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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Start date : 
October, 2022
Thesis Topic: 
Musk and Roses in Persian Art and Poetry: a Smell Culture Approach to Art History in Safavid and early Qajar Iran (1500-ca. 1896)
Research Summary: 
My research focuses on the relevance of odours, particularly perfumes, in Safavid (1500-1722) and early Qajar Iran (1789- ca 1896). The aim is to reassess the Iranian history of art through the sense of smell: an essential ingredient of Persian art, life and culture from the Safavid to the Qajar epoch. My interdisciplinary approach to the theme broadens our critical understanding of the theories and practices related to the sense of smell. I study different sources, from medical manuscripts to poetry, from paintings to carpet colouring techniques, from garden designs and botanical knowledge to the conception of kingship and mystical understandings of the cosmos. Persian culture had a different approach to smells and perfumes to our contemporary time, they enriched everyday life with numerous poetic and medical associations. Through my analysis of Persian sources, I demonstrate how odours and olfactants are a fundamental part of the study of Iranian art and its history.
Further Details: 

I obtained my BA in History of Art from Trinity College, Cambridge. My dissertation won the 2019 Best Undergraduate Dissertation Award from the Association for Art History, UK. I then completed my MA degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where I specialised in Safavid Art History under the guidance of Prof Sussan Babaie. My MA thesis was partially published in August 2021 by LAPIS: The Journal of the Institute of Fine Arts (NYU). I am currently in the second year of my PhD, supervised by Prof Christine van Ruymbeke at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge.