S otheby’s is proud to introduce at auction 44 of the original book art pages of the international bestseller and seminal autobiographical comics series Persepolis, written and drawn by French-Iranian artist Marjane Satrapi. This graphic novel has been highly acclaimed worldwide as an important piece of literature discussing social issues, combining comical and intimate narrative elements with political and spiritual questionings. Since its release in 2000, Persepolis has joined the pantheon of the latest greatest editorial successes for graphic novels, alongside Art Spiegelman's Maus or Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta. The book defies narrative conventions in portraying complex modern social and identity questions, disrupting Western prejudices on Iranian history and global ideas on the embodied performance of femininity by offering a visual alternative to the ‘unspeakable’.
The first published volume of Persepolis details Marjane Satrapi’s coming of age during Iran’s Islamic Revolution through four tomes composed of graphic black-and-white panels. The first section follows 10-year-old ‘Marji’, born to an Iranian progressive family directly descending from the last Shah of the Qajar dynasty. On 11 February 1979, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is overthrown, and his government is replaced by an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Persepolis’ first tome strives to capture the tense and highly politicized atmosphere reigning within Iran during those times. The inner world of little Marji is brilliantly portrayed, as a young child evolving in a militant and revolutionary environment while dealing with her own youthful beliefs; at once fascinated by her family’s past and deeply attached to religion. But the many upheavals brought by the revolution come to upend the little girl’s convictions, along with her and her relatives’ existence. The narrative thoughtfully incorporates major historical milestones within Marjane’s daily life and the characters that gravitate in her childhood – the introduction of the veil is addressed in relation to the heroine’s most influential feminine models, her mother and grandmother; the 1946 Iran crisis is reminisced through the story of her uncle Anouche and various governmental policies such as the liberation of opponents of the regime or political exile are enacted by the introduction of family friends to the plot. The rest of the book follows Marjane as she grows up and travels back and forth between Europe and Iran, leveraging the juxtaposition of text and images to transcribe both in a vocal and tangible manner some distinctly physical issues of visibility, sexuality and identity. In choosing the particular media of comic books to share her story, Marjane Satrapi commits herself to a fundamentally self-performative process, unveiling quite literally her past and that of Iran to create an engaging and approachable space for the reader.
Marjane Satrapi was born in Rasht, Iran in 1969. In the advent of the political events that mark the beginning of Persepolis, she is sent by her parents to the French High School of Vienna, Austria, where she remains for four years. Upon her return to Iran in 1988, she begins her studies at the Fine Arts School of Tehran where she graduates in Visual Communication. In 1994, she sets off for France and enters the School of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg. Soon after, Satrapi joins the atelier des Vosges, a group of comic book authors who shared the same studio in Place des Vosges, Paris. As she develops a taste for this new popular genre, the reading of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus by Art Spiegelman helped her to realize the medium’s potential as a means to share her story. Her first work, Persepolis, won the Angouleme Coup de Coeur Award in 2001 and the 2004 Best Books for Young Adults Award from the American Library Association. It also figures in the Newsweek's Ten Best Fiction books list and was ranked 47th on The Guardian's list of the 100 best books of the 21st century in 2019. Persepolis’ movie adaptation, written and directed by Marjane Satrapi in collaboration with Vincent Paronnaud, premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize, followed by a long list of worldwide awards.
An international best-seller and editorial phenomenon, Persepolis’s original book artworks are the first independent works to have transcended every global border, imposing coming books as a literary genre in its own right. Drawn and written by the very hand of Marjane Satrapi, each of these pages is a tribute to the history of Iran, but also to every little girl who grew up in times of conflict. Iconic and profoundly symbolic, sometimes reminiscent of Persian miniatures, the brushstrokes of Marjane Satrapi offer innovative black-and-white compositions which revolutionized the field of graphic illustration. A multitude of details in vignettes of varying sizes, recurrent symbolic motifs and impromptu irruptions of imaginary scenes are so many tropes which, under the apparent simplicity of Satrapi’s style, fascinated readers worldwide.
Sotheby’s is honoured to offer, through these first 44 pages of Persepolis’ original manuscript, an undisputed modern masterpiece.