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LUCIS What's New Lecture

Peculiarities in Persianate Painting

Thursday 28 February 2019
Free to visit, drinks after
What's New?! Spring Lecture Series
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

This talk explores the historiography of Persianate manuscript arts and how 13th- through 18th-century illustrated works of poetry have been inserted into typological rubrics based on dynasty, style, workshop, or colophon information. However, books are difficult objects to classify as artworks; they can be revisited, reread, reworked, added onto, painted over, and illustrated much later than when the textual component was penned. These interventions can cross many centuries and outlive their original owners. What then are we to make of manuscripts and loose folios that were carried from region to region or were illustrated by multiple artists over several periods? The focus of this lecture is on these outlying specimens of Shāhnāma, or Book of Kings, versions mostly found in the Topkapi Palace Museum Library of Istanbul.

Whereas earlier scholars of Persianate arts seemed to squeeze materials into the frames of their own manufacture, imposing labels from above and glossing over rough edges and irregularities so that they would fit the erected classificatory boundaries, the approach presented in this lecture functions at the level of the individual manuscripts to focus on their unique qualities rather than on the rigid schema used to classify them. This vantage from below, as opposed to above, observes interplays, collaborations, and interventions that would otherwise go unnoticed or unacknowledged. It then becomes possible to explore the mobility of artists, styles, genres, and the books themselves through the traces left between the covers.

Illustration to a manuscript of Firdausī’s Shāhnāma evidencing overpainting and styles associated with Central Asia ca. 1500, and early-16th century Tabriz under Ottoman and Safavid rivalry

About Jaimee Comstock-Skipp

Jaimee Comstock-Skipp holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley in Near Eastern studies with a specialty in Arabic and Islamic civilizations (2009). She also holds an MA from the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art (2012) and a second MA from The Courtauld Institute of Art in London (2015), where she studied book arts of the Mongol through Safavid periods. She received linguistic training in Farsi and Tajiki in Tajikistan where she also conducted research as a recipient of the Fulbright Award (2015-16). She is currently a PhD candidate affiliated with Leiden University working on a dissertation related to Shaybanid productions of Firdausī’s Shāhnāma epic from 16th to 17th-century Central Asia.

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