Margaret Squires

PhD student

Thesis: Crafting Splendour: Safavid Carpets and Soft Power, 1598-1722

Supervisor: Professor Sussan Babaie

Funded by the Hajji Baba Club Research Fellowship, 2022–23

Carpets are among the most well-known works of art produced in Iran, studied primarily as dazzling products of highly skilled craftspeople and as charming decoration complementary to any environment. In spite of their ubiquity, carpets are largely neglected in scholarship of the arts of Iran and the arts of the Islamic world more broadly. My research aims to reactivate this important area of the history of Iranian art, concentrating on the period between the establishment of a new capital at Isfahan under Shah ‘Abbas I (r. 1588–1629) and the fall of the Safavid dynasty. This period not only comprises a refashioning of the arts to suit the new capital and its architectural program under the auspices of the court, but also the expansion of foreign trade and rapidly increasing import of Persian carpets to Europe. As such, my subject matter ranges from the highest quality carpets created as bespoke commissions for the Safavid court to carpets of a more standardised design and quality made for a much wider market.

My approach to Safavid carpets diverges from previous scholarship, which looks mostly at their stylistic evolution and technical features. Instead, I turn toward spatial and experiential learning from carpets by repositioning them within the spaces for which they were produced and the ways in which people engaged with and understood them.


  • MA, History of Art and Architecture, University of Massachusetts Amherst (2018)

Thesis: “The Vanishing Grid: Pattern Construction in the Afshar Collection Animal Carpet”

  • BA, Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures (Arabic concentration), University of Virginia (2016)

Thesis: “Examining Islamic Art in the Museum: North America and the Middle East”

Research Interests

  • Art and Architecture of Safavid Iran
  • Exchange between Safavid Iran and Europe
  • Carpet weaving and design in early modern Iran, India, and Ottoman lands
  • Histories of the interior
  • Technical analysis of carpets

Teaching Experience

Associate Lecturer, “Display as Discourse: Persian Art in London Collections,” The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK (Autumn 2022)

Teaching Assistant, Foundations of Art History, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK (Autumn 2021)

Lecturer, “Discovering the Arts of Persian Lands,” High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia (Spring 2021)

Teaching assistant, University of Massachusetts Amherst (August 2017–May 2018)

Graduate curatorial fellow for Art of the Islamic Worlds, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Summer 2017)

Museum Experience

Curatorial assistant for Art of the Islamic Worlds, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (June 2018–July 2020)

Exhibitions contributed to:

“Bestowing Beauty: Masterpieces from Persian Lands” (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2017–18; High Museum of Art, 2020–21; Toledo Museum of Art, 2022)

“Between Sea and Sky: Blue and White Ceramics from Persia and Beyond” (November 2020–May 2021)

“Collections in Conversation” (ongoing)

“Garden Paradise: The Magnificent Safavid Carpet from the Burrell Collection, Glasgow” (November 2018–February 2019)

Publications and Papers

“Wine, Coffee, and Tobacco: The Pleasures of Blue-and-White in Safavid Iran,” Arts of Asia vol. 50, issue 5 (September–October 2020).

Eight catalogue entries for Bestowing Beauty: Masterpieces from Persian Lands–Selections from the Hossein Afshar Collection, edited by Aimée Froom. New York: Yale University Press, 2019. 56–57, 102–103, 148–51, 184–85, 200–201, 246–47, 248–51, 272–75.

“The Vanishing Grid: Pattern Construction in the Afshar Collection Animal Carpet,” Symposia Iranica, St. Andrews, Scotland, April 2019.