BA (Tehran University), MA (American University, Washington, DC), PhD (Institute of Fine Arts, New York University)

Contact details

The Courtauld Institute of Art

Somerset House

Strand, London



+44 (0) 20 7848 2163


Sussan Babaie joined The Courtauld Institute of Art in 2013 to take up a newly established post teaching on the arts of Iran and Islam. Born in Iran, Sussan attended the University of Tehran's Faculty of Fine Arts until the revolution of 1979 when she moved to the USA to study for a Master's degree in Italian Renaissance and American Arts, followed by a PhD at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, where she focused on the arts of Islam. She has many years of experience teaching in America, at Smith College and the University of Michigan, and as a Visiting Professor at the Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Ludwig Maximilian University, in Munich. Her research and teaching concern questions of imperialism and artistic patronage in Persianate West, Central and South Asia where high culture derived from the literary corpus of the Persian language. Most recently, her research has been supported by grants from the United States National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright (for research in Egypt and Syria) and the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.


  • Early modern Iran (16th-18th c) and Persianate world
  • Kingship and its representations in urban space and architecture
  • Transcultural visuality and imperial notions of exoticism
  • Mercantile communities and their domestic visual staging of distinction
  • Urban and social habits of seeing (murals, private objects, album painting)
  • Representations of sexuality in word and image
  • Contemporary arts of Iran with a focus on the location of history and historiography


COURSES 2013-14



  • MA Special Option - Persian Painting and Transcultural Visuality: from the Mongols to the Safavids (14th-17th centuries)
  • BA2- Power and Patronage: Buildings, Books and the Courtly Arts for the House of Timur
  • BA1- Display as Discourse: Persian Arts in London Collections
  • Contributor to BA1 Foundations course and BA2 Object Positions





-Persian Kingship and Architecture: Strategies of Power in Iran from the Achaemenids to the Pahlavis, London: I. B. Tauris, expected 2014 (co-edited with Talinn Grigor)

-Shirin Neshat, Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, Michigan, 2013 (co-author)

-Isfahan and its Palaces: Statecraft, Shi‘ism and the Architecture of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 2008. Winner of the 2009 Middle East Studies Association, Houshang Pourshariati Iranian Studies Book Award

-Slaves of the Shah: New Elites of Safavid Iran, London: I. B. Tauris, 2004 (co-author & co-editor with Kathryn Babayan, Ina Baghdiantz-McCabe and Massumeh Farhad)

-Persian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989 (co-author with Marie Lukens Swietochowski)

Chapters and articles:

-“Frontiers of visual taboo: painted ‘indecencies’ in Isfahan” chapter in Eros and Sexuality in Islamic Art, edited by Francesca Leoni and Mika Natif (Ashgate, 2013): 131-156.

-“Delicate displays: on a Safavid ceramic bottle at the Museum of the Cairo University,” in Ferdowsi, The Mongols and Iranian History, edited by Robert Hillenbrand, A. C. S. Peacock, and Firuza Abdullaeva (I. B. Tauris, 2013): 375-380.

-“Istanbul, Isfahan, and Delhi: Imperial Designs and Urban Experiences in the Early Modern Era (1450-1650), with Çiğdem Kafescioğlu, chapter commissioned for A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, edited by Finnbar Barry Flood and Gülru Necipoğlu (expected 2015).

“Architekt und Architektur im persisch geprägten Asien (15.–17. Jahrhundert),” in Der Architekt – Geschichte und Gegenwart eines Berufsstands, edited by W. Nerdinger (Architekturmuseums der TU München, Munich, 2012): 299-312.

“The Palaces,” Architecture in Islamic Arts. Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum exhibition catalogue, (Geneva, 2012): 181-134.

“Qavam al-Din Shirazi,” The Great Builders, edited by Kenneth Powell (Thames and Hudson, 2011): 29-33

“Voices of Authority: Locating the ‘modern’ in ‘Islamic’ Arts,” Getty Research Journal 3 (2011): 133-149.

“Visual Vestiges of Travel: Persian Windows on European Weaknesses,” Journal of Early Modern History 13 (2009), pp. 1-32.



-Strolling in Isfahan, Sackler Museum, Harvard University, guest curator, 2010

-Treasures of Islamic Art from UMMA Collections, University of Michigan
Museum of Art, installation 2002-2006

-Islamic Art from the Permanent Collection, Smith College Museum of Art, 1998

-Persian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, co-curated with Marie Lukens Swietochowski, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989


-“Between Aleppo and Delhi: the Armenians of Isfahan and domestic architecture and decoration,” at the 6th Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies, September 2013, Sarajevo

-“Kalat-e Naderi and the taste for India,” at the Symposium “Cultural Change in Iran and Iraniate Societies,” September 2013, Vienna

-Mapping Safavid Iran Conference, 30 November–1 December 2013, Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Fuchu, Tokyo

-“Books in gift exchange: Rethinking the Persian response to the Morgan ‘Bible’”, in the Panel “Italy, Persia, and Early Modern Globalism”, College Art Association annual conference, February 2014, Chicago

-“The architect and the artists' atelier: re-thinking the ketabkhane”, March 2014, the 2014 Dr. Bahari Lecture in Iranian Art, SOAS, London

-Sound and Scent in the Garden Symposium, May 9-10, 2014, Garden and Landscape Studies, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC


Persian and Persianate arts, Islamic, Isfahan, Safavid, empire studies, architecture, urban history, word-and-image, arts and transculturation, historiography, contemporary Iran