Recordings and ReportsFrom previous events
Dr. Richard McClary
The rediscovery of mina’i wares and the fiction of completion: 13th century polychrome Iranian ceramics and their reception in the 20th century
**Accompanying images can be found by clicking here**
Mina’i wares were unknown prior to the late nineteenth century, but by 1940 numerous seemingly complete vessels had been published, displayed, and collected across Europe, North American, and beyond. These wares mark the birth of Persian miniature painting, and feature a wide array of techniques and figural scenes. As virtually all extant examples have been recovered from an archaeological context, and the main element of the decoration is applied over the top of the glaze, most well known pieces experienced major repairs and restoration in the early twentieth century. This lecture is divided into two parts. First, the painting style and most common images are examined. Narrative scenes and common motifs, primarily on fragmentary but unrestored pieces from a wide range of collections, will be shown. This is followed by an examination of the process of rediscovery, display, publication and restoration that led to mina’i wares being relatively well known, yet still somewhat poorly understood by the middle of the twentieth century. A particular focus is on the collecting practices of Calouste Gulbenkian, one of the earliest collectors of these wares, and his is the only collection that remains intact and with a full archive of the documents related to the acquisition of the material.
Mina'i Wares and the Fiction of Completion
This lecture looked at the ways in which the study of the history, language and culture of Iran and the wider Persianate world has developed in recent years, assessing the areas of growth and interest before looking specifically at questions of methodology and historiography. It asked how these affected our understanding of Iran’s past, and its implications for our appreciation of the present, using as a case study, our understanding of British-Iranian relations. Turning specifically to Orientalism and its malcontents, the presentation looked at key writers – including the British statesman, George Nathaniel Curzon – to show how enthusiasm for methodological rigour can lean dangerously towards ideological closure and that the analysis of text without sufficient context tilts the balance inexorably away from history towards mythology.
Persia and the Persian Question
Median art to this day remains a mystery in the art of the ancient Near East. Despite the numerous references to the Medes in historical sources, the lack of primary sources and the uncertainty of artefacts has cast a shadow over Median art and its existence. This lecture looked at evidence of Median artistic elements hidden within Achaemenid art and discussed the related evidence in the Median Period and its possible format. The result presented a picture of what could have been Median art.
The Puzzle of Median Art
Views From Inside: How Iranian Travellers of the Qajar Period Perceived and Described their own Country
The Qajar period (1796-1925) saw a remarkable increase in Persian travelogues describing journeys abroad, pilgrimages and domestic trips. So far scholarly attention has concentrated rather on Iranians touring Europe and beyond in the context of the first diplomatic missions, students’ delegations, official visits of ruling monarchs and private trips of lesser celebrities. Studies mostly focus on the impression Europe made on these travellers and how they expressed their experiences through the writing of travelogues. In contrast this paper deals with the more neglected travel accounts written by Iranians who for whatever reason roamed their home country and put their impressions into writing. Systematic perusal and evaluation of these texts not only contribute to a better assessment of local conditions but also to a better understanding of modes of perception and ways of thinking.