Main content start

Margaret Graves: Casting Between Matter and Magic: An Archimorphic Censer Walks from West Asia to Sweden

Fri February 16th 2024, 5:30pm
Event Sponsor
Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies
Department of Art & Art History
McMurtry Building
355 Roth Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Global Approaches to Sacred Space Workshop Series 2023-2024

Margaret Graves: Casting Between Matter and Magic: An Archimorphic Censer Walks from West Asia to Sweden 

Friday, February 16, 5:30 pm PST in-person at McMurtry 370 and on Zoom

Zoom registration:

As a species we think about the world in the ways that we do in part because of our thousands of years of physical engagement with materials: clay, metal, sand, and stone. This presentation will focus on a single object—a cast, handled copper-alloy incense burner in the form of a domed building, mounted on four hooved feet—to explore one aspect of what I am calling the “technologies of impress” in premodern Islam and their entanglement with cognition. These technologies of impress, which include metalcasting and ceramic moulds and matrices, stamps, punches, and dies, harness the physical forces of impact and containment and the changeable states of matter. In the censer, an object whose facture advertises it as a virtuosic example of the metalcaster’s art and a marvel of the mould, we find unexpected traces of humankind’s endless quest to harness and direct the forces of the universe, through magic and occult practices as well as resource extraction, metallurgy, and the connotative power of monumental architecture.

Margaret S. Graves is Adrienne Minassian Associate Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Brown University. She is a specialist in the art of the Islamic world, with a primary research focus on the plastic arts of ceramic, metalwork, and stone carving in the medieval era. Her 2018 monograph, Arts of Allusion: Object, Ornament, and Architecture in Medieval Islam (OUP), won the 2019 book prize of the International Center of Medieval Studies and the 2021 Karen Gould prize from the Medieval Academy of America. She is also editor, co-editor, and co-author of books on the art of the Islamic world and beyond, most recently the co-authored Ceramic Art (Princeton University Press, 2023).

Global Approaches to Sacred Space is generously funded as part of the SGS Global Research Workshop series with further support from The Ho Center for Buddhist Studies, the Department of Religious Studies, the Department of History, the Department of Classics, the Department of Art and Art History, the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, The Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis. Co-organized by Bissera V. Pentcheva, Maria Shevelkina, Emilia Cottignoli, & Maria Terss.

VISITOR INFORMATION: This event will be held in Room 370 located in the McMurtry Building on Stanford campus at 355 Roth Way. Visitor parking is free all day on weekends and after 4 pm on weekdays, except by the Oval. Alternatively, take the Caltrain to Palo Alto Transit Center and hop on the free Stanford Marguerite Shuttle. If you need a disability-related accommodation or wheelchair access information, please contact Maria Shevelkina at mashev [at] This event is free and is open to Stanford affiliates & the general public.