Massachusetts Historical Society


A "Free Lance" and Diplomat: S. G. W. Benjamin and the Promotion of Persian Art for an American Nation


Author: Roxanne Goldberg, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Comment: Ross Barrett, Boston University; Farshid Emami, Rice University

This is a hybrid event. The in-person reception will begin at 4:30 pm.

When the first U.S. diplomat to Iran, S. G. W. Benjamin, returned to the United States in 1885, he urged Americans to study Persian art. Through lectures and publications, he made the case that Persian art was the ideal model for American artists developing a national school of art appropriate for the modern age. Analysis of Benjamin's writing, sketchbooks, and the objects he sold to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, reveals that his theories about and sale of Persian art were supported by the new academic disciplines of sociology and anthropology; postbellum doctrines of individualism; and debates over the forms appropriate for a modern American art with the capacity for moral uplift.

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The seminar will begin at 5:00 PM.

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