European Print Culture and the Julfan Community in Early Modern Safavid Iran and Beyond

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 12:10 PM
Harvard Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Amy Landau , Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD, MD
A world-girdling commodity, the European print served as a primary vehicle for the transmission of cultural and artistic forms across geographical boundaries in the early modern period. The print and print technologies were circulated through the arteries of the seventeenth-century Julfan mercantile network. In the Safavid suburb of New Julfa, the central node of the Julfan global trade network, Armenian khwajas, phenomenally successful in the sale of Iran’s silk, commissioned mansions, churches and monasteries, as well as schools and a printing press. A defining feature of New Julfan domestic and religious architecture was a pictorial language characterized by European iconography. Such iconography was primarily extracted from the print medium. Why were European derived signs and symbols, even those associated with Latin missionaries, who were at times sharply adversarial with the Apostolic Armenians, so actively assimilated by the Julfan merchants?  In this paper, vexing questions related to transmission and the creative processes of re-interpretation and integration are addressed against the cultural, religious and political currents of the Julfan merchants.
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