David J. Roxburgh

Collaço, Gwendolyn. “The Image as Commodity: The Commercial Market for Single-Folio Paintings in Ottoman Istanbul, 17th–18th C.History of Art and Architecture and MES, 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the Ottoman capital of Istanbul, for most of the sixteenth century, only royalty and close companions of the sultan enjoyed the experience of perusing an album, the premier form of preserving and viewing single-folio works on paper. Yet in the last few decades of the century, the first surviving cases of commercial albums reveal that the practice had moved beyond the palace, attracting both wealthy Ottoman urbanites and European travelers alike. This dissertation delves into the history of the art market from the production to the consumption of loose-leaf paintings in numerous compilation formats. Although scholarship on Istanbul’s early modern art market and single-folio paintings has often centered on analyses of individual manuscripts, such as costume albums, this study aims to contextualize these single-folio paintings as part of a wider network of urban production. In this network, models and designs circulated between artists of numerous social groups and specialties, as well as through foreign import. The study further refocuses attention on codicology in order to illustrate how the trappings of a collection could profoundly impact the reception of the works within it and reveal precious detail about the backgrounds of the owners, many of whom remain anonymous today.
The dissertation begins by setting the stage for the emergence of the market for single-folio paintings by analyzing the antecedents to the commercial album through Ottoman court albums, portraits, and the works of unofficial court artists who lived in the city. It then turns to European genres such as costume books and alba amicorum (friendship albums), before turning to the first commercial album, which fuses features from the aforementioned areas. Chapter Two assesses production techniques, emphasizing the mobility of model forms, before turning to artists’ multi-professional backgrounds. The next two chapters delve into the collecting practices of the two main consumer groups. Chapter Three follows the development of costume albums primarily collected by European travelers over the seventeenth century as objects of novelty crafted from a commonplace corpus of models. It tracks the expansion of the model corpus, shifts in binding and mounting practices, and the relationships between albums (as well as their identified forgeries).

Chapter Four offers a history of compilation among urbanite Ottomans of a literati persuasion over the seventeenth century as a story of taste-making on the page. As the practice grew, artists began offering a wider range of works to suit multiple price points of paintings and bindings among their consumers. Chapter Five continues to follow Ottoman compilers into the eighteenth century after the court’s return to Istanbul in 1703, which coincided with a significant increase in album-making. This period brought about the rise of specialized painting collections. The market also began to engage with its past as later commercial albums provided a wider chronological range of paintings from numerous traditions, which included refurbished and creatively over-painted works. Rather than Westernization, these albums indicate a global outlook that reflected mercantile networks of the time. The last two chapters delve into the case of an unstudied trilogy of albums at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France that exemplifies these later trends. Together, they offer a hypothesis for the background of the owner while situating the albums in the local and transregional contexts that created this cosmopolitan work.

Schwerda, Mira Xenia. “How Photography Changed Politics: The Case of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911).” History of Art and Architecture and MES, 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

My dissertation reconceptualizes the Iranian Constitutional period (1905-1911) as an era of spectacle, in which photography played a central role in defining, mobilizing, and memorializing political movements and their leaders. The first chapter of my dissertation traces the role and impact of one specific photograph: a portrait of Joseph Naus, the Belgian head of the Iranian tax and customs systems, in the costume of an Iranian mullah. The circulation of the photograph, which had been reproduced as a postcard with a caption that purposefully misinterpreted the image, sparked a nationwide protest and turned the previously economic protest into a religiously legitimated one. The photograph became the basis for a fatwa and death threats to Naus. The second chapter discusses photographs of political protest. It focuses on a key event of the Constitutional Revolution, a several weeks-long sit-in during the summer of 1906 in the gardens of the British Legation in Tehran. In my research, I was able to prove that the so far unattributed series of photographs of this event was taken by the well-known photographer Antoin Sevruguin. The third chapter focuses on political portrait photographs from the second half of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, which was characterized by revolutionary and counter-revolutionary violence. I analyze portraits of Iranian assassins and their victims and show how these acts of violence were influenced by global political movements and international media coverage. The epilogue of my dissertation focuses on the events directly following the Constitutional Revolution, when the Russian army invaded Tabriz and executed the remaining revolutionaries. I discuss the photographic documentation of the events, the circulation of the images, and their changing interpretations.

Alsaleh, Yasmine F. “'Licit Magic': The Touch and Sight of Islamic Talismanic Scrolls.” History of Art and Architecture and MES, 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The following study traces the production and history of the talismanic scroll as a medium through a Fatimid, Ayyubid, and Mamluk historical periods. My dissertation understands the protocol of manufacturing and utilizing talismanic scrolls. The dissertation is a study of the Qur'an, prayers and illustrations of these talismanic works. I begin by investigating a theory of the occult the medieval primary sources of the Neo-platonic tenth century Ikhwān al-Safa and al-Bunī (d.1225). I establish that talismans are generally categorized as science (`ilm). Next, a dynastic spotlight of talismanic scrolls creates a chronological framework for the dissertation. The Fatimid talismanic scrolls and the Ayyubid pilgrimage scrolls are both block-printed and are placed within the larger conceptual framework of pilgrimage and devotion. The two unpublished Mamluk scrolls from Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah are long beautiful handwritten scrolls that provide a perspective on how the occult is part of the daily life of the practitioner in the medieval Islamic culture. Through an in depth analysis of the written word and images, I establish that textually and visually there is a template for the creation of these sophisticated scrolls. Lastly, I discuss the efficacy of these scrolls, I use theories of linguistic anthropology and return to the Islamic primary sources to establish that there is a language of the occult and there are people that practiced the occult. The word of God and the Qur'ān empower the scrolls I studied. As for the people who practiced the occult, I turn to the tenth century Ibn al-Nadim and Ibn al-Khaldun (d.1406), the people of the occult are understood. Yet, keeping in mind, that there is always a tension with the theologians that condoned practices of Islamic magic.

Zarkar, Rustin. “Building an Insurgent Consciousness: Political Posters of the Fada’I Khalq (1978-80).” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2013.
Smith, Marian. “The Cultural Power of Poetry in Late Timurid Iran and its Representation in the Portable Arts.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2012.