Sheila Canby spoke at the Ravi and Seran Trehan Seminar in the Arts of the Islamic World on Wednesday, March 14, 2012. Her talk was entitled “Iranian Art at the Time of Shah `Abbas II (1642–1666).”

While many art historians have focused on the reign of Shah `Abbas I (1587-1629) as a transformational period in Safavid art, his great-grandson, Shah `Abbas II, who ruled from 1642 to 1666, has received less attention as a patron. Sussan Babaie has written the seminal article on Shah `Abbas II’s palace, the Chihil Sutun, and the changes he ordered to the Ali Qapu in Isfahan. Other scholars, such as Massumeh Farhad, have written on patronage and painters in this period. Canby’s talk paid proper homage to the work of Babaie and Farhad, but presented mid-seventeenth-century art across the media with the aim of defining the dominant styles of the period and the factors that contributed to the marked differences between art produced for the court and art produced for provincial grandees. Furthermore, Canby examined internal and external factors such as trade, the Safavid economy, and religious policies for clues to decisions that affected the types of objects produced in this period.

Sheila Canby is the Patti Cadby Birch Curator in Charge of the Islamic Art Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Until fall 2009, she was the Curator of Islamic Collections at the British Museum. Canby’s publications include Persian Painting (London, 1993), Islamic Art in Detail (London, 2005), and Shah `Abbas: the Remaking of Iran (London 2009). At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she is co-editor of Masterpieces of the Department of Islamic Art and author of The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp — two books published in conjunction with the 2011 opening of the galleries for the art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia. Canby is currently performing research on Persian art, both of the Safavid and earlier periods, and hopes to curate an exhibition on Seljuq art with her colleague Deniz Beyazit in 2015.