Fascination with Persepolis

20 October 2017 until 25 March 2018

Fascination with PersepolisFascination with Persepolis
The photographer Antoin Sevruguin (1880?) on a wall of a ruin with cuneiform inscription in Persepolis (collection: Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden)The photographer Antoin Sevruguin (1880?) on a wall of a ruin with cuneiform inscription in Persepolis (collection: Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden)
'Fourth view of Persepolis', drawn on the site by Cornelis de Bruijn in 1704 (collection: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden)'Fourth view of Persepolis', drawn on the site by Cornelis de Bruijn in 1704 (collection: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden)

The exhibition Fascination with Persepolis is about European travellers, photographers, and archaeologists who visited the ruins of Persepolis in centuries past. The desire to know more about these ancient monuments was kindled in the fourteenth century, when merchants and diplomats started making the long journey to the south of present-day Iran. Persepolis is without a doubt one of the most fascinating archaeological sites in the ancient world. The Persian palace complex still strikes awe into every visitor who sees its vast size and the great beauty of the monuments for the first time.

Drawings, engravings, writings, photographs, and objects

In this exhibition you will see drawings, engravings, books, writings, and photographs that have been produced over the centuries by travellers, photographers, and archaeologists. This documentation continues to provide a fascinating insight into the magnetic attraction of Persepolis. A few objects are displayed by way of illustration: they include a unique camera with travelling equipment dating from 1858 and a number of original little bags containing finds from the first excavations in 1931. The exhibition is not confined to the period before the first archaeological excavations, but also looks at the work of the earliest researchers and the archaeologists of today, as well as the stories of an Iranian family that has lived in the vicinity of the ancient city for generations. 

City of the Persians

It was the ancient Greeks, in the reign of the Persian king Darius I (522-486 BC) who called the city Persepolis – 'city of the Persians'. The city was built on a large terrace that was partly carved out of the rocks and has three levels. Most of the palace complex was built in the age of Darius I and Xerxes I (483-465 BC). Persepolis is regarded as one of the crown jewels of Persian architecture, but it also displays artistic styles and techniques drawn from other cultures, such as those of Ancient Egypt, Assyria, Asia Minor, and Greece.


You can find the exhibition Fascination with Persepolis in the Muzezaal (Muse Room): turn left straight after the ticket barrier leading to the exhibition galleries.


The exhibition Fascination with Persepolis is based on the dissertation of the same title by Corien Vuurman. Her book on the subject is on sale in the museum shop.