Timurid prince Baysunghur (d. 1433), son of Shahrukh, grandson of Timur, has long been recognized as both generous patron and accomplished practitioner of art and literature. The effects of a rich corpus of written sources in Persian and the objects made for him—a personal library of finely made manuscripts—have led scholars to attribute to him creative agency and aesthetic adjudication. While the lecture questions this formulation, its chief concern is to reconsider the achievements of artists in the Herat workshop (kitabkhana) and the new kinds of books that they made. Baysunghur’s books were not only marked by technical accomplishment and formal coherence across media but by the studied emulation of selected artistic traditions throughout Greater Iran. The lecture gauges the implications and effects of these choices upon the beholder.
David J. Roxburgh is Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor of Islamic Art History at Harvard University where he has taught since he received the Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania in 1996. In his publications, Roxburgh has pursued several interests—including aesthetics and the history of reception—and approaches to the study of art history. He has focused on primary written sources, manuscript painting, arts of the book, calligraphy, Timurid art and architecture, exchanges between China and the Islamic lands, travel narratives, and the pre-modern through contemporary histories of collecting, exhibitions, and museums. He has published numerous articles and two books, Prefacing the Image: The Writing of Art History in Sixteenth-Century Iran (Leiden: Brill, 2001), and The Persian Album 1400-1600: From Dispersal to Collection (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), and most recently edited the collection of essays titled Envisioning Islamic Art and Architecture: Studies in Honor of Renata Holod (Leiden: Brill, 2014). Roxburgh has also co-curated exhibitions and written for their catalogues (Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years [London, 2005], and Traces of the Calligrapher: Islamic Calligraphy in Practice, c. 1600-1900 [Houston, 2007]). He is currently working on two books about illustrated Arabic manuscripts of the late 1100s through early 1200s and study of Medieval architecture in Iran during the early twentieth century.