Collectors: Alfred Cassirer

Louis Cassirer was the eldest son of ten children of Marcus Cassirer (1809-1879) and his wife Jeannette, nee Steinitz (1813-1889). He married Emilie Schiffer (May 10, 1847-31 January 1879) and had with her a total of six children, including the chemist Hugo Cassirer, the neurologist Richard Cassirer and the art dealer Paul Cassirer and Alfred Cassirer.

Louis from 1866 together with his brother Julius opened Marcus Cassirer & Co. Liqueurfabrik in Wroclaw. He also had his own business from 1861 and built a weaving and textile factory at the central Blücherplatz. The father of them retired from Liqueurfabrik also as the partner and died on October 20, 1879 in Wroclaw and left his possession evenly to his nine surviving children.

his time together with his another brother Isidor Cassirer he moved his loom and textile manufactory to Görlitz. At the beginning of the 1880s, Louis moved to Berlin, where due to the construction activity there was a great need for timber, and became timber trader and supplier this time with the Gebr. Cassirer in Naturholzhandlung.They also came into the possession of numerous apartment blocks in Berlin, which gained considerable value, especially until 1900. Gradually, the brothers Eduard, Salo and Isidor and Max came to Berlin and settled in Charlottenburg, which was still independent at the time. Louis later also became a partner in Kabelwerke, founded in 1896. Cassirer & Co., founded by his sons Hugo and Alfred and his brother Julius.

Alfred Cassirer (born July 29, 1875 in Görlitz, † 1932 in Berlin)

was the son of Louis Cassirer and a brother to Paul, Hugo and Richard Cassirer which as mentioned came from the industrialist family Cassirer. Together with his brother Hugo Cassirer and his uncle Julius Cassirer, he was the owner of Kabelwerke Dr. Ing. Cassirer and Co. in Berlin-Hakenfelde.

Alfred Cassirer was an art collector like his brother Paul and had testamentary that his entire collection was to be given to the city council of Berlin, to bring them to the Märkisches Museum as a permanent loan. As of March 1933, it was presented on the first floor of the Ermelerhaus, a branch of the Märkisches Museum, Breite Straße 11 in Berlin-Mitte, in five rooms. The exhibited works included drawings by Adolph von Menzel, works by Max Liebermann and Max Slevogt, sculptures by Ernst Barlach, Georg Kolbe and August Gaul. The main works of the collection included paintings by French artists such as Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and Paul Cézanne.

Besides Art and Paintings Alfred had also special interest for Persian carpets and he acquired 40 carpets and by advice of curator of Berlin Museum Mr Ernst Kuhnel he wanted to show his collection in The Museum of Islamic Art and to remain there after his death.His collection after his death in 1932 was moved away to USA but later by efforts of his daughter Eva moved from Detroit Institute of Art (were mostly kept as loan from 1949-2000) back to Berlin till 2012 .One of the most famous ones was a Safavid eight medallion tapestry (kashan? 16th century?) silk and metal thread 2.22x1.41 which Alfred bought in Agay ,Paris for 45000 marks from Mathieu Thierry-Miegle (1826-1905) which is illustrated in this post.

How taming horses spawned the Silk Road - courtesy of Dr Carr

Nomads were travelling around Central Asia probably by 50,000 BC or so. By 24,000 BC, if not earlier, these nomads had split into at least two different groups that spoke different languages – one group spoke proto-Indo-European and the other group spoke proto-Altaic. DNA analysis shows that some of the proto-Indo-Europeans, who we call the Yamnaya, married East Asians, and their descendants crossed over to the Americas, either over a land bridge or in small boats, or both, about 20,000 BC. They become the Native Americans.

By about 5000 BC, the Yamnaya (The children of Yam or Jam ...the Legendary Persian Jamsheed) seem to have lived mainly in the south, around the Caspian Sea (modern Georgia and Armenia or Greater Iran), while the Altaic speakers lived further north (modern Russia and Mongolia). Around 3000 BC, the Yamnaya figured out how to tame horses and use them to pull chariots. Chariots and horses made the Indo-Europeans much more powerful, and richer – they could take care of more cattle, and they could conquer other people by shooting arrows and throwing spears from their chariots.

