Artistic Boundary-Crossings

This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals.


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The area which is located northwest of modern Afghanistan had once been a thriving center of art and culture of the Timurid dynasty. By the fall of the Timurids (1370-1507) and as the Safavids advanced to power in 1510, the area became a Safavid province with Herat and its suburban gardens as its regional center. Having been the capital of the mighty Timurids, the city continued to serve as a source of legitimacy and inspiration for the following Mughal, Safavid and Uzbek rulers, who were competing for its governance.

If Safavid Isfahan reflects the Safavid ideology as a world renowned empire at the height of its power, Herat was the site where early Safavid dynastic identity was staged in the face of Timurid culture. The established scholarly view has often presented Herat as a role model for Safavid art, architecture and urbanity. Within this purview, this paper attempts to examine the Safavids’ adaptation of Timurid patterns and their continuity or departure from the city's Timurid landscape. Through a critical examination of historical texts, such as Ḥabib al-Siyar and Zayl-e Habib-al-Siyar, which were commissioned in Herat during the early decades of Safavid occupation, this paper offers a dynamic and multi-layered picture of Safavid interaction with the urban and suburban landscape of Herat. Furthermore, it examines new Safavid urban foundations in Herat, within the context of the established Timurid traditions, early Qizilbash practices, and later Safavid dynastic urban prototypes. Finally, it suggests that, unlike the prevalent scholarly view, Herat should not only been viewed as a Timurid role model, whose gardens inspired the Safavids in the building of their capitals. In Herat, the Safavids were not passive recipients of Timurid culture, overwhelmed by the achievements of Timur’s decedents. In contrast, they were active players in making Herat a site of practicing Safavid identity.

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Tashreeh Al Ain (Anatomy of the Eye) is an original unpublished Persian illustrated manuscript by Shams Al Din Mohamed Ibn Al-Hassan Al-Kahal, dated 861 A.H/1451 A.D, and preserved in Qasr Al-Aini, the School of Medicine, Cairo University, History of Medicine Museum, Cairo, Egypt, MS 40, 323 folios, MS 17X11 cm. This MS is embellished with seventy-four (74) fine pictures illuminated in gold, silver and colors, representing the subject of anatomy of eyes and eye diseases. The MS was written by Sadr Al-Din Ahmed Ibn Mahmoud Al-Hussein, in Nasta'lik handwriting in black with red titles, golden frames, one column on a page, from 8 to 11 lines in each page. The painter is unknown.
This MS is of great scientific and artistic value, because it indicates the importance of the medical manuscripts in the Timurid period, especially those which explain eye diseases and the ways of treatment. On the other hand, it testifies to the care taken to explain the meaning of the texts and the main idea by drawing the details of the symptoms for several diseases of eye. In addition, this manuscript testifies to the constant attention to the study of eye anatomy and eye diseases, which can be found throughout the rich history of Persia.
We will focus our attention on the following: (i) a detailed comparative study of the medical manuscripts which pertain to the anatomy of the eye, especially those preserved in the Dar-El-Kutub (The National Library) in Egypt, and highlighting their distinctive traits. (ii) discussion, comparison and clarification of the long road which man has trodden in his fight against eye diseases, as evinced by the MS (iii) a study and a publication of a group of unpublished images to examine the ways for transmitting and transforming medical texts, and the ways in which the painters succeeded in explaining the main medical text.
Finally, medicine and disease have had an undeniable effect on the whole history, and the development of any civilization is measured by the development of the medical science and its ways of dealing with the most common diseases.t.

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Historiography, increasingly central to Islamic art historical scholarship, has established the critical role art dealers, large-scale exhibitions and prevalent notions of the “Orient” played in the shaping of early private and institutional collections of Islamic art. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Islamic collection, formed in the first half of the twentieth century, owes its existence to Frederick Cleveland Morgan, former MMFA director and an avid art collector involved with the museum in several capacities from 1916 to 1957. Similarly to most North American museum collections of Islamic art, that of the Montreal museum clearly privileges Persian art, particularly twelfth and thirteenth century luxury ceramics. Beyond questions of technical and artistic prowess, the emphasis on Persian art evident in late nineteenth and early twentieth century collections has been attributed to several factors including racial/ist theories, the greater number of Persian artefacts extant, easier access to archaeological sites and material as well as to the important influence of two pivotal figures –both collectors and dealers— in the history of Islamic art in North America, Dikran Kelekian (1887-1951) and Arthur Upham Pope (1881-1969). Cleveland Morgan was a good friend and client of Pope and effectively acquired, akin to numerous other museum directors, a number of the Persian artefacts from him. Using a history of collections approach and drawing upon specific objects and archival material, this paper will contextualize the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Islamic collection by articulating the connections between its making and the production of public and academic conceptions of and attitudes towards Persian art. Exploring the enmeshment of art, economics, ideology and historical discourse, it will, in addition, bring visibility to a largely unpublished and therefore little known collection of Islamic art.