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Webinar – "The Visible and the Unseen: Reframing the Persian Tale of the Greek and Chinese Painters"

6:00 pm

Dear colleagues,

we are looking forward to welcoming you to our next ReSIA (Research Seminar in Islamic Art, SOAS). The seminar will be delivered by Dr Domenico Arturo Ingenito with the title The Visible and the Unseen: Reframing the Persian Tale of the Greek and Chinese Painters.

Abstract : In his Iskandar-nāma (completed in the 1190s CE), Medieval Persian poet Nizāmi Ganjavi narrates that Alexander the Great was once engaged in a dispute with the emperor of China to determine whether Greek or Chinese artists should be considered the most excellent masters in the art of painting. Thanks to an architectural expedient, the royal onlookers staged a test that was meant to assess the technical expertise of the two groups of artists. It is not surprising that, for centuries, painters from all corners of the Islamo-Persianate world were inspired by this legend. In fact, the uncanny outcome of the competition narrated by Nizāmi constitutes one of the most fascinating meditations on the relationship between vision, imagination, and artistic experience ever circulated in the history of Persian literature. The aim of this paper is to offer a close reading of the philosophical and aesthetic underpinnings of this story from the perspective of Nizāmi's approach to the visual arts, especially in the context of Haft Paykar and Khusraw-u Shirin. Analyses of the influence of the Avicennian theory of perception and imagination on Nizāmi's account of the competition between Greek and Chinese painters will help contextualize how Iranian Sufi thinkers and poets, such as al-Ghazāli, Rumi, and Saʿdi, interpreted the same narration in the context of the metaphysical quest for the Unseen.

ReSIA – Research Seminar in Islamic Art, convened by Professor Anna Contadini, will be presented on Zoom on Thursday 15th December at 6pm (UK time). Please register with Matty Bradley on mb@royalasiaticsociety.org by 14th December to receive the link to the talk.

The latest two ReSIA seminars have been recorded and they are now accessible on YouTube – Haris Dervišević and Richard Piran McClary.

We hope to welcome many of you at the last seminar before the New Year and wish you all happy holidays!