Cut, Paste, Patch: Text-Image Relationship in Safavid and Mughal Paintings

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Cut, Paste, Patch: A Study Of Text-Image Relationship in Safavid and Mughal Single-Page Compositions

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Cutout papers with calligraphy often border single sheets of drawing and painting from the Safavid period (1501–1736) in Iran and the Mughal empire (1527–1857) in India. While some of these images are signed or can be attributed stylistically to an artist, the calligraphy and the page compositions are difficult to date with certainty. Mounted on illuminated margins and often bound into an album, the period and the geographical location in which these compositions were produced span several centuries and across geographical boundaries. This talk will discuss the relationship between word and image in such folios and argues that with a close reading of the text and understanding its accord with the image, some hypotheses can be proposed on the time and place of its compilation. Furthermore, the possible origins of the design and compilers of such compositions will be explored.


Naciem Nikkhah

Naciem Nikkhah holds an M.A. in the History of Art and Archaeology from SOAS, University of London, and a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute. She is putting the final touches to her Ph.D. thesis in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on the interwoven dialogue between literary and visual language in Persian manuscripts, especially the single-page album-style paintings of post-fifteenth-century Persian and Persianate societies.

Currently she writes content for an education technology startup in San Francisco, which uses AI-powered robots to teach language skills to children. Previously, Naciem was a research assistant at the British Museum, taught at San José State University, and worked as an independent curator in Northern California.

Dr Malcolm McNeill

Malcolm was appointed Director of the SOAS Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art and Senior Lecturer in Arts Education on 1 June 2020. He is a passionate advocate for object-based learning underpinned by rigorous art historical theory and method. He has strong research and teaching interests in Chinese and Buddhist visual culture, text-image relationships, and in the study of curation and display.

Malcolm has professional experience at several of the world’s leading museum and art market institutions. Malcolm joined SOAS from Christie’s, where from 2017-2020 he was a Specialist in Chinese Painting responsible for the European market, collaborating closely with international teams in Asia and North America. Malcolm has worked in curatorial, research and public access roles at leading museums and cultural institutions in the UK and Asia, including Asia House, the British Museum, the National Palace Museum Taipei, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Dr Heather Elgood

Dr Heather Elgood is Founder, former Director and now Director Emeritus of the SOAS Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art. Her doctoral research was on the Influence of Persia on the Development of Mughal Painting. She is also a specialist in the religious and ritual arts of Hindu and Buddhist India as well as Indian Buddhist wall painting, Pala Buddhist illustrated manuscripts and fifteenth – eighteenth century Indo-Islamic, Jain and Hindu manuscript illustration. Her publications include: “Hinduism and the Religious Arts”, London 1999; “The roots of village Hinduism” in World Archaeology, 2004; contribution to the textbook “A Handbook to the study of Hinduism” edited by Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, published by Routledge in 2007; also a chapter entitled “Space, Time, Direction and Movement” - Cambridge History of Religious Architecture, in Press.


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