Art Histories
2015/ 2016

Peyvand Firouzeh

Depicted Legitimacy: Sufi-Sultan Encounters in the Visual and Textual Culture of South Asia

‘Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah II venerates Sufi’, Deccan, ca.1620-1627, British Museum (1997,1108,0.1)

Peyvand Firouzeh specialises in the art and architecture of the Islamic world, with a focus on Iran, Central Asia and India in medieval period. She is particularly interested in patronage of art and architecture, the relationships between text and architecture (travel texts and epigraphy), and cross-cultural exchanges between Iran and India. She obtained her BA and MA in Architecture from University of Art, Tehran, and her MPhil and PhD in History of Art and Architecture and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies from University of Cambridge. Her doctoral dissertation examined Sufi shrines in fifteenth-century Iran and the Deccan by focusing on a Sufi order founded in the fourteenth century. Her research has received funding from E.G. Browne and Soudavar Memorial Trust (University of Cambridge), the Gibb Memorial Trust, the British Institute of Persian Studies, and the Iran Society. Firouzeh was the acting curator of Islamic collections at the British Museum (2014-15) and co-curated a display with Dr. Ladan Akbarnia (British Museum) on depictions and attributes of Sufi dervishes from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Her forthcoming articles are on Iranian calligraphers in the fifteenth-century Deccan (2016), institutionalization and patronage of the Ne’matollahi Sufi order in Iran (2015), and tomb of Ahmad Shah Bahmani near Bidar (2015).

Depicted Legitimacy: Sufi-Sultan Encounters in the Visual and Textual Cultures of South Asia

The strong connection that the Sufis—generally defined as Islamic mystics—were believed to have with the Divine, gave them the religious, cultural, and political power to lend credibility to newly founded dynasties and help them gain legitimacy. In exchange, the Sufi would receive financial support and patronage for monumental architecture from the ruler. The aim of this project is to follow the traces of the negotiations of authority between the Sufis and rulers—which at times resulted in the merging of the spiritual and the temporal—in the visual and textual productions of the post-fifteenth-century Persian-speaking contexts of Iran and India. The frequency of the encounters between two sides in texts and images highlights the literary and artistic agenda to historicize these powerful political and religious narratives. By bridging the ‘visual’ and the ‘textual’ (hagiographies and histories) this project seeks to unravel the historical, political, and iconographical making of paintings and album folios (mainly seventeenth-century Mughal) that capture the real or imaginary encounters between the Sufis and Sultans.