Lectures in Islamic Art

Event
23 May 2019, 5:30pm

Cutout papers with calligraphy often border single sheets of drawing and painting from the Safavid period, mounted on illuminated margins and often bound into an album. While some of these images are signed or can be attributed stylistically to an artist, the calligraphy and the page compositions are difficult to date with certainty. This talk will discuss the relationship between word and image in such folios and argues that with a close reading of the text and understanding its accord with the image, some hypotheses can be proposed on the time and place of its compilation. Furthermore, the possible origins of the design and compilers of such compositions will be explored

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Event
15 May 2019, 5:30pm

Portraiture in Safavid Iran

Over the course of the sixteenth century artists’ approach to portraiture evolved in Iran. Whereas few figures were depicted with individualized facial details in the first half of the century, the introduction of European prints through trade and travelers stimulated a gradual shift toward greater verisimilitude in portraiture. This illustrated talk will consider the changing pictorial style in Safavid Iran, its sources and its practitioners.

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Event
1 Feb 2019, 5:30pm Room N 7, Pembroke College, Cambridge

Some Solomonic themes in royal iconography of Islamic art have been noted, but rarely do they seem to be so obvious as in palaces excavated in Raqqa and dated to the early Abbasid period. The fragments of a very peculiar pavement with glass tiles resonate with the floor of  ‘glass like water’, which in the Qur’an characterises the palace of Solomon. The talk seeks to understand the aesthetics and semantics of such a floor, which highlighted a specific space in the sequence of formal and representational rooms. While the spectacular appearance fits a period known for innovative "arts of the fire" in architectural decoration, a wider significance of the theme, both earlier and later, may be proposed. Just as the Qur’anic passage acquires a range of interpretation in texts that comment, explain and embellish it, so the Solomonic floor may have been translated into various materials and architectural spaces in early Islamic palaces.

Colleagues and students are welcome, especially those who are interested in history of art and archaeology, Middle East, Islamic and Hebrew Studies.

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Event
22 Nov 2018, 5:30pm Thomas Gray Room, Pembroke College, Cambridge

This talk will focus on the relatively large group of illustrated copies of the works of ‘Ali Shir Nava’i preserved in Istanbul libraries. They can all be dated to the first half of the sixteenth century, while most of them can be attributed even more precisely, to the two decades between 1520 and 1540. 

All manuscripts are luxuriously decorated with precious materials, which reveals their origin from a royal atelier. Such illumination and illustration programme demonstrates the book art practiced in the Turko-Persian world. Its main characteristics would be the mutual influence of the Sheybanid, Safavid and Ottoman court style of the period after the fall of the Timurids, which at times makes the attribution of their illustrations to a single centre not very straightforward.

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