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abstracts

ARTICULATING PRESENCE, SIGNALING AUTHORITY

Who’s hiding here? Artists and their signatures in late Timurid and Safavid painting
Marianna Shreve Simpson, University of Pennsylvania 

A number of Persian manuscripts dating from the late 15th and 16th centuries contains illustrations and illuminations signed by artists in minute cursive script. Often these all-but-invisible signatures are tucked within the frames of illuminated titlepieces or worked into a composition's architectural or landscape setting. Wherever their placement, they were deliberately positioned out of sight and thus contrast noticeably with the easily legible scribal signatures found in contemporary colophons, often in the same manuscripts. This paper will speculate on the motivations for and significance of these hidden signatures within Persian artistic practices and the image and self-image of the artist in early modern Iran.      

Chasing after the muhandess: Visual articulations of the architect
Sussan Babaie, Courtauld Institute (UK)

Scholarship has noted the increased visibility of the architect since the beginning of the 15th century in the Iranianate sphere but has not fully exploited its cultural implications. Since the architect’s name appears seemingly in the shadow of those of the royal and elite patrons, and of the designer of the epigraphic program of a given building, it has rarely occasioned considerations of the kind of change in social habits that might signal expressions of subjectivity of the sort we recognize, for instance, for calligraphers and painters in the early modern period. ‘Signing’, this paper observes, in such verbal constructs to make the architect inexorably intertwines with the company of his royal and elite patrons and in such visually complex and spatially prominent sites as to make it inescapably visible, gained momentum and conceptual intricacy from the time of Qavam al-Din Shirazi’s early 15th-century mosque in Mashhad, to Mirza Kamal al-Din’s early 16th-century shrine in Isfahan, and into 17th-century buildings in Isfahan, Kerman and elsewhere in Iran. Chasing this evidence suggests that the architect’s ‘signature’ constituted visual insinuations of architectural personhood in the early modern Iranianate urban culture.

HISTORICAL AND LITERARY CONSTRUCTS

A Connected History of Timurid Era Desecration of Shrines and Temples
Azfar Moin, Southern Methodist University

As Sufi shrines grew in size and significance in Iran and Central Asia from the thirteenth century onward, they became anchors of local, transregional, and-- in a few important cases--universal sovereignty. As such shrines of Muslim saints became targets for desecration and destruction during times of war. How was this violence remembered or forgotten? How did it compare to similar acts of temple desecration in early modern India, and were these phenomena perceived as similar by early modern actors across these regions? These are the questions taken up in this paper, which will compare two narrative accounts from the sixteenth-century, the memoir Baburnama composed by the Timurid ruler Babur and the Bidayi‘ al-Waqai‘ of the Timurid littérateur Vasifi.

Peeking into the Past as a Theme in Persianate Painting and Chronicles
Shahzad Bashir, Stanford University

At the broadest level, this paper is concerned with the way authors and artists create the past as an object in their works for affective and instructive purposes. Authors’ self-awareness regarding this issue is reflected in prefaces to works where they discuss their own vantage points with respect to the past or when they place themselves within narratives of events. In paintings accompanying works of history and epic literature, this can occur via figures representing patrons or others looking upon a scene connected to the text. I ask whether correlating between literature and art regarding this theme can help enrich the study of both types of materials. Does the notion of looking upon the past assist in understanding choices and purposes of figural illustrations? Conversely, do paintings tell us something about cultural valences of vision that we can utilize to become better readers of chronicles and other literary materials? Can observations from both types of sources be related to architectural forms? Ultimately, does this exploration provide grounds for theorizing subjectivity in these societies?

Love and Death in Early-Modern Istanbul
Emine Fetvaci, Boston University

This paper will consider depictions of emotions such as sadness and love in Ottoman manuscripts. In particular, it will consider images of mourning from historical manuscripts in juxtaposition with depictions of love from literary works and albums in order to highlight how the historical works codified the depiction of emotions. The lack of any romantic scenes in Ottoman histories, unlike the Shahnama on which they are modeled, precludes a comparison of images of romance, but is also telling about the role these works were intended to play.

MODALITIES OF PERCEPTION

In Defense and Devotion: Affective Responses to Images of the Prophet Muhammad
Christiane Gruber, University of Michigan

A number of studies have tackled the question of iconoclasm in Islamic traditions, from injunctions in the Hadith to the fatwa issued by the Taliban. However, paintings of the Prophet Muhammad reveal that practices of viewing and responding to images in Islamic traditions are more varied and complex than previously thought. Pre-modern pictorial evidence increasingly suggests that there existed a range of different motivations behind viewers’ engagement with and manipulation of pictorial images. Such interactions highlight the potential confluence between emotive acts and the visual mode during the inception and afterlife of a painted image.  This presentation aims to explore such affective interactions between viewers and images of the Prophet through a detailed investigation of extant visual evidence, in particular manuscript paintings made in Persian and Turkish cultural spheres between ca. 1300-1600. From newly inserted iconographic devices to the performance of symbolic destruction, it becomes clear that “iconoclastic” engagements with images served to pictorially articulate emotions expressed in both devotion and defense of the Prophet. Such affective reactions in the painterly arts suggest the presence of a kind of empathic, engaged vision with representations considered particularly deserving of the viewer’s caring gaze and custodianship, thereby offering an important body of evidence to track changing notions of subjectivity and emotion in Muslim lands during the early modern period.

