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Bilderfahrzeuge Lecture Series: "Not a Copy"

Yuka Kadoi (Institute of Art History, University of Vienna): 'The Power of Duplication: Medieval Persian Painting through Photographs, ca. 1890- 1920'

uring the formative period of Persian art history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, photographic reproductions played a key role in the construction process of chronological and iconographical narratives. This paper explores an alternative history of medieval Persian painting by looking at the production and distribution of photographic reproductions. Often commissioned by dealers, such visual materials were widely circulated and distributed across collectors and scholars for identification, authentication and comparative research purposes. While the power of photographic reproductions in the early scholarship and connoisseurship of European art history is widely acknowledged, this should also be the case with non-European art history, including Persian art history, a topic which this paper wishes to address.

This annual lecture series is organised by the international research project Bilderfahrzeuge: Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology. Entitled “Not A Copy,” this year’s series seeks to discuss the advent of new forms of visual expression in response to preceding artefacts and following from an interplay with their materiality and mediality. Humanities tend to reduce these dynamics to a dichotomy of a supposed ‘original’ and its ‘copy’. By doing so, the productive quality of transformation is often overlooked, whereas terms such as imitation, emulation, repetition, transmission, translation or recording are in continuous need of critical re-evaluation.

image: Isfandiyar Approaching Gushtasp, page from the Great Mongol Shahnama (Iran, 1330s; Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence); reproduction from Philipp Walter Schulz, Die persisch-islamische Miniaturmalerei (Leipzig, 1914).