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Sasanian sacred iconography after the Sasanians

Thursday 21 June 2018, 6.30PM to 8pm

Speaker(s): Rachel Wood, University of Oxford

How are we to understand motifs created after the Islamic conquest that refer to Sasanian sacred iconography? Images with Zoroastrian connotations were commissioned and used by non-Zoroastrians in the centuries immediately after the fall of the Sasanian Empire across a range of media, often surviving on expensive luxury items such as metal dining ware and fragments of woven silk.

Whether consciously or not, much hinges on interpretation of the impact of the conquest itself, which in turn has defined how Sasanian-period iconography is approached and understood. In addition, various modern investments in the Sasanian period as a key moment in heritage and identity have affected the shape and direction of the discourse, such as imperial Qājār and Pahlavi drives, and the reform movement among the Parsi community in the nineteenth century. The impact of these investments in their ancient heritage has been discussed in recent work on the Sasanian period in other fields, but have yet to be fully acknowledged and accepted into art historical studies of the Sasanians.

This talk explores how concerns surrounding the continuity, distinctness, and antiquity of Zoroastrianism are intensified when regarding the artistic production of this critical period of transition from hegemony to subaltern.

Speaker biography: Rachel Wood is Lecturer in Classical Archaeology at Corpus Christi College and a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford, specialising in the art and religion of pre-Islamic Iran. For the last four years she was a researcher on the British Museum and Oxford University research project, Empires of Faith, and one of the curators of the Ashmolean Museum exhibition Imagining the Divine: art and the rise of world religions. She is currently preparing the monograph of her DPhil thesis on cultural interactions in the Hellenistic East.

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