TAASA Review Issues

September 2010

Vol: 19 Issue: 3
Ancient Iran
Editors: Tobin Hartnell and Josefa Green

Cover Image
Median Nobles approach the King. Persepolis, 5th Century BCE. Photo: Kourosh Mohammad Khani.

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Editorial

This focus issue of the TAASA Review on Ancient Iran demonstrates that Australia is currently one of the leading contributors to the study of ancient Iranian Art and Archaeology.

Edna Wong recently graduated from Sydney University in Archaeology. Her piece on Cheshmeh Ali ceramics investigates some of Iran’s earliest art. Recent research reveals the sophisticated techniques and emerging themes of these Iranian ceramics from some 7000 years ago, which influenced western Iranian art for millennia.

Javier Álvarez-Món originally graduated from Berkeley and now works as a lecturer on ancient Iranian art at Sydney University. His piece covers the evolution of Elamite Art, one of Iran’s oldest civilizations.

After considering the earliest art traditions in Iran, following articles review the role of Persia (modern Fars, southern Iran) in the Iranian world. Two pieces deal with Persepolis, a site that still embodies romantic ideas of Persia even 2300 years after its destruction. My own piece, Persepolis in the Western Imagination, considers how the meaning of Persepolis changed as the West became more engaged in Iranian affairs. Stephanie Reed explores how the Persepolis reliefs stand apart from other decorative programs of Ancient Near Eastern states by focusing on communal aspects, rather than war.

Fiona Kidd works with Sydney University’s Chorasmia project (the lower Oxus region). Her piece covers the newly excavated wall paintings of Kazakly-yatkan in the eastern Chorasmian oasis. Through this work, Central Asian artists emerge as a new force in the wider Iranian art world.

Ali Asadi, an Iranian archaeologist working at Persepolis, covers the last stage of pre-Islamic Art – the Sasanian period (224-654 CE). His article records how the Sasanian kings chose a very traditional art form, rock reliefs, as an important part of the artistic repertoire of the time.

The Sasanian world existed at the centre of the Silk Road, a link between China and Europe. Heleanor Feltham considers the role of the Sasanian court, not just in silk textile production but in defining Western and Chinese textile styles for centuries to come.

From archaeology and art history, the focus shifts to museum collections. Susan Scollay considers the significance of the Shahnama (the Book of Kings), on the occasion of its one thousandth anniversary, while examining a folio from the Shahnama held in the National Gallery of Victoria. Elizabeth Bollen, assistant curator at the Nicholson Museum, reviews its new jewellery exhibition which, while focused on the classical culture of Greece and Rome, also displays some important examples of Persian and Persian-inspired jewellery for the first time in Sydney.

John Tidmarsh reviews a nostalgic book about Iranian culture and landscapes. Using aerial photography, Paradise Lost: Persia from Above captures a moment in time in Iran’s history that is rapidly disappearing as modern Iran industrialises.

The journal finishes with a Traveller’s Tale item about the Carpet Museum of Tehran. Ros Hunyor and Helen Holmes first examined the extraordinary carpets displayed in the museum and then travelled around Iran to experience the diverse cultures that produced them.

The range of topics covered by the articles in this issue starts to capture the vitality and experimentation of artists in ancient Iran. The cultural influence of these ancient works are still with us, as Iranians and foreigners alike look to Iran’s artistic heritage to experience the enduring ideas of its layered past.

This special issue required the generosity of many professionals. Thank you to the generosity of the contributors, photographer Koroush Mohammad Khani, the Oriental Institute (Chicago), University of Pennsylvania, University of Akron, University of Tasmania and Sydney for your help.

This is a special issue in that it announces the resignation of our current President, Judith Rutherford. On page 27, we provide a brief outline of Judith’s achievements and I’m sure I speak for all members in thanking Judith for her outstanding contribution to TAASA over the years and hoping that we will still find her at all our future functions.

At the same time, this issue is happy to announce the unanimous election of Gill Green as our new President and Christina Sumner as our new Vice President. Gill will become just the 4th President since TAASA’s foundation in October 1991. While Judith took over the reins in 2001 (from Jackie Menzies) when TAASA was 10 years old, our new leadership comes just one year before our 20th anniversary. We can look forward to many more years of TAASA continuing its work of promoting Asian arts in Australia. Josefa Green, Editor

Table of contents

3 Editorial – Tobin Hartnell and Josefa Green

4 Cheshmeh Ali Ware: A Painted Ceramic Tradition in the Iranian Central Plateau – Edna Wong

7 Elamite Art – Javier Álvarez-Món

10 The Kazakly-Yatkan Wall Paintings: New Perspectives on the Art of the Ancient Iranian World – Fiona Kidd

12 Persepolis in the Western Imagination – Tobin Hartnell

15 Love Thy Neighbour: The Intimate Art of Diplomacy in Persepolis Processional Sculptures – Stephanie Reed

18 Sasanian Rock Relief Panels – Ali Asadi

21 In the Public Domain: A Persian Shahnama Folio from the NGV – Susan Scollay

22 Silks of Sasanian Persia – Heleanor Feltham

24 Book Review: Paradise Lost . Persia from Above – John Tidmarsh

25 Exhibition Preview: Beauty And Betrayal : Ancient Jewellery at the Nicholson – Elizabeth Bollen and Tobin Hartnell

26 Traveller’s Tale: Carpet Museum of Iran – Helen Holmes and Ros Hunyor

27 New Leadership for TAASA

29 Recent TAASA Activities

29 TAASA Members’ Diary

30 What’s On: September – November 2010 – Compiled by Tina Burge

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