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Gifts in the Age of Empire: Ottoman-Safavid Cultural Exchange 1501–1630s

The Safavid Shah Muhammad Khudabanda’s Gifts Displayed at the Ottoman Court in 1582. From Lokman, Şehinşehnāme, vol. II, Istanbul, 1592–7. Topkapı Palace Museum Library, B. 200, fols. 36b–37a.

Thursday 11 May 2023, 5.15PM

Speaker(s): Professor Sinem Arcak Casale, University of Minnesota

The rivalry of two great empires dominates the history of the early modern Muslim World. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the shahs of Safavid Iran and the sultans of the Ottoman Empire championed opposing versions of the Islamic faith, staked opposing claims to universal sovereignty, and repeatedly faced one another on the battlefield.

My forthcoming book presents a dramatic reinterpretation of this history, told not through the lens of warfare or religious conflict but rather art. Foregrounding the story of diplomatic gifts exchanged between these two rival courts, this talk demonstrates the central role of visual and material culture in shaping the relationship of two rival Muslim courts. By placing gifts at the centre of diplomacy, it sheds light on their function as broader tools of art, politics, warfare and religion.

Location: BS/104 The Treehouse