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Major international exhibition of rare Persian illuminated manuscripts opens at the State Library of Victoria
Bahram Gur visits the lady from Khwarazm in the Blue Pavilion, from Nava’i, Sab‘a Sayyara, 1553. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

MELBOURNE.- A major international exhibition of rare Persian illuminated manuscripts which will open at the State Library of Victoria on March 9, 2012.

Premier Ted Baillieu said the Love and Devotion: from Persia and Beyond exhibition will bring exclusively to Melbourne more than 60 illustrated Persian manuscripts – some eight centuries old – from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries.

'Love and Devotion will be a free exhibition and the largest collection of Persian manuscripts ever seen in Australia,' Mr Baillieu said.

'It will allow visitors to get up close to intricate priceless works from the Persian, Ottoman and Mughal empires that date back to the 13th to 18th centuries – a very rich and important period in the history of the book.

'Focused around classic Persian tales of love, these beautiful examples of manuscripts and miniature painting, illumination and calligraphy rarely travel outside the UK, and some will be on public display for the very first time,' Mr Baillieu said.

Mr Baillieu said the exhibition will be enhanced by a full program of events and activities including an exciting partnership with the Victorian Opera which will bring opera to the Library for the first time.

'Through this partnership, the Victorian Opera's Youth Opera cast will perform The Play of Daniel. The performance will be accompanied by Turkish folk performers, the Nefes Ensemble, who will present the music of the Ottoman Empire through authentic Turkish instruments. It is an inspired and imaginative collaboration,' Mr Baillieu said.

Mr Baillieu also thanked corporate supporters of the Library and launched the State Library of Victoria Foundation’s new corporate membership program.

'There is a strong spirit of philanthropy in this state and there are many Victorians whose generosity has shaped the collections and exhibitions of our great arts institutions. The Library's corporate membership program continues in this spirit and represents a successful partnership of public and private interests within the arts,' Mr Baillieu said.

Love and Devotion will examine themes of human and divine love within the narratives and poetry of Persian literature. Featured works will include the classic love stories as told by writers such as Nizami and Jami, as well as Firdausi's Shahnama – or Book of Kings – Persia's great literary epic. Also featured are the works of the great Sufi poets such as Rumi and Hafiz. The exhibition will reveal the influence of Persian culture on neighbouring empires as well as parallels in the work of European writers dating back to Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dante.

Love and Devotion: from Persia and Beyond will open at the State Library of Victoria, Swanston Street Melbourne on 9 March 2012 and will run until 1 July 2012.

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