The Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection

The Fine Arts Library holds the noted curator’s research slides, documenting four decades of unparalleled access to public and private art collections from around the world.
Detail of the foot of Simurgh’s mountain, f. 63b of the Shah Tahmasp (Houghton) Shahnama, 16th c. View Details.
Fine Arts Library.

Stuart Cary Welch, Jr. (1928-2008) was a celebrated curator, lecturer, and collector of Islamic and Indian art. His professional positions included special consultant in charge of the Department of Islamic Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a post he held from 1979 to 1987, and honorary keeper, then curator of Islamic art at Harvard University’s Fogg Museum from 1956 to 2008.

Stuart Cary Welch, c. 1994-1995.
Stuart Cary Welch, c. 1994-1995.
Courtesy of the Welch Family.

In the course of his long career in the latter half of the 20th century, he assembled over 60,000 35 mm slides for his research and teaching, documenting his unique access to private and public art collections from across the world.

This includes the photographs he used to create his most famous work, a two-volume concordance of the now-dispersed Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp (colloquially known as the Houghton Shahnama). Though his final publication contained few color images, every folio is reproduced in full color, and sometimes in situ, in the photograph collection now held by the Fine Arts Library.

Court of Gayumars, in situ, Shah Tahmasp (Houghton) Shahnama, 16th c.
Court of Gayumars, in situ, Shah Tahmasp (Houghton) Shahnama, 16th c. View Details.
Fine Arts Library.

The Fine Arts Library is currently in the process of digitizing, color-correcting, and cataloging this important collection, which is made open access as it is completed. View the images currently cataloged.

For more information about the collection, see student blog entries from the beginning of the project, or the ArchNet exhibition of some key images and themes.

The collection consists mostly of high-definition photographs of paintings and drawings, both famous and rare, but it also contains images of historical photographs, metalwork, and architecture.

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Amanda Hannoosh Steinberg