Some of the Yamnaya left their homes and settled far to the east, in what is now western China. Others travelled west and settled Europe as the Celts. Meanwhile, the Altaic speakers also learned how to use chariots and horses, and began a long series of raids on China to their south. Around 2000 BC, another set of Indo-Europeans left Central Asia. Some went west again, and became the Greeks and the Romans and the Germans. Others went south and became the Hittites. By 1200 BC, some Indo-Europeans moved south into what is now Iran, where they became known as the Persians, and still further south into India. Some went further east and became the Sogdians. Some of them seem to have ended up in China, where they brought their chariots and horses to the Shang Dynasty emperors.

About 800 BC, people in Central Asia figured out how to ride horses in war and formed the first cavalry units. Horse-riding Indo-Europeans in Central Asia began to call themselves the Scythians. We hear about the Scythians (SITH-ee-uns) from the Greek historian Herodotus, who describes how they used their horses to keep sheep and cows in the area north of the Black Sea (modern Ukraine and Russia). Two other Indo-European groups, the Medes and the Persians, used their horse-riding skills to form the world’s first big empire: the Persian Empire.

Further east, horse-riding Altaic speakers began to attack northern China. In order to defend China against these attacks, Eastern Zhou emperors also formed cavalry units. It was hard to breed enough good horses in China, so the Chinese emperors started buying a lot of horses from the Sogdians in Central Asia. Chinese traders exchanged bolts of silk cloth for the horses (and probably for good iron weapons too), and the Sogdians sold some of the silk to the Persians to their west. This helped to get the Silk Road started about 400-300 BC.

Luca Pignatelli's "Senza Data" @ The Bardini Museum, Florence

There are artists who look at the past with nostalgia and develop strong bonds with specific art periods and movements, but Italian artist Luca Pignatelli is not interested in borrowing from the past, but in creating chronological disruptions and contaminations with the present, keeping an eye on the possibilities that the future may offer.

In his latest works - showcased earlier this year at the Stefano Bardini Museum in Florence as part of the exhibition "Senza Data" (Undated) - Pignatelli attempted a sort of journey through time and space.

He came up with a series of prints on railway tarpaulin, wood, paper and metal sheets, but also recreated paintings of classical statues on Persian carpets.

These images from classical times are summoned from the past, like ghosts trying to dialogue with the other works on display in the museum, from Tino da Camaino's 14th century "Charity" to Donatello's Madonna of the Apple and Madonna of the Ropemakers, Bernardo Daddi's Crucifixion, Antonio del Pollaiolo's St. Michael Archangel and "Atlas" by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri.

Pignatelli's carpets are the most interesting pieces of his latest production: apart from going well with the museum carpet collection and with the colours of the walls in the museum trademark "Bardini blue" (a shade the art dealer and collector brought back from one of his trips to Russia and that later on became the symbol of the museum), these new pieces allow the artist to look at the concept of time via sculptures, paintings and textiles, and create a sort of stratification of techniques, times and cultures (it is worth noting that, in some cases, the artist incorporated his stratified textiles into the tapestry of chairs or integrated them inside a wooden cabinet).

The historical time of the creation of the statues replicated on the carpets and the time of the creation of the carpets overlap to provide visitors with new collective memories. In a way Pignatelli's "undated" carpets are to be interpreted as mobile and nomadic artworks: they can be taken off the wall, rolled and easily transported somewhere else.

