This exhibition celebrates the rich artistic traditions of Persian civilization through the significant private collection of Hossein Afshar, with works from the sixth to the nineteenth century, on long-term loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Persian refers to lands where Persian language and culture were predominant, encompassing a larger area than the modern-day nation-state of Iran. Through the collector’s eyes, we see a portrait of Iran that affirms a strong sense of identity reflected and established by the visual arts as well as an artistic sensibility that has flourished over time.
Works in the exhibition include carpets, textiles, manuscripts, paintings, ceramics, lacquer, metalwork, scientific instruments, and jeweled objects. Highlights include exquisite miniature paintings from the Shahnama (Book of Kings), the Persian national epic; rare Qur’an pages; and monumental silk carpets from the height of Safavid carpet production. Woven throughout the tales of these extraordinary artworks are experiences, ideas, and emotions shared by all peoples, grouped within the exhibition into the universal themes of faith and piety, love and longing, banquets and battles, kingship and authority, and earth and nature.
Some of the works in this exhibition use two dates; one includes the abbreviation AH, meaning “after Hijra.” The Hijra is the journey the Islamic Prophet Muhammad took from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. Just as the Gregorian calendar begins with the birth of Christ, the Islamic calendar begins with this pivotal event.
This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.