Virtuosity: Muhammad Zaman and Imperial Access

Dr Amy Landau (Director of Education and Interpretation, Fowler Museum, UCLA)

Coming to Isfahan Lecture Series

Muhammad Zaman ibn Haji Yusuf (fl. 1670–1700) was an imperial painter at the Persian court of the Safavid ruler Shah Sulayman (r. 1666–94). He is celebrated as the innovator of farangi-sazi (or the European style) of seventeenth century Persian painting. Besides technical skill, another hallmark characteristic of Muhammad Zaman’s European mode included his sophisticated handling of literary subject matter. Muhammad Zaman showcased his literary acumen and painterly mastery within two venerated dynastic works of art: the Khamsa of Shah Tahmasp (British Library, London, Or. 2265) and the Shahnama of Shah ‘Abbas (Chester Beatty, Dublin, Per 277). Demonstration of adab, which encompasses knowledge, character, and manners, would have been necessary to gain access to and mark these treasured codices with his signature style. This public lecture explores the beguiling ways Muhammad Zaman delighted his viewers through a performance of considerable virtuosity within these great masterpieces of manuscript illumination.

About the Speaker:
Amy Landau is Director of Education and Interpretation at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, where she oversees public programs, educational initiatives, and gallery interpretation. She co-leads the Fowler initiative “Engaging Lived Religion in the 21st Century Museum,” with Patrick A. Polk. Landau previously served as Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Islamic and South & Southeast Asian Art at the Walters Art Museum (2009-2018). In 2018, Landau established “Art, Religion and Cities,” which is being transformed into Museum CoLAB, at Morgan State University. She was a fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership in 2017. She lectures and publishes on the arts of early modern Iran, the Safavid painter Muhammad Zaman ibn Haji Yusuf, as well as representations of religion and activating community-engaged practices in museums.

Onsite Lecture will be delivered in-person in the museum’s Lecture Theatre, followed by Q&A and optional exhibition tour.

For guests attending the lecture onsite, the Silk Road Café will serve hot food throughout the day until 7.00pm, and then drinks and desserts until 7.30pm.

Each Coming to Isfahan lecture will be followed by a short tour of Meeting in Isfahan with the Curator of Islamic Collections, Dr Moya Carey.

Onsite talk and tour:

Onsite talk only:


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Chester Beatty
Dublin Castle
Dublin 2
D02 AD92