Celebrating the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Persian civilization, Bestowing Beauty: Masterpieces from Persian Lands features over 100 works from the sixth to the nineteenth century drawn from the preeminent Persian art collection of Hossein Afshar. Persia refers to the historic lands in southwestern Asia where the Persian culture and language flourished—a region now associated with the Islamic Republic of Iran, but previously extending beyond its modern-day borders. Through the collector’s eyes, we see a portrait of Iran that manifests a strong sense of identity reflected and affirmed by the visual arts, as well as an artistic sensibility that has permeated across time, space, and medium.
The exhibition showcases textiles, manuscripts, ceramics, paintings, metalwork, scientific instruments, woodwork, and jeweled objects. Highlights include exquisite miniature paintings from the Shahnama (Book of Kings), the Persian national epic; an array of historically significant ceramics; rare Qur’an leaves; and a monumental silk carpet from the height of Safavid carpet production. Bestowing Beauty represents a dedication to preserving Iranian artistic heritage for future generations and a desire to make it accessible for study and enjoyment.
Woven throughout the tales of these extraordinary artworks are experiences, ideas, and emotions shared by all peoples. By evoking universal themes of faith and piety, love and longing, kingship and authority, banquets and battles, and earth and nature, the exhibition brings alive the rich heritage and enduring beauty of Persian art. The artworks also explore the role and fascinating history of trade, migration, and cultural exchange in the development of Persian art, demonstrating its important legacy in artistic and technological advancement within Islamic lands and beyond.
This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Bestowing Beauty: Masterpieces from Persian Lands is supported by presenting sponsors Susan and Tom Palmer and season sponsor ProMedica, with additional support from the Ohio Arts Council, Shumaker Loop, TMA Ambassadors, Key Bank and Taylor Cadillac.