Stucco, as one of the most widespread media of decoration throughout the history of architecture, has received increasing interest over the last few years. Before, stucco in the eastern Islamic sphere was studied sporadically, and its scholarly perception has been impacted by numerous disciplinary and methodological divides. The division between research on the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods implied that pre-Islamic stuccos were considered as products of a separate period, or at best as forerunners of a technology of architectural decoration that fully flourished in Islamic times. The wider interest in early Islamic stuccos was frequently limited to objects from the Abbasid caliphal residence of Raqqa or Samarra, whereas early stuccos from other regions remained little known, or were viewed as the mostly dependant from the Mesopotamian sites. However, a recent series of research projects in stucco decorations has begun to change the situation. As materials from older fieldwork are being re- examined and new materials are appearing (e.g. from the excavations at Balkh and Ghazni), new questions have been raised. Accompanied by some revised attributions and re-groupings, the new interest in stucco is apt to open a wider field of aesthetics that connects architecture with the arts of the object, and in which established boundaries are being questioned. For example, the Mongol invasion to Persia from 1220 onwards, commonly understood as causing a major break in the history of Islamic Art, appears as a moment of transition when looking at the forms, techniques of stucco decoration.

In the traditional approach by Historians of Islamic Art, stucco decoration was assessed by its stylethe characteristics of visual appearance and ornamental iconography. Stuccos have been viewed as works of different regional schools, and in parallel, differences in their production methods, more exact dating or detailed observations of their craftsmanship, which could lead to more comprehensive understanding, have been overlooked. Over the last few years, aspects of production technology have received more attention. For example, it seems now generally accepted that the majority of Islamic stuccos were originally brightly coloured, even if this is rarely addressed. However, researchers are only beginning to find out what techniques the craftsmen exactly used, and how the stuccos actually looked in their intended colouring.

Perception of stucco as a craft, rather than art, and the near-absence of stucco from museum collections, had rendered it a subject less worthy of discussion. Access to monuments and stuccos in the Middle East is sometimes challenging, particularly for international researchers. More recently, the subject has seen a revived interest, by the means of thorough monument documentation and their art historic discussion. Preliminary archaeometric research for material characterization of the stucco body and of colouring, and a better understanding of their production have begun to emerge. Two recent conferences on stucco in the Islamic world, held at the University of Kashan in April 2017 and organized by the Institute of Iranian Studies of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (online) in January 2021, have been indicative of this development.

CALL FOR PAPERS: Iranian Stucco Conference (University of Bamberg, 5-7 May 2022)

We invite papers on the subject of stucco revetments in Iran and the neighbouring territories, from the Early Islamic to the Timurid period. Papers on pre-Islamic stuccos in Iran and later Modern stuccos in Iran, when relevant to the described disciplinary divides, will be considered. Scholars from the fields of Art History, Archaeometry, Archaeology, and Heritage Conservation are warmly invited. Papers with demonstrated interdisciplinary approach, innovative research methodology and new ways of seeing the stuccos will be given precedence. Research focusing on neglected aspects of stuccos, such as polychromy, aesthetics, craftsmen identity and production technology, are also particularly welcome. Archaeological excavations, conservation interventions and preservation of cultural heritage activities tied to Iranian stuccos, in forms of field reports or academic papers are warmly invited.

Proposed paper topics may include some of the following aspects:

  • New research finds concerning form, function and meaning of stuccos
  • Field reports regarding conservation interventions and archaeological excavations of stuccos
  • Stucco style and stucco schools reconsidered
  • To divide or to unite? The relationship between pre-Islamic and Islamic period stuccos
  • Dynastic, geographical and chronological divides and unites of stuccos
  • Visual characteristics of stuccos: just ornament?
  • Epigraphic programmes in stuccos
  • Stuccos and other media of architectural revetment: hierarchy, relation, decorative principles
  • Convergent or divergent evolution: geographical differences in stucco
  • Mobility and identity of stucco craftsmen; (trans)regional connections and divides
  • And diverse were their hues. Stuccos and their original polychromy
  • Stucco craftsmanship: new finds and new lines of inquiry
  • Interdisciplinary research of stuccos: case studies
  • Methodological challenges for stucco research: new approaches and practices

To participate in the conference, please submit an abstract (250 words) by no later than December 1, 2021 to:

stucco-conference.islamart(at)uni-bamberg.de

Invited speakers: Viola Allegranzi, Elaheh Alvandiyan, Sandra Aube, Sheila Blair, Marco Brambilla, Andrea Luigi Corsi, Barbara Finster, Claus Peter Haase, Robert Hilllenbrand, Parviz Holakooei, Renata Holod, Ruba Kanaan, Amir Hossein Karimy, Valentina Laviola, Stefan Masarovic, Richard McClary, Ruslan Muradov,Bernard O’Kane, Rosario Paone, Yves Porter, Martina Rugiadi, Hamed Sayyadshahri, Atefe Shekofte, Bahareh Taghavinejad, Majid Zohoori.

Organizers: Lorenz Korn, Iman Aghajani, Ana Marija Grbanovic, Moslem Mishmastnehi

University of Bamberg, Institute of Oriental Studies, Islamic Art and Archaeology

Schillerplatz 17, 96049 Bamberg www.uni-bamberg.de/islamart Phone: +49 951 863 2182

In order to contribute to the field, a research group in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the University of Bamberg is conducting a DFG-funded project, dedicated to art historical and archaeometric aspects of 11-14th century stuccos in Iran. We decided to organize a conference dedicated to the subject, in order to generate further scholarly interaction and to communicate the latest research finds and innovative methodology for research of stuccos. Traditional disciplinary confines will be transcended by inclusion of experts from different fields into the conference. Furthermore, dynastic, temporary and geographical boundaries will be tackled. The edited volume, based on the papers presented at the conference, is intended to disseminate these research finds to the wider scholarly audience of, not only, the field of Islamic Art and Archaeology, but also for disciplines such as History, Sociology, Anthropology and Cultural Heritage Preservation.

Generously funded by