History Regained: A Modern Artist in Baghdad Encounters a Lost Tradition of Painting

In: Muqarnas Online
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  • 1 Center for Humanities and Social Change, University of California, Santa Barbara


This essay explores how the re-encounter with a medieval history of manuscript illustration laid a foundation for the practice of modern art in Iraq. It focuses on the artist Jewad Selim (1919–61) and his discovery of Yahya al-Wasiti’s illustrations of the Maqāmāt al-Ḥarīrī, but it also marks the ways in which that discovery was mediated by the enterprise of orientalist scholarship, the context of European modernism, and the broader cultural renewal that occurred with the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the creation of new nation-states in the Middle East.

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