Press release

Bazm and Razm: Feast and Fight in Persian Art

Bazm and Razm

February 17–May 31, 2015

Exhibition Location: The Hagop Kevorkian Fund Special Exhibitions Gallery, Gallery 458

For centuries, Persian kingship was epitomized by two complementary pursuits: bazm (feast) and razm (fight). The ruler’s success as both a reveler and hunter/warrior distinguished him as a worthy and legitimate sovereign. The pairing of bazm and razm as the ultimate royal activities is an ancient concept with roots in pre-Islamic Iran. It is a recurring theme in the Shahnama (or Book of Kings)—the Persian national epic—as well as other poetic and historic texts. 

The exhibition Bazm and Razm: Feast and Fight in Persian Art, which opened February 17 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, features some three dozen works in various media, created between the 15th century and the present day. Works from the Museum’s Department of Islamic Art that illustrate the linked nature of bazm and razm are displayed alongside corresponding works—primarily Persian—from the departments of Asian Art, Arms and Armor, and Musical Instruments. The exhibition charts the gradual shift in meaning and usage of this pairing as it emerged from a strictly royal, or princely, context and became more widespread.

The exhibition is made possible by The Hagop Kevorkian Fund. 

The traditional bazm—opulent and ceremonial—took place on the auspicious annual holidays of Nauruz, Mihrigan, and Sada, on the occasion of royal births and circumcisions, diplomatic receptions or after a victorious battle; the setting was the palace grounds, a tent or a garden. The ruler and his court dressed in luxurious garments and jewels. Gold and silver jewel-studded services were used for wine and food; poetry recitations were accompanied by music and dancing. In contrast, the razm celebrated the ruler’s military might, valor, and strategic knowledge as evidenced by his performance at the hunt and on the battlefield. 

Related Programs and Credits
Education programs organized to accompany the exhibition include a series of gallery talks for general audiences.

The exhibition is organized by Maryam Ekhtiar, Associate Curator, Department of Islamic Art.

It is featured on the museum's website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter via the hashtag #BazmandRazm.

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February 17, 2015

Image Captions:
Two Folios from the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp, ca. 1525–30.
Author: Abu'l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020). Iran, Safavid period. Opaque watercolor, ink, gold, and silver on paper. Gift of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., 1970 (1970.301.9, .15)

Feast (left): "Manuchihr Welcomes Sam but Orders War upon Mihrab," painting attributed to 'Abd al-'Aziz (active first half 16th century); Fight (right): "Zal Slays Khazarvan with the Ox-head Mace,” painting attributed to 'Abd al-Vahhab and Mir Musavvir (active 1525–60)

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