SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Persian Painting

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2019/2020
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 2
The course aims to provide the student with a thorough grounding in the art historical aspects of painting and illumination of the Persianate world.  It will start with the Ilkhanid period, concentrating on the connections between Arab painting of previous years and the beginning of a new style. Throughout the course reference will be made to painting practices in other media and the use of calligraphy in the decorative arts and architecture. Particular attention will be given to aesthetic and theoretical issues relating to the question of the relationship between text and image. The course will cover a broader range of material both in geographical and in chronological terms.
Developing out of my previous “Painting, Calligraphy and Illumination of the Islamic World” this course will consist of half unit concentrating on production of the book from the Persian world 13th-17th century, and will be complementary to, but independent from, the other proposed half unit on Arab Painting. The split into two half units follows from discussions at Department and School level, and will better suit students demand, therefore potentially attracting more students

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate.

  • have a good overall grasp of the stylistic range and techniques of Arab painting, including illumination and calligraphy
  • understand the main issues raised by the art historical discourse surrounding them
  • be able to use the knowledge and skills gained to prepare a research profile for a dissertation topic
  • be able to produce effective written and oral presentations on the subject


2 Hours per week

Method of assessment

  • One assignment at 75% (wordcount 4,500 words)
  • One slide test - 25%

Suggested reading

  • J. Allan, “The Candlestick of Abu Ishaq Inju in the Homaizi Collection”, Fullerton, Fehérvári (eds.)Kuwait Arts and Architecture, A Collection of Essays, Kuwait, 1995, pp.66-75.
  • T.T. Allsen, Commodity and exchange in the Mongol empire. A cultural history of Islamic textiles, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997.
  • E. Baer, “Notes on the formation of Iranian imagery in the thirteenth century”, in W. Watson (ed.), The Art of Iran and Anatolia from the 11th to the 13th Century A.D., Colloquies on Art & Archaeology in Asia No.4, Percival David Foundation, London, 1974, pp.96-109.
  • S. Blair, “The Development of the Illustrated Book in Iran”, Muqarnas, 10, 1993, pp.266-274.
  • S. Blair, A Compendium of Chronicles - Rashid al-Din's illustrated history of the world, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, vol. 27, London, 1995.
  • S. Canby, Persian Painting, The British Museum Press, London, 1993.
  • A. Contadini, “The Horse in Two Manuscripts of Ibn Bakhtishu‘s Kitab Manafi‘ al-Hayawan”, in D. Alexander (ed.), Furusiyya, 2 vols., Riyad, 1996, 1: pp.142-147 (photocopy available in the library).
  • O. Grabar and S. Blair, Epic Images and Contemporary History: The illustrations of the Great Mongol Shahname, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1980.
  • B. Gray, Persian Painting, Skira, Geneva, 1961
  • R. Hillenbrand (ed.) Shahnama: The Visual Language of the Persian Book of Kings, Ashgate, Aldershot, 2004.
  • L. Komaroff and S. Carboni, The Legacy of Genghis Khan, Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2002.
  • B. O’Kane, Early Persian Painting – Kalila and Dimna Manuscripts of the Late Fourteenth Century, I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 2003.
  • M.S. Simpson, “The role of Baghdad in the formation of Persian Painting”, Adle, C. (ed.), Art et societé dans le monde iranien, Bibliothèque Iranienne, 26, Paris, 1982, pp.91-116.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules