Our panel invites to take a distant look at Persian art from a regional vantage point, with the supposition that a substantial part of what we understand as ‘Persian art’ has in fact been coined, conceptualized, and, of course, collected in Central Europe. Through a set of case studies, the panel will demonstrate that ‘Persian art’ may have been articulated throughout the times but it was particularly shaped in the wake of nineteenth-century discourses and served to provide a framework for the categorization of artistic production across a vaguely defined Western Asian horizon by accommodating the aesthetic principles that the users of the term applied to the region. This panel concentrates not as much on the career of the term as on the agents who shaped it and the available items which helped it taking shape. The protagonists are dislocated objects, uprooted from their original milieus, and innovative scholars who attempted to recreate the parent civilizations on the basis of these objets trouvés, with Vienna, the political, economic, and intellectual center of the region serving as a constant backdrop for the four papers which follow a chronological order. It will be shown that ‘Persian art’, without ever having been convincingly defined, was constantly dependent on the different politics, interests, tastes, and theories which induced its use. The papers will illustrate not only the diversity of its presence and usage in Central Europe, chiefly Austria, but also its occasional permutations within the scholarly output of individual scholars. The first paper, Persian Textiles in the Time of the Mongols - aspects of their production and distribution (Juliane Fircks), will analyse how silk fabrics traveled up to medieval Central Europe and how they were divided at the end of their journey. Concentrating on early studies about the Pre-Mongol period, Katharina Otto-Dorn and her view on Persian (Seljuk) Art in Anatolia and Persia (Joachim Gierlichs) will discuss the attitudes of Vienna-educated scholars towards the arts of the Seljuqs. Parallel Odysseys of Ernst Herzfeld and Ernst Diez (Zehra Tonbul) will move on to the twentieth century to show the influence of the respective German-Austrian backgrounds of these two major scholars on the evolving discourses of Iranian/Turkish art in both national and international contexts. Finally, Arthur Upham Pope and Persian Art in Interwar Central Europe (Yuka Kadoi) will investigate the involvement of this twentieth-century doyen of Persian art studies in Central European museum affairs.
Arthur Upham Pope (1881-1969) was an American pioneer in the study of Persian art, as well as an energetic, self-made entrepreneur who was instrumental for the awareness of Persian cultural heritage in the form of public events, such as exhibitions and congresses. The aesthetic criteria he, his wife Phyllis Ackerman (1893-1977) and their contemporary colleagues established for assessing the importance of cultural remains from modern Iran and Central Asia thus greatly influenced the way many people worldwide, including Iranian themselves, came to understand the art, architecture and material culture of the Persianate lands in the early 20th century.
This paper readdresses Pope’s activities in Central Europe during the inter-war period and reconsiders Pope’s role as a global advocate who mediated closer scholarly and curatorial cooperation between Central Europe (including Germany and Russia) and West Europe/North America. Compared with Pope’s other, well-known activities—such as the International Exhibition of Persian Art at the Burlington House in London (1931) and the publication of A Survey of Persian Art (1938-9), little has been critically analysed on his Persian art enterprise in Central Europe. The proposed paper thus elaborates on the historiographical background of his interaction with art historians, curators, collectors and dealers in the region, drawing upon various types of archival records (letters, photographs, etc.) and actual Persian objects.