Cross-cultural Interactions in Islamic Art

Instructor: Esra Akın-Kıvanç

This seminar examines the cross-cultural encounters between the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds in the early modern period from an aesthetic and art-historiographical perspective. Placing special emphasis on the art of painting, and using primary sources such as album prefaces, artists’ biographies, and guidebooks for art collectors, we investigate how Muslim (Persian, Ottoman, and Mughal) artists, patrons, and art historians interacted with and responded to their non-Muslim (Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu) contemporaries. Focusing on a select group of masterpieces by such artists as Bihzad, Muhammad Zaman, and Levni, we address Muslim receptivity to non-Muslim representational arts, and study the stylistic, formal, and ideological elements shared by these seemingly incompatible visual traditions. Our discussions are informed by Islamic theories of image-making and visual perception rooted in ancient Greek and classical Arab thought as expressed in sixteenth-century art-historical treatises.