Isfahan and its Palaces Statecraft, Shi`ism and the Architecture of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran

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An immense building campaign, initiated in 1590-91 at the millennial threshold of the Islamic calendar (1000 A.H.), transformed Isfahan from a provincial, medieval, and largely Sunni city into an urban-centered representation of the first Imami Shi’i empire in the history of Islam. This beautifully illustrated history of Safavid Isfahan (1501-1722) explores the architectural and urban forms and networks of socio-cultural action that reflected a distinctly early-modern and Perso-Shi’i practice of kingship. The historical process of Shi’ification of Safavid Iran and the deployment of the arts in situating the shifts in the politico-religious agenda of the imperial household informs Sussan Babaie’s fascinating study.

Babaie was born in Abadan, Iran, in 1954. She studied graphic design at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Tehran with Iranian graphic designer Morteza Momayyez until the Iranian Revolution of 1979, when she moved to the United States. In the US, Babaie continued her studies at the American University in Washington DC, where she gained an MA in Italian Renaissance and American Arts after switching her focus to art history. In 1994 she completed her PhD at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. Her dissertation focused on the arts and architecture of Iran, and was titled “Safavid Palaces at Isfahan; Continuity and Change (1590-1666)”.
Since the 1990s, Babaie has taught art history in Europe and the US. She was an assistant professor in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan between 2001 and 2008 and a visiting professor at the Institut für Kunstgeschichte at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich between 2010 and 2012. In 2013 she took up a newly established research post in Asian art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, which is designed to focus on the period 1000-1750 AD and questions of imperialism and artistic patronage from the perspective of non-Western empires. It marked a change in approach for the Courtauld Institute of Art, where since the Second World War the curriculum has focused primarily on the Western tradition.

Sussan Babaie is on the editorial board of the journal Muqarnas and the president of the Historians of Islamic Art Association (2017-19). Babaie is also a member of the Governing Council of the British Academy’s British Institute of Persian Studies, as well as a member of the Editorial and Advisory Boards of the Oxford University’s Journal of Islamic Material Culture, as well as the Journal of Iranian Studies.

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Sussan Babaie




Edinburgh University Press






Babaie, Sussan, Isfahan and its Palaces Statecraft, Shi`ism and the Architecture of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2008, 320 p.