Art History Lecture Series: Dr. Lisa Golombek

China’s Challenge to the Safavid Potter: Imitate or Innovate

Ever since the 9th century the Persian potter looked to China for inspiration, but only for the standout features, such as the white body. With the expansion of global trade around 1600, particularly when the English and Dutch East Indies Companies took over, Iran’s ceramic industry had to counter the influx of the highly sought after Chinese blue-and-white porcelain. Could the local potters compete? The results of fifteen years of multi-disciplinary research by a team from the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, will be used to illustrate how the potters met this challenge (the research was published in 2014 by Brill and the ROM). This work continues the approach used in the Timurid Ceramics Project, combining traditional art historical methodology, historical research, and scientific analysis to come up with new attributions to workshops and a new chronology. 

Lisa Golombek received her B.A. in Middle East Studies from Barnard College in 1962, and her PhD in Islamic Art from the University of Michigan in 1968. Her dissertation on the architecture of shrines took her to Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia. She joined the curatorial staff of the Royal Ontario Museum in 1967 and retired as a Curator Emeritus in 2005. At the ROM she installed new galleries, expanded the collection, and carried out research projects on the textiles and ceramics collections. At the University of Toronto as a cross-appointed Full Professor, she taught both undergraduates and graduates. 

Her publications in both academic and popular journals cover a wide range of fields: Islamic architecture, gardens, urban history, painting, ceramics, and calligraphy.  She has published five books and over 60 journal articles, mostly on Iranian art and architecture. Her book on Persian architecture was published by Princeton University Press (1988) and is the primary reference work for the architecture of the Timurid period (15th c.). 

Image credit: Dish With Two Interwined Dragons / Iran, Kirman / Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Lecture Dates

18 Nov – 31 Dec 2015


Paid - Ticket required


VCUQatar Atrium