“Dressed in the Costume of His Country:” Portraits of Persians Done in the West, 1600–1842

Saturday December 3, 2022
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Online Event

Dressed in the Costume of His Country

The Alireza Ahmadian Lecture in Iranian and Persianate Studies presents: “Dressed in the Costume of His Country:” Portraits of Persians Done in the West, 1600–1842 on December 3, 2022.

Date & Time:
Saturday, December 3, 2022 | 4:00pm-5:30pm (PST)
Location: online via Zoom
This talk will be presented in English.

Free & open to the public. Registration is required via this link: https://ubc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_5gxdUN5ATpCEtW8WF0HNpA

As a class, portraits of Persians who travelled to the West during the Safavid and early Qajar period (early 17th-early 19th century) have received little attention. This lecture brings together a set of images — drawings, paintings, etchings, lithographs and even a silhouette — of Persians, done in Boston, Geneva, London, Paris, Prague, Saratoga Springs, St. Petersburg, Vienna and Washington DC, between 1601 and 1842. Some of the subjects were high-ranking individuals who were members of the élite class while others were from modest backgrounds. All were on a mission of one sort or another and portraiture, in the days before photography, commemorated their visits to distant capitals, offering us a rare glimpse at the dress, accoutrements and regalia worn by these visitors to foreign lands. Subjects of fascination for both contemporary artists and a well-informed public, intrigued by all things Persian and able to follow the movements of these travelers in the European and American press, the sitters in these works left an indelible mark in the consciousness of Western observers, only a few of whom ever journeyed themselves to the Land of the Lion and the Sun.

Guest Speaker

Daniel T. Potts is Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology and History at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University. His lifelong fascination with and love of Iranian history and archaeology began with his first visit to Iran in 1973 and has led him to work on a wide range of topics ranging in time from prehistory to the modern era. He is the author of The Archaeology of Elam: Formation and Transformation of an Ancient Iranian State (Cambridge, 1999, 2nd ed. 2016), Nomadism in Iran: From Antiquity to the Modern Era (Oxford, 2014), Persia Portrayed: Envoys to the West, 1600-1842 (Mage, 2022) and A Nook in the Temple of Fame: French Military Officers in Persian Service, 1806-1827 (Mage, 2023). He was also the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran (Oxford, 2013) and Agreeable News from Persia: Iran in the Colonial and Early Republican American Press, 1712-1848 (Springer, 2022). He received his AB (1975) and PhD (1980) at Harvard, and is a Consulting Editor for the Encyclopaedia Iranica, a Corresponding Member of the German Archaeological Institute and ISMEO (Associazione Internazionale di Studi sul Mediterraneo e l’Oriente) and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.


Layla Diba holds a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. Her articles, including over 40 essays on Iranian art, have appeared in numerous scholarly publications. Dr. Diba sits on the Board of The Soudavar Memorial Foundation. She is also a collector of Persian and Islamic art and a benefactor and advocate for numerous Persian cultural causes.

Willem Floor studied development economics and non-western sociology, as well as Persian, Arabic and Islamology from 1963-67 at the University of Utrecht (the Netherlands). He received his doctoral degree from the University of Leiden in 1971. Since 1983, Dr. Floor was employed by the World Bank as an energy specialist, however, after his retirement in 2002, he dedicated his time to the study of the social and political history of Iran, and has published extensively throughout this time.


About the Alireza Ahmadian Lectures in Iranian and Persianate Studies: Alireza Ahmadian (1981 – 2019) was an enthusiastic researcher, a consummate socio-political analyst, and an opinion leader on foreign policy who nurtured the virtues of diplomatic dialogue and liberal democracy. Alireza was a proud and devoted UBC alumnus, supporter of UBC’s Department of Asian Studies, and beloved member of Canadian-Iranian Community. The department renamed this lecture series in his honour in 2019. Alireza’s friends in the community have provided funding to support this series, and this generous gift will see these important academic and community engagement events supported through to the end of the 2025/2026 academic year.

Should you have any questions, please contact the Department of Asian Studies at Asian.Studies@ubc.ca.