Tag Archives: Art History

Journey to the City

Tinney, Steve & Karen Sonik (eds.). 2019. Journey to the City :A Companion to the Middle East Galleries at the Penn Museum. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The Penn Museum has a long and storied history of research and archaeological exploration in the ancient Middle East. This book highlights this rich depth of knowledge while also serving as a companion volume to the Museum’s signature Middle East Galleries opening in April 2018. This edited volume includes chapters and integrated short, focused pieces from Museum curators and staff actively involved in the detailed planning of the new galleries. In addition to highlighting the most remarkable and interesting objects in the Museum’s extraordinary Middle East collections, this volume illuminates the primary themes within these galleries (make, settle, connect, organize, and believe) and provides a larger context within which to understand them.
The ancient Middle East is home to the first urban settlements in human history, dating to the fourth millennium BCE; therefore, tracing this move toward city life figures prominently in the book. The topic of urbanization, how it came about and how these early steps still impact our daily lives, is explored from regional and localized perspectives, bringing us from Mesopotamia (Ur, Uruk, and Nippur) to Islamic and Persianate cites (Rayy and Isfahan) and, finally, connecting back to life in modern Philadelphia. Through examination of topics such as landscape, resources, trade, religious belief and burial practices, daily life, and nomads, this very important human journey is investigated both broadly and with specific case studies.

Steve Tinney is Associate Curator-in-Charge of the Babylonian Section and the Clark Research Associate Professor of Assyriology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Karen Sonik is Assistant Professor of Art History at Auburn University.

The reshaping of Persian art

Szántó, Iván & Yuka Kadoi (eds.). 2019. The reshaping of Persian art: Art histories of Islamic Iran and Centra Asia (Acta et Studia XV). Piliscsaba: The Avicenna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies.

How to order:
Avicenna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies
Contact: Oroszi Gyöngyi
Tel.: + 36 (06) 26 375 329 / 414
E-mail: oroszi@avicenna-kkki.hu

Continue reading The reshaping of Persian art

The Geography of Gandhāran Art

Rienjang, Wannaporn & Peter Stewart (eds.). 2019. The geography of Gandhāran art. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Proceedings of the Second International Workshop of the Gandhāra  Connections Project, University of Oxford, 22nd-23rd March, 2018. This volume is open access and available from the publisher's website linked above.

Gandhāran art is usually regarded as a single phenomenon – a unified regional artistic tradition or ‘school’. Indeed it has distinctive visual characteristics, materials, and functions, and is characterized by its extensive borrowings from the Graeco-Roman world. Yet this tradition is also highly varied. Even the superficial homogeneity of Gandhāran sculpture, which constitutes the bulk of documented artistic material from this region in the early centuries AD, belies a considerable range of styles, technical approaches, iconographic choices, and levels of artistic skill.

Not the Queen Šābuhrduxtag but the Goddess Anāhitā

Goddess Anāhitā at the investiture of Narseh (c. 293-303), Naqš-e Rostam, Fārs, Iran

Tanabe, Katsumi. 2018. Not the Queen Šābuhrduxtag but the goddess Anāhitā: Identification of the female figure in the investiture scene of Narseh at Naqsh-i Rustam. Japan Society for Hellnistic-Islam Archaeological Studies 25. 9–26.

The rock-cut relief depicting the investiture scene of the Sasanian King of Kings, Narseh (293-302) at Naqsh-i Rustam in southern Iran has been investigated by many scholars since the beginning of the twentieth century CE . As regards the iconography of this relief, one of a few problems that have not yet gained scholarly consensus is the identification of the female figure depicted on the viewer’s rightmost side of the relief.

Currently there are two major hypotheses as regards the identification. One of them is to identify the female figure as the Zoroastrian goddess of water, Anāhitā (Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā). The other is to identify it as the queen of Narseh, Šābuhrduxtag (Shāpuhrdukhtak).

Narrative Illustration on Qajar Tilework in Shiraz

Seyed Mousavi, Atefeh. 2018. Narrative Illustration on Qajar Tilework in Shiraz (Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte des Islamischen Orients). 2 vols. Dortmund: Verlag für Orientkunde.

Tilework illustration of the Qajar period has received comparatively little scholarly consideration. This applies specifically to Shiraz, where the art was abundantly practiced. My book, the first of its kind, presents a detailed analytical study of Qajar tile painting in Shiraz. The material has been collected during two extensive fieldwork trips. Having collected more than 5,000 photos, I have chosen 42 historical buildings in Shiraz with tile work decoration for a detailed analysis, supplying minute descriptions for each and every image together with a solid documentation of the tiles’ respective location in the buildings. My study identifies, classifies and analyzes the depicted themes and the craftsmanship behind it. Particular attention has been devoted to a detailed discussion of the prominent themes, their argument and motivation, as well as to popular artists of the period. In addition to the study, my work contains ample visual documentation.

Vol. 1, 335 pages (Texts); Vol. 2, 268 pages (Coloured Images)

Art History and Achaemenid History

Bull’s head on the northern portico of the Throne Hall of Xerxes (5th century BC), Persepolis, Iran

Draycott, Catherine. 2019. Art History and Achaemenid History: or, what you can get out of the back end of a bull. In C. M. Draycott, R. Raja, K. Welch, and W. Wootton (eds.), Visual Histories of the Classical World. Essays in Honour of R.R.R. Smith , 16-33, Turnhout: Brepols Publishers.


