Strolling Isfahan: Masters, Merchants and Monarchs - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Strolling Isfahan: Masters, Merchants and Monarchs

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MA History of Art Special Option

Strolling Isfahan: Masters, Merchants and Monarchs


Nashmi the Archer, signed by Riza ‘Abbasi (c. 1560/70-1635) and dated 25 February 1622. Isfahan, Safavid period. Ink, colour and gold on paper, 19 x 10 cm (7 1/2 x 3 15/16 in.). Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller 1960.197

Dr Sussan Babaie

Focusing on the makers of the arts and of the crafting of the material culture and the built environment that made Isfahan one of the most vital cities in early modern Eurasia, this Special Option traces the spaces of sociability and the places of encounter among the denizens of the city in seventeenth century. Our case studies on things—portable objects and built environment, quotidian or luxury, public or royal—and their contemporary textual evidence—historical and scientific treatises, guild documents and manuals of crafts, poetry and epigraphy, decrees and memoirs, treatises on painting and calligraphy and on the culinary arts, artist/poet biographies—aim to understand through interdisciplinary investigations the intersections of the making and the writing, the practices that elucidate dominant theories of ‘art’, and of ‘taste’, and of the meaning of being an Isfahani cosmopole, a self-conscious urbanity that imbues all the arts and practices of life in Isfahan.

Some of the student work will be targeted for the publication of a handbook on Isfahan. Field trips both near and far will be scheduled and depending on funding and political conditions, travel to Isfahan may also be a part of this course.

Knowledge of Persian is not required but commitment to devote substantial effort to learning Persian is crucial (language training courses to be arranged).

Courtauld Course Lecturer

About the lecturer

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 (Graphic Design) 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 at Smith College and the University of Michigan in America, and as the Allianz Visiting Professor at the Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Ludwig Maximilian University, in Munich.

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