A Glimpse of Isfahani Architecture

Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology Opens New Photo Exhibit on Islamic Architecture

Although many readers may be familiar with the characteristic architectural features of a typical mosque—tall minarets and ornate, often gold-capped domes—few readers of BAR may ever get to see first-hand the brilliant adornments inside many of these Islamic places of worship.

The Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology’s new photography exhibit Isfahani Architecture: Modeling Beauty in Diversity offers a unique glimpse into several radiant Seljuk and Safavid Dynasty (1501-1736) mosques, madrasas (schools), and palaces from the city of Isfahan, Iran. The exhibit is comprised of 17 high-resolution prints of photographs captured by Bay-area photographer Saïd Nuseibeh .

The photographs highlight muqarnas, also known as “honeycomb vaulting”—a design style common in Islamic architecture. Muqarnas utilize geometric design to decoratively fill otherwise smooth architectural space. The fractal use of repeating shapes and patterns intricately uses light and shadows to highlight ornamental designs. Though decorative, muqarnas have cleverly been used inside mosques and other structures to distribute the weight of large domes.

“We are excited to bring Saïd Nuseibeh’s work to the museum,” says Badè Museum Director Dr. Aaron Brody, “and highlight the materiality of Islam and architecture of sacred space.”

Isfehani Dome and Gardens, Iran

photograph by Saïd Nuseibeh
courtesy of Badè Museum, Berkeley CA

Nuseibeh’s photographs exhibit mosques and other buildings constructed during the Seljuk and Safavid Dynasties in the city of Isfahan, the capital of the Safavid Empire after 1598. The efflorescence depicted in the photographs is intended to reflect the character of the Safavid Empire—its restoration of Persia as a place of diversity, cosmopolitanism, and centrality between East and West.

“As the subjects span centuries and differ widely in their materials, the exhibit offers a unique perspective on the character and intention of Islamic art in Iran,” reads the introduction panel to the gallery. “The Badè Museum invites you to savor this experience with us.”

Twin Rossettes

photograph by Saïd Nuseibeh
courtesy of Badè Museum, Berkeley CA

“This collection of striking photographs celebrates the beauty and diversity of Islamic art and architecture in Iran,” says Badè Museum Curator, Dr. Melissa Cradic. “By capturing the color, texture, contrast, and vibrancy of Isfahan, Saïd Nuseibeh’s photographs provide a novel perspective on this historical city in ways that are not often available to viewers.”

Learn more about the ancient places, people and events that populate Biblical history and are also a part of the Islamic tradition. Explore some of Islam’s significant history and sites, bringing a new perspective to Biblical history and traditions. Download your free ebook of Islam in the Ancient World now.

The exhibit will be open to visitors beginning Monday, September 9, and will run through early December. An opening reception scheduled for Friday, September 27 is open to the public. The Badè Museum is located in Berkeley, California, and is affiliated with the Pacific School of Religion. For more information and hours of operation, visit the museum’s website or follow it on social media.

Samuel D. Pfister is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at the George Washington University and Collections Manager at the Badè Museum.

Read more in Bible History Daily:

Site-Seeing: Surprising Susa

Elegant Mosaics Discovered in Izmir

Saving Aramaic: The Language Jesus Spoke

Trilingual Inscription Surfaces Near Darius the Great’s Tomb

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