In a recent review of a book entitled Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art, Daniel T. Potts raises the question of whether, regardless of the fact that one can speak of a discipline of Ancient Near Eastern Art History, one should.  He explains that he is not concerned with denying the necessity of studying art or imagery as a part of Ancient Near Eastern History, but that it is insufficient for ‘a deep understanding of the ancient Near East’.  This worry picks up an ongoing tension between ‘ancient historians’ and ‘art historians’ (or archaeologists who work with imagery) that seemingly survives the pictorial turn and the use of ‘visual culture’ as a term emphasizing the whole visual sphere as historical source material, and revolves around the extent to which the ‘larger historical picture’ is sufficiently seen as an end goal. As Potts notes, dress and ornamentation, the ‘wigs, powder, perfume and silk’ of the French Revolution period, for example, can be considered epiphenomena.  On the other hand, ‘Warfare, fiercely contested battles for hegemony and struggles over access to irrigation water and arable land all formed part of the crucible in which Early Dynastic society and its hyper-competitive city state system were forged.’  Serious stuff, not to mention masculine, giving one pause to consider in the context of this book how the fate and trajectory of ‘art history’ within various sub-disciplines might depend on historically gendered scholarship cultures….

The Monumental Reliefs of the Elamite Highlands

Javier Álvarez-Mon. 2019. The Monumental Reliefs of the Elamite Highlands: A Complete Inventory and Analysis (from the Seventeenth to the Sixth Century BC). Eisenbrauns.


The Monumental Reliefs of the Elamite Highlands documents and analyzes for the first time a corpus of eighteen monumental highland reliefs from the Elamite civilization in ancient Iran, which—hitherto preserved by their remote location and anonymous existence—have recently become imperiled by an influx of tourists and the development of the surrounding landscapes. With this book, Javier Álvarez-Mon aims to safeguard this important part of Iran’s cultural heritage.
The eighteen reliefs presented in this volume are spread across the valley of Izeh/Malamir (Xong-e Azdhar, Shah Savar, Shekaft-e Salman, and Kul-e Farah), the Ghale Tol plain (Qal-e Tul), the Mamasani Fahliyan river region (Kurangun), and the Marvdasht plain (Naqsh-e Rustam). In his analysis of these reliefs, Álvarez-Mon draws from the complementary disciplines of art history and archaeology, giving equal weight to the archaeological context of these artifacts and traditional methods of artistic analysis in order to determine the nature and significance of each artifact’s form and theme. At the same time, the book’s dual emphases on ritual-religious and aesthetic-ecological phenomena respond to the contemporary challenges of the dissociation of human existence from nature and the commodification of the environment on an unsustainable scale, presenting the preservation of this remarkable corpus of monumental art as a matter of urgency.


Richly illustrated with hundreds of color photographs and line drawings, The Monumental Reliefs of the Elamite Highlands is sure to become an invaluable reference to scholars who study the Elamite and other ancient civilizations.

IRANICA ANTIQUA, VOLUME 53

The table of contents of the latest issue (53) of the journal Iranica Antiqua:

Iconographic Exegesis of Anthropomorphic Zoroastrian Deities

Farridnejad, Shervin. 2018. Die Sprache der Bilder: Eine Studie zur ikonographischen Exegese der anthropomorphen Götterbilder im Zoroastrismus (Iranica 27). Harrassowitz-verlag.

Einer in der Forschung weit verbreiteten Meinung zufolge existierte im Alten Iran keine zoroastrische Kunst. In Sprache der Bilder nun untersucht Shervin Farridnejad Darstellungen altiranischer anthropomorpher Gottheiten und deren Erscheinung im zoroastrischen Pantheon mit der methodischen Herangehensweise einer exegetischen Ikonographie.
Farridnejad zeichnet die Darstellungsweise und Entwicklung der zoroastrischen Götterbilder nach und analysiert den Ursprung ihrer Ikonographie innerhalb der iranischen religiösen Bildsprache, insbesondere im Wechselspiel mit den in der schriftlich überlieferten Tradition bewahrten religiösen Ideen. Der Autor widmet sich in seiner umfassenden und reich bebilderten Studie den teilweise komplex aufgebauten Götterbildern, die als vielschichtige Bedeutungsträger im religiösen Leben der alten Zoroastrier eine große Rolle spielten. Darüber hinaus ermittelt er allgemeine formale Strukturen, beleuchtet ihre Genese und erforscht den „Sitz im Leben“ der Götterbilder, indem er vor allem die literarische Überlieferung des zoroastrischen Corpus im Avestischen und Mittelpersischen berücksichtigt. Farridnejad bietet so erstmals einen umfassenden, methodisch fundierten Überblick über die zoroastrische Bildersprache im Kontext von Religion und Kultur des vorislamischen Iran.

How Did the Persian King of Kings Get his Wine

Comfort, Anthony & Michal Marciak. 2018. How did the Persian King of Kings get his wine? The Upper Tigris in antiquity (C.700 Bce to 636 Ce). Archaeopress Archaeology.

How did the Persian King of Kings Get His Wine? the upper Tigris in antiquity (c.700 BCE to 636 CE) explores the upper valley of the Tigris during antiquity. The area is little known to scholarship, and study is currently handicapped by the security situation in southeast Turkey and by the completion during 2018 of the Ilısu dam. The reservoir being created will drown a large part of the valley and will destroy many archaeological sites, some of which have not been investigated. The course of the upper Tigris discussed here is the section from Mosul up to its source north of Diyarbakır; the monograph describes the history of the river valley from the end of the Late Assyrian empire through to the Arab conquests, thus including the conflicts between Rome and Persia. It considers the transport network by river and road and provides an assessment of the damage to cultural heritage caused both by the Saddam dam (also known as the Eski Mosul dam) in Iraq and by the Ilısu dam in south-east Turkey. A catalogue describes the sites important during the long period under review in and around the valley. During the period reviewed this area was strategically important for Assyria’s relations with its northern neighbours, for the Hellenistic world’s relations with Persia and for Roman relations with first the kingdom of Parthia and then with Sassanian Persia.