‘Bestowing Beauty: Masterpieces from Persian Lands’ brings renowned collection to Toledo

Persian, feline, 19th century. Bronze, cast iron. 4 1/4 × 6 11/16 × 2 9/16 in. (10.8×17×6.5cm). The Hossein Afshar Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston TR:1329-2015

This spring and summer, the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) in Ohio offers a spectacular exhibition of more than 100 objects drawn from one of the most important private collections of Persian art. Granting Beauty: Masterpieces of the Persian Lands opens on April 23 and showcases the artistic inventiveness of Persian culture through different media, with a wide range of textiles, ceramics, metalwork, lacquerware, paintings, jewelry and manuscripts from the Hossein Afshar collection. The historically Persian lands – a wide swath of territory that stretched at various times from Cairo to Delhi, with its heartland in what is now modern Iran – have seen centuries of conquest and globalization. The resulting art both reinforced Persian culture and assimilated these cross-cultural exchanges.

The stories of these extraordinary objects are woven from experiences, ideas and emotions shared by cultures around the world. By evoking the universal themes of love, loss, conflict and spirituality, the exhibition brings to life the rich heritage and enduring beauty of Persian art.

“Celebrating Iran’s cultural heritage at the Toledo Museum of Art with the awarding of beauty represents a rare opportunity for our audience to experience the grandeur and beauty of these objects in person,” said Diane Wright, curator. principal of glass and contemporary craftsmanship at the Museum. “An important area of ​​trade and migration, the Persian lands served as critical centers of artistic production and influence for centuries, which the exhibition brilliantly highlights through these extraordinary works of art.

Persia, bottle, 17th century. Stonepaste, painted in blue and red under transparent glaze. Overall: 14 1/4 × 8 3/8 in. (36.2 × 21.3cm). The Hossein Afshar Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston TR:989-2015

The visual and literary arts have occupied a privileged place in Iranian civilization for centuries. The Hossein Afshar Collection, which includes a wide range of treasures from the eve of the arrival of Islam in the 7th century until the end of the 19th century, was assembled to preserve and share Persian art and culture today. today and for future generations. The exceptional objects of Grant beauty embody the history of trade and migration found in Persian art, as well as map the legacy of artistic and technological progress across the region. The exhibition is divided into six sections:

Banquets and battles presents the exuberance of feasting and palace fighting, quintessential aspects of Persian royalty, and ever-popular subjects in Persian art and literature. The parties are depicted through media, such as a 19th-century painting of a juggler accompanied by a cat, and the exhibit also includes ornately decorated serving dishes and metal and ceramic utensils.

faith and piety explores how, after the advent of Islam, the words of the Koran became paramount as a mode of expression. Superbly written and lavishly illuminated Quranic manuscripts were produced across the Islamic world. The calligraphers also copied a variety of texts in addition to the Quran, such as Hadith sayings, Shia invocations, literary manuscripts and poetry, all of which are included in the exhibit.

The art of speech, the third section, delves into the various developments, styles and uses of calligraphy, showcasing the aesthetic form and rhythmic beauty of calligraphy. Words were woven into textiles, etched into metal, painted onto ceramics and enamels, and carved into wood.

In Persian literature, love finds expression as a deep human bond and a metaphor for a desire for unity with the divine. Love and Desire traces how calligraphers and painters brought to life the rich body of Persian literature, from the exquisite miniature paintings of the Shahnama (“Book of Kings”), the Persian national epic, has verses of lyric poetry and a pair of lovers entwined tightly on a thin lacquer pen case.

Persian, pendant, early 19th century. Gold, decorated with polychrome enamel, precious stones and pearls. Overall: 2 11/16x 15/16x 7/8in. The Hossein Afshar Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston TR:898-2015

Royalty and authority explores the royal ideal, which figures prominently in Persian visual and literary culture. In addition to Shahnama – the masterpiece that reflects the legends and virtues of Persian dynasties – 19th century court painters captured portraits of royalty and the ruling elite. This section also includes monumental silk carpets from the 16th and 17th centuries and a magnificent gold, pearl and precious stone pendant from the 19th century.

The concluding part, Earth and Nature, examines the manifestations of flora and fauna that abound in the art of Iran. Its inhabitants were among the first civilizations to cultivate gardens. The symbolism of the garden – of paradise, of the promise of spring, of renewal – permeated Persian culture and can be seen in the exhibition through glorious depictions of lions, falcons, nightingales, roses and fruit.

Persia, pear, early 17th century. Steel. inlaid with gold. Overall: 7 1/4 × 4 1/8 × 3 11/16 in. (18.4×10.5×9.4cm). The Hossein Afshar Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston TR:1530-2015

“The importance of Persian lands geographically, culturally and politically cannot be overstated,” said Sophie Ong, curator Hirsch at the Toledo Museum of Art. “Grant beauty draws attention to the splendor and complexity of Persian art, continuing TMA’s enrichment of the medieval world and beyond.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated 304-page bound catalog of the same title published by Yale University Press and edited by Aimée Froom, Curator of Islamic World Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The publication features color images of more than 100 objects from the Hossein Afshar collection and includes contributions from scholars Walter B. Denny, Melanie Gibson and David J. Roxburgh, who examine the meaning, artistry and influence of these distinctive and transcendent works of art. .

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