The Birth Scene of Iskandar (Alexander the Great)

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The Birth Scene of Iskandar (Alexander the Great)

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım


Museum collections often include works that are unidentified or inadequately studied. This presentation chases the source of an interesting birth scene depicted on a detached manuscript page, now held in the Brooklyn Museum, to an episode described in Nizami’s Iskandarnama (Book of Alexander).


Milstein, Rachel. “Picturing the Archetypal King: Iskandar in Islamic Painting.” In Romance and Reason, Islamic Transformations of the Classical Past, eds. Roberta Casagrande-Kim, Samuel Thrope, and Raquel Ukeles, 48-63. New York: New York University, 2018.

Rubanovich, Julia. “Why So Many Stories? Untangling the Versions of Iskandar’s Birth and Upbringing.” In Orality and Textuality in the Iranian World ed. Julia Rubanovich, 202-240. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

Soucek, Priscilla Parsons. “Illustrated Manuscripts of Nizami’s Khamseh, 1386-1482.” PhD diss., New York University, 1971.

Uluç, Lâle. Turkman Governors, Shiraz Artisans and Ottoman Collectors: Sixteenth Century Shiraz Manuscripts. Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası, 2006.

“بخش ۱۲ – آغاز داستان و نسب اسکندر” Ganjoor. Accessed 10 December 2020.  

“Niẓāmī”Ganjavī, Jamāl al-Dīn Abū Muḥammad Ilyās.” Persian Literature in Translation. Accessed 10 December 2020.


Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım, “The Birth Scene of Iskandar (Alexander the Great),” Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online, published 9 February 2021.

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım, Norma Jean Calderwood Curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art at the Harvard Art Museums, received her MA and PhD in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Her interests include arts of the book from the Persian and Ottoman realms as well as the history of Islamic art collections. She has recently completed the reinstallation of the Arts of the Islamic World gallery at the Brooklyn Museum (2022). Previously she curated  “A New Light on Bernard Berenson: Persian Paintings from Villa I Tatti” (2017, Harvard Art Museums) and “Syria, Then and Now: Stories from Refugees a Century Apart” (2018, Brooklyn Museum).