Alexander to Iskandar

Paintings from Persian and Turkish Manuscripts

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım, Ph.D.

Brooklyn Museum

This talk will trace the story of Alexander from the ancient Greek novel, the Alexander Romance, to its Persian and Turkish adaptations.  A variety of Islamic literary texts, namely the 11th century Persian Shahnama of Firdawsi, the 12th century Iskandarnama of Nizami, and the 14th century Turkish Iskendername of Ahmedi, will be discussed. Both famous and rarely-known paintings from Islamic manuscripts dating from the 14th to the 17th centuries in various collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, will be featured. This visual journey will touch upon Alexander’s shift from a military hero/invader to a wise ruler and how the image of Alexander adapted to changing political contexts from the Ilkhanid Tabriz in Iran to Ottoman Amasya in Turkey. Even if Alexander didn’t conquer the entire world, his Islamic image did.

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım is the Hagop Kevorkian Associate Curator of Islamic Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Prior to her joining the Brooklynm Museum, she was the Assistant Curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art at Harvard Art Museums. At Harvard she worked toward the reinstallation of the new Islamic and Later Indian Art galleries, which opened in 2014, and curated the recent exhibition A New Light on Bernard Berenson: Persian Paintings from Villa I Tatti. She is also the editor of an upcoming book on the same subject, which will be published by Villa I Tatti. Yoltar-Yıldırım received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Earlier in her career she was a Fellow and Research Assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and conducted extensive research on a variety of subjects through several fellowships and grants. Yoltar-Yıldırım has taught courses on the history of Islamic art in both the United States and her native Turkey. She is the author of a handbook on Ottoman decorative arts as well as several articles on the arts of the book and the history of Islamic collections.

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