SOAS University of London

History of Art and Archaeology

Iran Under the Seljuks and Mongols

A Specialist Art Short Course

Venue: Brunei Gallery

Start of programme: Monday 8 - Thursday 11 November

Fees: £600


Convened by Professor Robert Hillenbrand and Professor Carole Hillenbrand.

Monday 8th November to Thursday 11th November. 10am - 5pm.

To book your place, please click here.

Course Synopsis

The thread that runs through this entire course is that Iran has produced over the millennia one of the world’s great civilisations, with a distinctive character of its own. This has not been sufficiently recognised by either scholars or the general public. Accordingly, the art of Iran tends to be studied as a sub-set of, say, antique art, or indeed of Islamic art. This approach obscures the abiding continuities of Iranian art, its originality and the way that it has transformed what it has received from the world beyond its borders. The course will investigate how Iran’s geographical position, straddling the area between East and West Asia, with links to the world of the Inner Asian steppe to the north and the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent to the south, has determined both the ideas that it has received and, reciprocally, those that it has transmitted across Eurasia, from Greece in the west to China and Japan in the east.

The course will begin with an overview of Iranian history and art in the centuries preceding the Arab conquest (637 onwards) so as to contextualise the rise of Islam in Iran. The lectures on Iranian history, society and culture will plot the interaction of Arabs, Turks, Persians and Mongols in the early and high middle ages, and will document how Persian culture preserved its distinctive identity despite the fact that the country was continuously ruled by non-Persians. Both sets of lectures will illustrate a variety of themes – the conflict between nomadic and settled societies, between Zoroastrianism, shamanism and Islam, and between the different systems of rule espoused by Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Persians. They will cover royal iconography, political and military propaganda, religious belief, the ceremonies of leisure, popular taste and the power of the written word. On the art-historical side, the principal emphasis throughout will be on the interplay between form, function and meaning in the visual arts of medieval Iran – principally architecture, book painting, pottery, metalwork and textiles.

This course will feature twelve lectures delivered by Professors Robert and Carole Hillenbrand, taking place over the Monday to Wednesday between 10am and 5pm.

On the Thursday morning, we will be joined by Behnaz Atighi Moghaddam, Head of Sales for Islamic and Indian Art at Christies in London (and previously of the V&A). Ms Atighi Moghaddam will speak about approaches to the curation of Iranian Art of the Seljuq and Mongol periods in both commercial and cultural institutions and Robert and Carol will then speak in response. This will be followed by an extended Q&A to wrap up the week.

This course will take place in the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, which boasts plenty of space for those who would like to maintain social distancing. Masks will also be mandatory while inside all SOAS buildings.

To book your place, please click here.


Phone: +44 (0)20 7898 4445