Excerpt: Irenebrination: Notes on Architecture, Art, Fashion, Fashion Law & Technology

Handwoven Carpets - still one of the TOP environmentally friendly products on the market

2020 is just around the corner and the emphasis for next year's interior design and decor is on sustainable products. With so many home decor products on the market, it is tough to know which ones fit that requirement, but luckily one hugely popular interior decor item towers head and shoulders above others in the sustainability department - HANDWOVEN CARPETS. The fact that it has been made in the same way for over 2,500 years, already testifies to its' sustainability, but here are some more reasons why handwoven carpets is still one of the top environmentally friendly products available :

1 - It is biodegradable:
Since handwoven carpets are made from natural materials: wool, cotton, silk and hemp (to name but a few), they are biodegradable and non-toxic. A large number of weavers also use vegetable dyed materials (i.e. plant based dyes: flowers, leaves, roots, bark, etc).

2 - It is long lasting
Each single handwoven carpet has the ability to become an antique carpet (surviving well over 100 years) because of the method of weaving and the materials used, which means one carpet can serve many generations if it is well maintained; or it can be sold to a new owner who can also enjoy it for decades before passing it down or reselling it.

3 - It doesn't use electricity
They are handwoven and require no electricity to produce in any of the stages of production. Also, because of the materials used in making them they serve as insulation which could reduce electricity costs during cold months.

4 - It is economically sustainable
Weaving carpets is a skill that provides an income to millions of weavers (regardless of gender, culture, race, class, level of education or religion). It is a skill that can be passed down to future generations. Moreover, it is an industry that provides an income to millions of wool producers, cotton growers, silk producers, dye makers, carpet designers, weavers, carpet markets, carpet retailers, carpet cleaners & repairers, etc.

5 - It's maintenance is environmentally friendly
Handwoven carpets are hand washed with organic soap and dried in the sun, so its maintenance footprint is practically non-existent. Even though water is used in the cleaning process, handwoven carpets only require a washing every 3 - 5 years. Other than that "spot cleaning" with foam requires minimal water.

6 - It is recyclable
The wool of fragmented and worn carpets are used by carpet repairers and restorers to restore old and antique carpets, in order to maintain its authenticity Many old carpets are also re-purposed to make cushions, chairs, handbags, shoes, covers, etc.

7 - It is educational
Many antique carpets find their way to museums where we and future generations can view them. They show us what textile weavers in previous centuries did and how design evolved over time. It gives us a tangible history of civilizations, that would otherwise only be available in writing. Modern weavers continuously use the ancient library of carpet designs in their work. It is also highly effective as sensory, colour and shape stimulation tool for children.

8 - It is sustainable art
None of the natural resources or environments used are destroyed or damaged in the making of a handwoven carpet. In fact, a concerted effort is made by all parties concerned to ensure the well being of animal and plant life used in the production process. Weavers historically were very important members of society and today still benefit the economies of their respective countries. It is an art form that encourages patience, resilience and creativity and it brings endless joy to its end-users.

9 - It is a product that gives back
It is an investment, some more substantial than others, but every handwoven carpet becomes an asset that can be traded if ever need be. It is very versatile. It is not just a beautiful piece of art, but it can be a floor cover, a couch cover, a box cover, a table cloth, a bed cover, a wall hanging or a roof hanging. There is not a single room that it is NOT suitable for and wherever it is placed, it will most certainly enhance the aesthetics and bring in joy.

The bottom line is: you can buy that handwoven carpet with a clean conscience, knowing that you are contributing to sustainable art and environmentally friendly products!

Persian Empires: Chapter 5

Safavid Dynasty: 1501 - 1722AD

After the fall of the Sasanid Empire it would take 850 years before Iran came into Persian hands again, with the ascend of the Safavid Dynasty. The Safavids ruled from 1501 to 1722  and, at their height, they controlled all of what is now Iran, Azerbaijan Republic, Bahrain, Armenia, eastern Georgia, parts of the North Caucasus, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, as well as parts of Turkey, Syria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Despite their demise in 1722, the legacy that they left behind was the revival of Iran as an economic stronghold between East and West, the establishment of an efficient state and bureaucracy, their architectural innovations and their patronage for fine arts. The Safavids have also left their mark down to the present era by spreading Twelver Islam in Iran, as well as major parts of the Caucasus, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia.       

