Gunbad-i Qabud

built of plum-red brick […] transferred as it were from an English kitchen garden to the service of Koranic texts Robert Byron arrives in Maragha on the 16th of October 1933 where he visits and takes pictures of one of the three tombs that are to be found there: the Gundab-i Qabud. Byron himself recognizes the…

The Tomb of Uljaytu or the Dome of Sultaniyya

One thinks of Brunelleschi The Tomb of Uljaytu is the first great monument Robert Byron saw in Persia as he would recall 6 months later his first visit, on the 12th of October 1933. On that occasion, Byron praise the monument as an example of Central Asian greatness and virility [sic!]. The ‘gigantic memorial’, in…

The Friday Mosque of Varamin

‘From a distance, it resembles a ruined abbey’ The Friday Mosque of Varamin is the last monument Byron includes in his account under the 10th October 1933. Byron starts his brief description of the monument comparing it with the Tintern Abbey, in Wales. The only difference, according to Byron, the fact that the mosque ‘has…

Amulets, talismans, and Qur’anic inscriptions

In the last few months, two important museums have organized two distinct exhibitions dedicated to amulets and talismans in the Islamic world. The Metropolitan Museum’s exhibition, Power and Piety: Islamic talismans on the battlefield, showcases a selection of arms and armor decorated with inscriptions and images believed to protect the warriors during battles. A second exhibition, titled…

Envisioning a Buyid heritage – ‘Amid al-Din at Persepolis 444/1053

In one most famous paper, Oleg Grabar asked ‘Why Write on Buildings?’. And the prominent scholar proposed some reason, and some perspective from which inscriptions and graffiti can be seen and studied. The main point is: if you write something on a wall, probably it is intended to be read, and understood by a certain…

Artistic relations between East and West: Italian renaissance painters

It has been some time now that I am more and more interested in artistic influences between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. As always, nothing new under the sun: I am not the first one. Anna Contadini, in her beautiful article ‘Sharing a Taste? Material Culture and Intellectual Curiosity around the Mediterranean, from the Eleventh to the Sixteenth…