Dr Firuza Melville

Director of Research

Email address: fia21@cam.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1223 339851
Director of Studies at Peterhouse and Corpus Christi








INTERVIEW WITH SHAHIREH SANGREZEH, Cambridge-Manchester, 8 June 2020:


"Diplomatic gifts of the Persian Redemption mission to the Russian court" at the conference 'Beyond the Foreign Affairs', May 2015, National Portrait Gallery, London:


Dr Firuza Melville is a graduate (BA, MA honour) of the Iranian Philology Department, Faculty of Oriental Studies, St Petersburg University, where she received her PhD in Iranian philology, Art and Islamic Studies in 1989. She was an Associate Professor at the University of St Petersburg when she joined the Cambridge Shahnama Project in 2002 after a term at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) and a term at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) as a Fulbright Professor. From September 2005 until September 2010 she was Lecturer in Persian Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow and Keeper of the Firdousi Library of Wadham College. From October 2010 Dr Melville was the Iran Heritage Foundation Fellow and Research Associate of the Cambridge Shahnama Project. Since September 2013 she is the Director of Research of the Pembroke Shahnameh Centre (Cambridge Centre for Persian Studies).

Her main research interests include Classical Persian literature, especially Shahnama studies, debate genre and intertextuality, Russian-Iranian cultural and diplomatic encounters, Medieval Persian book art, Persian literary classics in contemporary art and Russian cultural Orientalism, especially in literature, opera and ballet, in Iran, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Some of her publications can be found on cambridge.academia: https://cambridge.academia.edu/FiruzaMelville


The Persian Book of Kings: Ibrahim Sultan's Shahnama. The manuscript of the Timurid Shahnama of 1435 in the collection of the Bodleian library (co-authored with Ch. Melville). In series: Masterpieces of the Bodleian, Oxford, 2008.

Ferdowsi, The Mongols and Iranian History: Art, Literature and Culture from Early Islam to Qajar Persia (co-editor), eds. R. Hillenbrand, A.C.S Peacock and F. Abdullaeva, London: I.B.Tauris, 2013

"From Zulaykha to Zuleika Dobson: the femme fatale and her ordeals in Persian literature and beyond", in Ferdowsi, The Mongols and Iranian History: Art, Literature and Culture from Early Islam to Qajar Persia,  London, 2013, pp. 235-44.

“The Shahnameh in Persian literary history”, Epic of the Persian Kings: the Art of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, London-New York, 2010, pp. 16-22.

“Shah Tahmasp Shahnama pages in the Shah Tahmasp Album”, Festschrift in honour of Zeren Tanindi, Art and Culture of Books in the Islamic World, eds. Aslihan Erkmen & Şebnem Tamcan, Istanbul: Lale Printing House, 2020, pp. 347-355

“Ferdowsi: ‘a male chauvinist or a feminist?”, Painting the Persian Book of Kings: Ancient Text and Modern Images, ed. M. Milz, Cambridge: Talking tree books, 2010, pp. 103-120.

“Shahnama: the Millennium of an Epic Masterpiece” (guest editors’ introduction, co-authored with Ch. Melville), Iranian Studies, Journal of the International Society for Iranian Studies,Oxford: Routledge, vol. 43, number 1, February 2010, pp. 1-11.

“Side-Saddle tazmin, or The Post-Shahnameh for Victorian Children”, in: The Layered Heart . Essays on Persian Poetry is published in celebration in honour of Dick Davis, ed. Ali-Asghar Seyed-Ghorab, Washington: Mage Publishers, 2018, pp. 475-522


“Kingly flight: Nimrūd, Kay Kāvūs, Alexander, or why the angel has the fish”, Persica, Leiden: Peeters, 23, 2009-2010, pp. 23, 1-29.

“A King who flew”, in: The Alexander Romance in Persia and the East, ed. R. Stoneman, K. Erickson and I. Netton, Groningen: Roelf Barkhuis, 2012, pp. 405-9 + cover.

“Illustrated Shahnama manuscripts in the collection of the National library of Russia”, Proceedings of the conference on the 250th anniversary of the National Library of Russia, St Petersburg, 2007, pp. 37-65.

“Divine, Human and Demonic: Iconographic Flexibility in the Depiction of Rustam and Ashkabus”, Shahnama Studies I, ed. Ch. Melville, Pembroke Papers 5, Cambridge, 2006, pp. 203-219.

“The Unknown Shahnama from Ann Arbor”, in: Manuscripta Orientalia, International Journal for Oriental Manuscript research, vol.11, No 1, March 2005, Thesa, St.Petersburg, pp. 28-61.

Shahnameh Photography Biennale, organised by Korosh Javadi and toured across Iran from Rasht to Tehran, including Gorgan, Qazvin, Saveh, Babol, and Mashhad (2017-2019). Introduced by Firuza Melville, published by Pembroke Shahnameh Centre for Persian Studies, Cambridge, 2019


  • Ali Hassanalizadeh (Quchan, 2019), Present in the past: Ferdowsi’s mausoleum               
  • Amir Enayati (Torbat Heydariye, 2019), Boy from the village of Zarg

“Persian Literary Classics in today’s visual art: Mudassar Manzoor’s crossculturalism in the context of East and West, and past and present”, introduction of the Catalogue of Mudassar Manzoor’s solo exhibition Shahnama - A Journey towards the self (14 March-15 June 2018, Karachi National Museum), ed. Zahra Hassan-Agha, London, 2019.

