Asia Society Presents Exhibition of One of the Finest Surviving Persian Manuscripts

A Prince's Manuscript Unbound: Muhammad Juki's Shahnamah

On view at Asia Society Museum, New York -- February 9 through May 1, 2011

Asia Society Museum presents an exquisite and richly illuminated fifteenth-century manuscript commissioned by the Timurid prince Muhammad Juki (1402–1444). This rarely exhibited volume, now in the collection of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, features more than thirty miniatures that illustrate scenes from the Persian national epic, the Shahnamah (Book of Kings). This is the first time that the illustrations in the manuscript—recently unbound and conserved—have all been exhibited together in the United States.

Although it is not known when the epic was first illustrated, countless copies of this poem have been made through the ages. The intricately colored and gilded manuscript illustrations on view are among the finest examples of Persian painting.

Written by the Persian poet Firdausi (ca. 935–1026), the nearly 60,000 couplet poem is based on a history of the kings of Persia, depicting legendary accounts of the beginnings of civilization until the Arab Muslim conquest that ended Persian rule in the seventh century.

“This is one of the most superb Persian manuscripts of its day,” said Asia Society Museum Director and Vice President of Global Art Programs Melissa Chiu. “The rich colors, striking compositions, and intricate detail make the work truly remarkable in the long tradition of miniature painting. It has been one thousand years since this story was first written, and we are so pleased to celebrate this anniversary with a manuscript of such artistic and historical importance.”

The exhibition is organized by Adriana Proser, Asia Society Museum’s John H. Foster Curator for Traditional Asian Art, in consultation with independent scholar Barbara Brend. The exhibition is accompanied by Brend’s book Muhammad Juki’s Shahnamah of Firdausi, published by the Royal Asiatic Society/Philip Wilson Publishers, 2010, the first complete study of the manuscript.

The full press release is attached below. For more information, contact Asia Society's New York press office at 212-327-9271 or