• Art of the Achaemenid Empire and Art in the Achaemenid Empire

    Henry Colburn (see profile)
    Ancient Near East, Archaeology, Classical archaeology
    Art, Middle East
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    archaeology, persia, Art of the Middle East
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    This chapter is an introduction to two of the major aspects of the study of Achaemenid Persian art, namely its definition, and the analysis of quotations of other artistic traditions. Achaemenid art is best defined as consisting of two categories of material. One is the art of the empire, i.e. art produced in furtherance of imperial goals. The other category consists of art in the empire, i.e. the artistic production of regions subject to Achaemenid rule. Though this art often took an outward form typical of its local context it was always produced in dialogue with the art of the empire. In both of these categories visual quotations of other, often earlier, artistic traditions figured prominently. These quotations resulted from choices made in the process of production either to achieve a specific effect or because they seemed appropriate to the object and its owner, and because these choices were made with the expectation of a successful outcome they can inform us about the social conditions in which they (both the decisions and objects) were made. Thus art provides a means of understanding how different individuals situated themselves within the broader the context of the empire. This is illustrated in three case studies of objects commissioned by three different individuals in which each utilized quotations of various artistic traditions as a means of constructing and negotiating their roles in the social order of the empire, and by parsing these quotations we can understand what those roles were.
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    Last Updated:
    7 years ago
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