all, come.
This court of ours is not a court of dejection,
May you a hundred times break your vow, come.
Mawlana Jalal’ud-din Rumi
Persian poetry has deeply marked every facet of life in Iran for a thousand years. Poets have played a significant role in shaping attitudes regarding history, philosophy, mysticism, social values, popular ethics – the domains both sacred and profane that collectively constitute the Persian heritage. The dynamic role of poetry is manifested in art – monumental, decorative and mundane. Sacred monuments are adorned with verses not only from the Koran but also with those composed by venerated poets. Ornamental tiles used in palaces and pavilions, mosques and madrasas are adorned with verse, as are carpets, cups and candlesticks. Persian miniature painting is perhaps the most prevalent art form in which poetry serves as both inspiration and objective. This last category – poetry in painting – constitutes the theme of this exhibition. A selected number of art objects revealing poetic composition as an integral part of their design have likewise been put on display. The selection emphasizes the poetic tradition that in time evolved into one of the most significant components of Persian miniature painting. The exhibit comprises works whose execution is mostly attributed to court patronage and exemplifies the heights of perfection reached by artists in this medium.