Epic Iran ★★★★ V&A | Until September 12, 2021


Epic Iran, a large exhibition of Persian and Iranian art and history whisks us through 5,000 years of creativity. We travel from a tiny gold filigree chariot to modern video installations. Positioned at the crossroads of China, Mesopotamia and Greece, Iranian art has left its influences throughout so much of our world. Perhaps, the most arresting work on display is the 11th Century "Book of Kings" with its gorgeous calligraphy and recounting of tales of battles and heroic deeds. Beautifully detailed animals turn up on pottery and are woven into elaborate fabrics – a line of playful deer caught our eye. The former capital, Isfahan, is magically conjured up giving an impression of colour and light, especially high in the wonderful dome. We also see ancient and modern images from the great city of Persepolis which was sadly torched by Alexander the Great. The Cyrus Cylinder from 539 BCE is inscribed with cuneiform lettering telling us how Cyrus restored religious rights to his empire. Paintings and photographs from the 19th century give us a small insight into life at the court with even a glimpse into the harem. As we come to the present considerable weight is given to modern works. This is a large and important exhibition, however, the subject is so vast that at times it seems somewhat rushed. A man singing a medieval love song is answered by a woman's wail, perhaps implying that there is no answer to be found to the enigma that is Iran.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Image: Cyrus Cylinder, 539 – 538 BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum

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