Rhyton terminating in the forepart of a wild cat, Parthian, ca. 1st century BCE. Gilt silver, 28.4 × 13.1 × 30.2 cm. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art 1979.447a, b.


Henry Colburn
will give a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Tuesday, September 14, at 12:15 pm. His talk is entitled “Parthian Art Is Still a Problem.”

Colburn writes: “In 1935 Mikhail Rostovtzeff (1870–1952) published a 150-page essay entitled ‘Dura and the Problem of Parthian Art.’ Using a corpus of visual evidence from his ongoing excavations at Dura-Europos, he made the pioneering argument that Parthian art was a cogent and vibrant phenomenon. He saw it as descended from Achaemenid and other Iranian precursors and frequently entangled creatively with Greek and Mesopotamian traditions, rather than being merely an obscure interlude in the history of ancient art. The full significance of this argument went unappreciated for much of the twentieth century, however, and despite achieving some recognition as a minor classic the essay has faded into the background of Parthian and Dura studies alike. In this talk I shall argue that Parthian art is still a ‘problem’ and that Rostovtzeff’s essay remains the best lens through which to view it. I will also outline my larger project to produce a new edition of this seminal text, with an introduction and two additional chapters, in order to make it newly available to both scholars and students. My goal is to create a prolegomena to the study of Parthian art.”

Henry Colburn is a research fellow at the BGC this fall. He earned a PhD in classical art and archaeology from the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the art and archaeology of ancient Iran, and on the regions of the Near East, eastern Mediterranean, and central Asia that interacted with Iran prior to the advent of Islam. His first book on this subject, Archaeology of Empire in Achaemenid Egypt, was published earlier this year. Colburn has held fellowships at the Harvard Art Museums, the Getty Research Institute, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he has taught at the University of California, Irvine; the University of Southern California; the University of California, Riverside; and the Cooper Union. He is also a research associate of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan by virtue of his ongoing work on the seals of the Persepolis Fortification Archive.

This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.