The Shahnameh in Mashhad

Following on last week’s review of public art in Mashhad, thanks to Rustin Zarkar – now I want to share some images of the Shahnameh in Mashhad, also thanks to Rustin.

In 2010, the Administrative Office of Artistic Affairs set aside the walls of Ferdowsi Square and Ferdowsi Boulevard (four kilometers northwest of downtown Mashhad) to be decorated by a team of independent artists. 2,200 square meters of walls were painted over the course of a year with scenes and passages from two sagas of the Shahnameh: the seven labors of Rostam and the downfall of the tyrant Zahhak. When it was finished in 2011, the mural wrapped around the entirety of the square.

Then on the evening of June 4th, 2011, a group of individuals painted over the whole mural. After a local outcry, it was revealed that Astan-e Qods-e Razavi, the charitable endowment that manages the Imam Reza Shrine complex, was behind the removal of the mural.

Partially erased segment of the Shahnameh mural. Image from Rustin Zarkar













As Zarkar describes it: “The municipality sought to celebrate the work of Iran’s national poet in the eponymous square, while Astan-e Qods removed the mural due to the secular nationalist connotations of Shahnameh imagery on its property.” Since the walls belong to Astan-e Qods, they won the argument – although not the overall war, since the mural has been repainted in another location in Mashhad. Click here to see the repainted images.

After the 2011 removal of the Shahnameh murals, the local Revolutionary Guards  decided to collaborate with the Administrative Office of Artistic Affairs to have their own Shahnameh murals painted. The Guards like nationalist, war-like images and their mural has large battle scenes from the adventures of Rostam – directly facing the Astan-e Qods sports complex, “almost as if to challenge the bonyad’s erasure of the previous installation”.

Here’s a sample of the Revolutionary Guards mural. This section shows Rustam and Sohrab:

Image from Rustin Zarkar




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