Pearson's Looking Through the Canvas with Michael Cothren & Sultan Muhammad’s Court of Gaymars: imagining a world of harmony, before it was undercut by loss

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Explore perspectives on Sultan Muhammad's Court of Gayumars with author Michael Cothren. Discover the painting's significance in the Persian narrative tradition and its journey from the royal court.

Michael W. Cothren, Scheuer Family Professor of Humanities and Chair of the Department of Art, Swarthmore College

Join author and Professor Michael Cothren in our Looking Through the Canvas webisode series where he will discuss unique perspectives on Sultan Muhammad's Court of Gaymars. Connoisseurs at the court of the Safavid Shah considered this to be the greatest painting ever created in the Persian narrative tradition. But only a privileged few had access to it. Observing it was an intimate, one on one, experience open to the members of, and visitors to, the royal court following its creation c. 1525-35 CE. It was one of many painted illustrations in a lavish copy of the history of Persian rulers written in 1010 CE. This copy of the book was made for a young Safavid ruler named Tahmasp, and during the passage of time, it became a treasured possession of art collectors far from the land and culture for which it was made. The last private owner was a wealthy American who eventually sold the paintings individually. They are now spread among museum around the world, but it is unlikely that they will ever be gathered together in one place to be examined by a single viewer in one contemplative space. But as a graduate student during the 1970s, the whole book, un-bound, was stored at the Metropolitan Museum of Art while awaiting its sale, and my opportunity to participate in a semester-long seminar on the book, led by curator Marie Lukens Swietochowski, was a formative experience of becoming an art historian.