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Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond

European travellers

Early exchanges between Europe and the Islamic world occurred in medieval Spain and Sicily, on the contested Holy Lands during the Crusades and via various trade routes and economic centres. Artefacts and stories accompanied travellers, finding new homes and audiences across the known world. Gift-giving between diplomatic missions and increasing commercial demand resulted in silks, spices, manuscripts and even thoroughbred animals arriving in Europe.

Under the tolerant reign of Shah ʿAbbas I in the early 17th century, a number of Christian orders were permitted to establish missions and build churches in Persia. Missionaries sent detailed descriptions of Persian life back to Europe, which in turn encouraged others to journey to the region for the purposes of trade, diplomacy or scholarship.

A steady stream of European travellers soon had direct contact with the major centres of Safavid Persia and continued to visit their counterparts in Ottoman Turkey and Mughal India, where Persianate culture underpinned the luxurious courts.

Upon their return, many of these travellers published detailed accounts of their voyages, which were often illustrated with maps, views of cities, depictions of local inhabitants in traditional dress and the flora and fauna of the region. Access to these accounts would lead, in turn, to an explosion of references, motifs and narratives in European literature that had a distinctly Persian or ‘oriental’ flavour.

Love & devotion in the UK

The Bodleian Libraries is showing its own presentation of the Love and devotion exhibition at the Exhibition Room, Bodleian Library, in Oxford, England, between 29 November 2012 and 28 April 2013.

Learn more about how you can visit this exhibition on the Bodleian Libraries website.


Love and devotion: Persian Cultural Crossroads

This two-day conference held in April 2012 featured distinguished international guests and Australian specialists exploring cultural convergences in literature, the arts and architecture, history and philosophy within Persia's cultural sphere and Europe, from the 11th century to the present day.

For information on keynote speakers & topics discussed, visit our conference page

Visit the exhibition

The Love and devotion exhibition took place from 9 March to 1 July 2012. In-depth information about the exhibits and themes can be found on this website.

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