“The Shahnameh in the age of the post-Shahnameh: from illustration to concept”, Shahnameh: the Perpetual Narrative, Aaran Art Gallery, Tehran, 2016, pp. 49-62


Farah Ossouli, Fragonard and I, Tehran, 2007   Veronica Shimanovskaya, Manizheh, London, 2016

“The Legend of Zulaykha, or the Legend of Sudaba?”, Firdausii Millennium Indicum: Proceedings of the Shahnama Millenary Seminar, K. R. Cama Oriental Institute, Mumbai, 8-9 January, 2011, eds. Sunil Sharma and Burzine Waghmar, 2016, 16-32

“The Legend of Siyavush or the Legend of Yusuf?”, Ferdowsi’s Shahnama: Millennial Perspectives, eds. Olga M. Davidson & Marianna Shreve Simpson, Ilex Foundation series 13, Washington, 2013, pp. 28-57;https://www.academia.edu/8996397/Legend_of_Siyavush


  • J.M. Nattier, Joseph fleeing from Potiphar's wife, 1711, Inv. No GE-1268, Photo © Vladimir Terebenin, Leonard Kheifets, Yuri Molodkovets © State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
  • Siyavush fleeing from Sudaba, Ferdowsi, Shahnama, 1648, Mashhad, The Royal Collection, Ms Holmes 151 (A/6), f. 136r © The Royal Collection, 2011, Her Majesty  Queen Elizabeth II

“Women in the romances of the Shahnama”, Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond, ed. Susan Scollay, Melbourne: Macmillan Art Publishing and Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2012, pp. 41-5.


Practice makes perfect, Nizami, Khamsa, copied ca. 1575, Ms. Ouseley, 316, f. 199v.© Bodleian Library

Pembroke and the Millennium of the Persian Shahnama, Martlet, 2012, p. 10


Tyrant King Zahhak nailed to the Mount Demavand under the supervision of King Faridun, Ferdowsi, Ibrahim Sultan Shahnama, Shiraz, ca. 1430, Ms Ouseley Add. 186, f. 30r, © Bodleian Library, Oxford  

Hitler nailed to the Mount with Mussolini and Tojo as snakes on his shoulders, inspected by Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt (https://www.psywar.org/postcards.php), Kem Marengo, Professor Arthur Arberry, University of Cambridge, and Professor Mojtaba Minovi, University of Tehran, 1942. One of the six of W.W.II anti-Nazi propaganda postcards emulating the main characters from the 11th century Persian epic poem Shahnama prepared for the Teheran Conference (28 November-2 December 1943)

“Holly Davidson and contemporary Shahnama”, Festschrift in honour of Olga Davidson, Boston: ILEX Press, 2018

Firuza Melville, Sudaba is trying to seduce Joseph, collage, Cambridge, 2018.

“Zahhak from Cambridge and Bahram Gur from Geneva: tale of two tiles with the inscriptions from the Shahnama in the collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and Pierre Darier, Geneva”, Proceedings of the Shahnama Round Table in Leiden, Shahnama Studies III, Leiden: Brill, 2017, 317-346.


“Debate in Iranian literary culture”, in: Disputation Literature in the Near East and Beyond, Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Records (SANER), eds. Enrique Jiménez & Catherine Mittermayer, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020, pp. 237-259


Plate with the Goat, Ibex and Dove, Nishapur, 9-10 century, National Museum of Iran, No 22113, Photo © Hojjatollah Alamouti    
Parley between Human and Piran, attributed to Muhammad Qasi, Ferdowsi, Shahnama, Mashhad, 1648, Ms Holmes 151 (A/6), f. 331r, Royal Colletion Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

“The origins of the munāzara genre in New Persian literature”, Metaphor and Imagery in Persian poetry, ed. A. A. Seyed-Gohrab, Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2012, pp. 249-73;

 “The Bodleian manuscript of Asadi Tusi’s debate between an Arab and a Persian: its place in the transition from ancient debate to classical panegyric”, in: Iran, Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies, vol. XLVII, 2009, pp. 69-95 + 6 illustrations.     


“Khosrow Mirza’s mission to St Petersburg in 1829”, Iranian-Russian encounters. Empires and Revolutions since 1800, ed. S.Cronin, London-New York: Routledge, 2012, pp. 69-94


“Alexander Sergeevich Griboedov - Russian Imperial James Bond malgré lui”, The Russians in Iran, eds. R. Matthee and E. Andreeva, London: I.B. Tauris, 2018, 49-75 + cover


“Diplomatic gift exchange between the Russian and the Persian courts in the early 19th century”, Orientality-2: Beyond Foreign Affairs, Conference proceedings (National Portrait Gallery, 2015), Milan: Skira, 2020

2 June 2015, "Beyond Foreign Affairs", National Portrair Gallery, London

“Paradox of Griboedov: at home among strangers, a stranger among his own”, On the meadows of good thought (in honour of Academician I.M. Steblin-Kamensky) “Парадокс Грибредова: чужой срели своих, свой среди чужих”, На пастбище мысли благой, St Petersburg, 2015, pp. 299-315.

