Image-making and Anxiety among New Julfa’s Armenian Artists, Theologians & Merchants

Landau workshop

Studying East of Byzantium V

Amy Landau, Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian Institution


By the 1650s, Armenian artists drew upon a wide range of signs and symbols, which could be viewed in New Julfa’s public spaces, churches, and homes. Drawings, paintings and sketches on sheets of paper, as well as images on various other media including canvas, lacquer and copper, were sold and discussed in marketplaces, coffeehouses and sacred spaces. Visually attuned, what did New Julfa’s inhabitants say about pictures? Taking a fresh look at Persian, Armenian, and European textual and visual sources, this workshop begins to explore how Armenian artists, theologians, merchants, among others, thought about images and image- making in early modern Iran. Notions about the function and power of images were inflected not only by patristic and medieval Armenian precedents but also by broader conversations about the efficacy of images taking place worldwide.

Amy Landau is Research Associate at the Freer|Sackler, Smithsonian Institution. Prior to her current appointment, she was Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Islamic and South/Southeast Asian Art at the Walters Art Museum. Her work explores shifts in the visual culture of early modern Iran, with particular emphasis on interaction between Safavid Persia and Europe and the Armenian merchant community of New Julfa. Dr. Landau is the curator of numerous exhibitions, most recently Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts (Walters Art Museum, November 8, 2015–January 31, 2016, and Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, February 26–May 8, 2016).

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All Saviour Cathedral (Surb Amenap‘rkič‘), New Julfa, Iran, c. 1660s. Photo credit: Hrair Hawk Khatcherian (detail)
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