Look at the Sky
: the bird Simurgh in text and image in Iran (1010-1650)

  • Laura Castro Royo

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This research focuses on the mythological bird Sīmurgh and her representations in literature and art in the Persianate world from 1010 to 1650. Sīmurgh is generally overlooked in both art and literature, and she has not been the subject of monographic study. This dissertation proposes a combination of approaches from literary and art historical analyses to offer a complete picture of the importance of this bird for the arts and culture of the Persianate world. The results of the research show that Sīmurgh is a multifaceted subject: she is a narrative character, a mystical symbol, and a decorative motif. There is no division between these aspects; rather, they coexist.

The dissertation is divided in two parts. The first five chapters are dedicated to the study of the role of Sīmurgh in literature. The chapters are divided by genre: epic poetry, encyclopaedic works, and Sufi-mystical poetry. The following four chapters that form the second part of this dissertation analyse the iconography of Sīmurgh. They first investigate the possible origins of her visual representation up until c. 1300s. Following, a chapter is dedicated to the critical stage in which text and image became related and a recognisable iconography was established for the literary character of Sīmurgh. The dissertation ends with a chapter that discusses a following stage in which the iconography of Sīmurgh detached itself from the narrative text and started to function as decoration.
Date of Award29 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorIlse Sturkenboom (Supervisor) & Saeed Talajooy (Supervisor)


  • Simurgh
  • Persian literature
  • Persian art
  • Mythology
  • Art history
  • Zoroastrianism
  • Persian manuscripts
  • Manuscripts
  • Metalwork
  • Dragon
  • Iconography
  • Sufism

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 12 October 2028

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