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Sussan Babaie: Looking at Persian Painting

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Professor Sussan Babaie explores the rich effects of a painting from an illustrated manuscript of the Shahnameh --- or 'Book of Kings' --- the national epic of Iran composed by poet Firdawsi around 1010. But what is so important about this painting?

The artwork has been attributed to the Persian painter Sultan Muhammad, a skilled master at the atelier of the Aqqoyunlu Turkmen in Tabriz. It depicts the hero of the Shahnameh, Rostam, resting unbeknownst that danger lurks nearby... Babaie unpacks the painterly ideas at play in depicting this dramatic moment.


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Sussan Babaie is Professor of Islamic and Iranian Arts at The Courtauld. She has curated exhibitions on Persian drawings (Metropolitan Museum of Art), on Isfahan (Harvard Art Museums), and, with her students, on Islamic arts (museums at Smith College and the University of Michigan). Her research is transdisciplinary and favours transcultural over national models of art history. Her publications explore architecture and urbanity, visual representations of sexuality, and sensory experience of art. A trained graphic designer, she also writes on modern and contemporary Iranian arts with a view towards the role of history. She is the author of the award-winning Isfahan and Its Palaces: Statecraft, Shi'ism and the Architecture of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran (2008, PB 2018), and co-author of Slaves of the Shah: New Elites of Safavid Iran (2004, PB 2017), Persian Kingship and Architecture: Strategies of Power in Iran from the Achaemenids to the Pahlavis (2014), Shirin Neshat (2013), and Honar: The Afkhami Collection of Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art(2017). Sussan was President of the Historians of Islamic Art Association (2017-19), and President (2022-24) of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies.

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