Sufis, Tropes and Paintings: The Case of the Mevlevis in the Ottoman Empire
Jamal Elias, University of Pennsylvania
                                              
Sufis are frequent subjects in paintings in the Persianate Islamic world. They appear individually and in groups, as primary subjects and in the background. The varied contexts in which Sufi individuals are represented signifies a variety of messages concerning the status of Sufis relative to other members of society, each other, as well as societal notions of what being a Sufi implies. This paper focuses on the Mevlevi order, a Sufi group that was highly influential in Ottoman society from early in its development until its end in the first quarter of the 20th century. In addition to functioning as shaykhs and religious advisors, Mevlevi figures played a prominent role in the literary and artistic life of the empire. By focusing on varied representations of Mevlevis in paintings, I will attempt to shed light on the aesthetics of representing Sufis as well as demonstrate how such representations provide information on the place of Sufis in society.

Sentiment in Silks: Safavid Figural Textiles in Mughal Courtly Culture
Sylvia Houghteling, Yale University

This paper examines the role of imported figural silk textiles from Safavid Iran within the Mughal imperial court during the reign of Emperor Jahangir (r. 1605-1627). Drawing upon paintings and extant silk cloth as evidence, this paper argues that figural textiles were used as a playful disruption to the static imagery of hierarchical rule. The cloths, often adorned with male and female figures known from Persian literature, introduced an element of subjectivity, poetry and humor into the rigidities of imperial iconography. When the imported textiles were sewn into garments and given as khilat, as happened when Jahangir gifted a robe of figured cloth to the Maharaja of Bikaner in Rajasthan, the fabric represented in its luxurious materiality and Persian literary specificity both the grandeur of the imperial center and the subtleties of the courtly sentimental culture.

INHABITATION AS SELF-REPRESENTATION

Crossing, Seeing: Architecture and the traveling subject in the early modern Ottoman world
Çiğdem Kafesioğlu, Boğaziçi University

Focusing on Ottoman travel texts and on the experience of travel, the paper delineates articulations and assertions of cultural identity in descriptions of architecture and urban environments, and at the same time explores travel texts as critical spaces where constructions of identity and geography are disrupted, where the hegemony of the center is blurred. It will explore the mobility and the situated-ness of the traveling subject, which simultaneously informed imperial subjectivity and assessments of the metropolitan center, and representations of what lay beyond the center’s spatial and temporal boundaries. The paper discusses a set of visual, cultural, and aesthetic categories that constituted part of the vocabulary of Ottoman authors in their responses to the visual and material environment: broad cultural-geographical categories of Rum, Arab, and Acem as they came to identify and define aspects of the visual are among these, as are notions of the wondrous and the exotic. Tracing the uses of these cultural/aesthetic categories grounded in notions of distinction and brought into sharper focus through the experience of travel, the paper will also aim to shed light on one of the more pertinent identity markers of early modern Ottomans, Rum (and Rumi-ness) in its visual dimensions. The main authors of this inquiry are Mustafa Alî, Mehmed Aşık, and Evliya Çelebi, two of them Istanbulites and one a Pontian, with perspectives from other sources.

Locating Urban Subjectivity in Eighteenth-Century Mughal Delhi
Chanchal Dadlani, Wake Forest University

From 1739-41, a noble from the Deccan named Dargah Quli Khan resided in Delhi, recording his observations about the city and its inhabitants in a work known today as the Muraqqa-i Delhi (“Delhi Album”).  A lively portrait of urban life, including profiles of famous personalities and accounts of literary and musical gatherings, the Muraqqa is striking for the way that it frames urban encounters through visits to architectural monuments and public spaces. In this paper, I examine some of the major urban spaces of eighteenth-century Delhi through the lens of the Muraqqa, exploring the type of urban subjectivity revealed in this work. I consider such wide-ranging examples as the shrines of Qutb al-Din Bakhtiyar Kaki and Nizam al-Din, the Qudsiyya Bagh gardens, and the public thoroughfares (chowk) of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi). I argue that this period witnessed a major reconceptualization of urban space, in which city life was characterized by activity in public and semi-public spaces and traditional hierarchies between the imperial and non-imperial were abandoned in favor of shifting paradigms of urban experience.

Feeling of a Place: Picturing Architecture, Affect and Agency in Eighteenth-Century Udaipur
Dipti Khera, New York University

“Bhāva of Kota palaces,” is the inscription on the reverse of a painting completed in c. 1700 that depicts the expansive courtly environs of a palatial complex and the miniaturized portrait of a ruler. That this painting could be one of the early examples in which an Udaipur artist experimented with expanding the size of paintings; that it adapts a Mughal-styled painting made at the Kota court painting workshop; and that the picture presents an instance when the scribe asserts a spatial framework of reception make this work remarkable in multiple ways. The Udaipur version emphasized the picturing of the feeling of the palatial space rather than the Kota king’s portrait or the original version as an absolute image. At the turn of the eighteenth century, artists hailing from Udaipur were consumed by making pictures of their place, a phenomenon that scholars have assessed through the lenses of spectacle, symbolism and royal portraiture. This paper shifts our attention to artists’ exploration of the bhāva, feeling or emotion, of a place. I argue artists asserted affect, spatial experience and subjective memories to forge bhāva of a place as an operational pictorial category, thereby transforming the visuality, materiality and ontology of portraits into painted works that praise kings and places alike.

From Subject into Setting: Externalizing mood and emotion in Deccani painting
Navina Haider, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The externalizing of emotion from the direct subject to the surrounding environment is one of the more oblique aspects of painting of the Islamic world. From the gilded pages of Shah Tahmasp’s Shahnama to the enigmatic portraits of the Deccan school, it can be argued that a subjective point of view is frequently presented indirectly, often through metaphorical elements in landscape or setting. In examining this idea, one avenue is to consider transformations in emotional expression as images travel through cultural and geographic pathways. Another element is the role of literary and poetic texts, and the conventions that developed in relation to those. This talk will present and discuss a group of paintings, primarily Mughal and Deccan, where natural landscapes and other settings appear to be the central key to the emotional tenor of the work.