The Fascination of Persia

The Fascination of Persia

The Persian-European Dialogue in Seventeenth-Century Art & Contemporary Art of Teheran

Ancient Persian art, contemporary art from Iran, and the Persian – European dialogue since 1600.



Title Information

Edited by Axel Langer

1st edition

, 2013


320 pages, 302 color and 10 b/w illustrations

24 x 33 cm

ISBN 978-3-85881-739-6

In cooperation with Museum Rietberg, Zürich


Since the early 17th century, Europe and Persia have been weaving bonds of friendship. A legendary place between Europe and Asia, Persia became the longed-for destination of many travelers, trades men, and friars and knights of various orders. They took residence in Isfahan, the magnificent capital, and were received at court with princely splendor. They brought works of art and luxury goods with them and took finest silks and precious rugs back home. This exchange has left traces in European and Persian art of the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Only few people today are aware of these once good, friendly relationships. The dispute on nuclear weapons and the regime’s political repression and religious fundamentalism dominate our perception of Iran. Yet despite of these difficult circumstances, modern Tehran has a rich and vibrant artistic life.
This book documents the Persian – European artistic dialogue over four centuries. In particular it presents work by seven contemporary artists from Tehran and thus provides an insight into a new modern Persia in exchange with the global art world. At the same time the reader is offered a fresh view at ancient art shown in contrasting juxtaposition.

Essays by Rudolph P. Matthee, Cyrus Ala'i, Birgitt Borkopp-Restle, Paulina Banas, Michael Chagnon, Gary Schwarz, Jennifer M. Scarce, Claudia Swan, Susann Wintsch, and Axel Langer.


The Fascination of Persia is published in conjunction with an exhibition at Museum Rietberg in Zürich (October 2013 to January 2014).


Deutsche Ausgabe

Authors & Editors

Cyrus Ala'i

Paulina Banas

Birgitt Borkopp-Restle

Michael Chagnon

Axel Langer

, read art history, musicology, and modern German literature. He has been curator of Near Eastern art at Museum Rietberg in Zürich since 2007.

Rudolph P. Matthee

Jennfer M. Scarce

Gary Schwarz

Claudia Swan

Susann Wintsch