Film "The Paradox of Griboedov", Pleayada TV Company, Culture Channel (Rossiya-Kultura), Story by Vladimir Alexandrov, produced by Natalia Spiridonova and Igor Kholodkov, Moscow, 2020

Film consultant Dr Firuza Melville: https://yadi.sk/i/6Aw2cpFX-J1C-g

“Persian Gambit” (editing and preface) in: George A. Bournoutian (transl): From Tabriz to St. Petersburg: Iran’s Mission of Apology to Russia in 1829, Bethesda, 2014, pp. 3-6;

“Minorsky in Cambridge”, Proceedings of the conference in memoriam of Vladimir Minorsky, St Petersburg: Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, 2014, pp. 16-31


“Russian Orientalist ballet and non-Russian National opera: from Diaghilev to Miroshnichenko”, in: Endless Inspiration: One Thousand and One Nights in Comparative Perspective, ed. Orhan Elmaz, Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2020, pp. 329-351

  • Opera Özsoy (Fereydun), music by Adnan Saygun commisioned by Mosafa Kemal for the visit of Reza Shahin 1934          
  • Ballet Scheherazade, music by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov staged by Alexey Miroshnichenko in Perm Opera in May 2019    

“Khayyam. Russian Translations”, co-authored with Natalia Chalisova, Encyclopaedia Iranica, online: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/khayyam-parent

“Russian perception of Khayyam: from text to image”, The Great Umar Khayyam: A Global Reception of the Rubáiyát”, ed. A.A. Seyed-Gohrab, co-authored with N. Chalisova and Ch. Melville,Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2012, pp. 161-188 + illustrations (figs. 15-31).

“Bakst’s Oriental dreams”, in: Designing Dreams: A Celebration of Leon Bakst, eds. Célia Bernasconi & John E. Bowlt, Monte Carlo: Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, 2016; 49-63


  • Female acrobate, attributed to Ahmad (1800–30) oil on canvas, 151,5x 80,4cm, © Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Female acrobat, attirbuted to LéonBakst, water colour on paper,47x32cm, private collection

“From Les Ballets Russes to Les Ballets Persans: the case of Scheherazade”, Orientality: cultural orientalism and mentality, Milan, 2015, pp. 84-99



“Persian manuscripts collection of the St Petersburg University: Gotwald’s curse?”, Writings and Writing from another world and another era Investigations in Islamic Text and Script in Honour of Dr Januarius Justus Witkam Professor of Codicology and Palaeography of the Islamic World at Leyden University, eds. R. M. Kerr & T. Milo, Cambridge: Archetype, 2011, pp. 1-23.

“What’s in a Safina?”, A Treasury from Tabriz: the Great Il-Khanid Compendium, eds. A.A.Seyid-Gohrab & S. McGlinn, Amsterdam-Lafayette: Rozenberg Publishers, 2007, pp. 46-68.

Early Persian Exegesis. Persian Commentaries on the Qur’an, St.Petersburg (212 pp.), 2000.

The Courtly Life of a Poet: Farrukhi from Sistan (11th century C.E), St.Petersburg: “St. Petersburg University Press”, (210 pp.), 2000.

Commentary on the Qur’an (An 11th century Lahore manuscript). Preface, Translation into Russian and Commentaries + facsimile, Moscow (217 pp.), 2001.

Persian Classical Poetry (10-11th centures C.E.), St.Petersburg (180 pp.), 2002.

Tales of a Parrot. Facsimile of Professor V.Zhukovskiy’s text with introduction and commentaries, Saint Petersburg, 2006.

The Pen. The Ambassador of Thoughts: Islamic calligraphy from the Wellcome library (co-editor with N.Serikoff and contributor). Chicago: The Welcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL/Serindia publications, 2007.

“Valentin Alekseevich Zhukovskiy”, Encyclopaedia Iranica, NY,  2009 (online)

“Persian Female Poetry”, Arts: Poets and Poetry. Iran: Classical (Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures), vol. v, Practices, Interpretations, and Representations, gen. ed. Suad Joseph, Brill, Leiden, 2007, pp. 46-47.

“Restless spirit of a genius, in memoriam of Oleg Grabar”, Papers of the Oriental Department of the Russian Archaeological Society, New series, St Petersburg, 2017, 930-40

From right to left: Oleg Grabar, Askold Ivanchik, Firuza Abdullaeva, Akram Habibullaev, Princeton, February 2002

Dr Firuza Melville is currently working on the preparation for publication the two-volume catalogue of Central Asian art in Cambridge collections. 

The first volume: Central Asian Art in the Fitzwilliam Museum should be published by the end of 2020