Teaching within the different divisions of GLS curriculum at NYU’s global sites—in NYC, Florence, London, and Abu Dhabi—has led to my discovery of a hidden archive which discloses a novel narrative about the origins and development of the modern world, more significantly, a new heuristics that, at once, is global and interdisciplinary. The interpretative framework has yielded, on the one hand, original accounts of major artworks such as Caravaggio’s Medusa in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence; and, on the other, encounters with previously unknown, but historically important documents, such as Subhat al Akhbar, the oldest royal genealogy of Sultan Suleiman in Europe.
During a 2009 teaching assignment at NYU Florence, I sought local resources and curricular material that could support the Liberal Studies mission to ‘globalize’ the teaching of humanities. During this search for Persian sources in Florence, I came across the Medici manuscript collection in the Laurentian Library. I curated a custom exhibit of these manuscripts for my Social Foundations students in Aula D’Elci of the historic library. One stunning and curious piece that surfaced from the collection was a seven-meter long scroll, Subhat al-Akhbar, the royal genealogy of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The document served as the model for later known copies, held in the National Library of Vienna and in the Metropolitan Museum of NYC. My study recovers the cultural encounters between Persians and Florentines, whose encounters brought the scroll into Florence during the 16th century; it is published in the Spring 2018 volume of I Tatti Studies. Another essay, also emerging from the Medici archive, offers material for a new interpretation of the iconic Medusa (1596-1598) by Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi), which interpretation is again grounded in the relationship of the Shah ʾAbbas of Persia and Ferdinand de' Medici of Tuscany.
Students who were first-year students at the time had the opportunity to support this research, and we are still in touch.