Writing the Dead: Pietro Della Valle and the Tombs of Shirazi Poets

In: Muqarnas Online
Cristelle Baskins Department of Art and Art History, Tufts University, Medford, Mass.

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This essay explores the impact of the Shirazi poets Saʿdi and Hafiz on the famous Baroque traveler, Pietro della Valle. Hitherto unexplained features of the magnificent funeral he designed for his Syrian Christian wife, Sitti Maʿani Gioerida, in Rome (1627) can be related to the poets’ tombs he had seen in Shiraz immediately following her untimely demise. In Safavid Iran, Della Valle was impressed by the production of commemorative poetry as well as by the virtuosic calligraphy that functioned as both word and image. He approved of the funerary complexes that created a community of poets both living and dead. The Roman funeral of 1627 not only displayed Della Valle’s literary erudition, it also emulated social, poetic, and artistic elements of the tomb shrines he had seen on his travels.

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