In Transcending Patterns: Silk Road Cultural and Artistic Interactions through Central Asian Textiles, Mariachiara Gasparini investigates the origin and effects of a textile-mediated visual culture that developed at the heart of the Silk Road between the seventh and fourteenth centuries. Through the analysis of the Turfan Textile Collection in the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin and more than a thousand textiles held in collections worldwide, Gasparini discloses and reconstructs the rich cultural entanglements along the Silk Road, between the coming of Islam and the rise of the Mongol Empire, from the Tarim to Mediterranean Basin. Exploring in detail the iconographic transfer between different agents and different media from Central Asian caves to South Italian churches, the author depicts and describes the movement and exchange of portable objects such as sculpture, wall painting, and silk fragments across the Asian continent and across the ages.
Mariachiara Garsparini received a PhD in transcultural studies and global art history from Heidelberg University, Germany. Her research focuses on Central Asian material culture, wall painting, artist’s praxis, and Sino-Iranian and Turko-Mongol interactions. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Asia. Since 2015 she has been teaching Asian art in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Sasanian Empire (224-651 AD) spreads over areas of today’s Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Caucasus regions were also under its political influence. Many elements of Sasanian art and culture can be found in neighboring countries and cultures, such as Byzantium or the Christian Caucasus, and continued to live after the Sasanian fall in the Islamic dominions that developed on their former territory. To examine the continuing role and the survival of Sasanian art after the fall of the last Persian Empire, an international conference was held in September 2017 at the Roman-Germanic Central Museum in Mainz. The contributions of scholars from different disciplines are published in this volume.
The tomb of An Jia, leader of a Sogdian immigrant community in sixth-century Xi’an, northern China, contained a remarkable stone couch. Its form is Chinese but its decoration imitates gilt silverware imported by Sogdian merchants from Sasanian Persia, reflecting An Jia’s dual cultural identity.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.