The history of the rise of the Safavid Order to political power is a long and interesting one. Persia was invaded and ruled by various Islamic and Monghol Dynasties after the fall of the Sasanid Dynasty, and the biggest change that occurred during this time was the conversion of Persians to Islam. Various Sunni factions and mystic orders arose inside Persia and one of them was the Safavid Order. Its founder was Safi-ad-din Ardabili, a Sufi mystic (1252 - 1334) who assumed the leadership of the Zahediyeh, a significant Sufi order in Gilan, from his spiritual master and father-in-law Zahed Gilani. Due to the great spiritual charisma of Safi al-Din, the order was later known as the Safaviyya.  Much about the early Safavid Order remains unclear. One point of uncertainty is the precise nature of their religious beliefs. Originally, they seem to have harbored Sunni convictions, but under Ḵᵛāja ʿAli they are said to have gravitated toward Shiʿism under the influence of their main supporters—Turkmen tribes who adhered to a popular brand of Shiʿism. After the death of Safi-ad-din Ardabili the leadership of the Safavid Order passed through his descendants, always retaining its spiritual objectives, but in 1447 Sheikh Junayd assumed the leadership and he had material power aspirations.  The Safavid Order had become a very powerful spiritual influence in the region, but the two most powerful and opposing tribal dynasties that held the material power were: the Qara Qoyunlu ("Black Sheep) and the Aq Qoyunlu ("White Sheep"). The leader of the Qara Qoynlu, Jahan Shah, realized that Sheikh Junayd had plans to take over power in his region and to avoid instability and destruction, ordered him to leave. Sheikh Junayd sought refuge with the opposition, the Aq Qoyunlu ruled by Khan Uzun Hassan. He cemented the relationship by marrying the Khan's sister and from that assured position started building up his position of power. He had his eye on the Shirvan region (Azerbaijan) but was killed after an incursion. His son Haydar Safavi assumed leadership of the Safavid Order and married Uzun Hassan's daughter,  Martha 'Alamshah Begom, who gave birth to Ismail I, founder of the Safavid dynasty. After Uzun Hassan's death, his son and successor, Ya'qub, felt increasingly threatened by the Safavid influence in his tribe and decided to align himself with the Shirvanshah and killed Haydar in 1488. By this time, the bulk of the Safaviyya were nomadic Oghuz Turkic-speaking clans from Asia Minor and Azerbaijan and were known as Qizilbash "Red Heads" because of their distinct red headgear. The Qizilbash were warriors, spiritual followers of Haydar, and a source of the Safavid military and political power. After the death of Haydar, the Safaviyya gathered around his son Ali Mirza Safavi, who was also pursued and subsequently killed by Ya'qub. According to official Safavid history, before passing away, Ali had designated his younger brother Ismail as the spiritual leader of the Safaviyya. In order to avenge his father's and brother's deaths, Ismael invaded neighboring Shirvan  in 1500 and in so doing, started the Safavid Dynasty.

Afterwards, Ismail went on a conquest campaign, capturing Tabriz in July 1501, where he enthroned himself the Shāh of Azerbaijan, proclaimed himself Shahanshah of Iran and minted coins in his name, proclaiming Shiʻism the official religion of his domain. The establishment of Shiʻism as the state religion led to various Sufi orders openly declaring their Shiʻi position, and others to promptly assume Shiʻism. Although Ismail I initially gained mastery over Azerbaijan alone, the Safavids ultimately won the struggle for power over all of Iran, which had been going on for nearly a century between various dynasties and political forces. A year after his victory in Tabriz, Ismāʻil claimed most of Iran as part of his territory, and within 10 years established a complete control over all of it. The expansionist policies of Ismail was highly disturbing for the powerful neighboring Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans, a Sunni dynasty, considered the active recruitment of Turkmen tribes (predominantly Shi'ite) of Anatolia for the Safavid cause as a major threat. To counter the rising Safavid power, in 1502, Sultan Bayezid II forcefully deported many Shiʻite Muslims from Anatolia to other parts of the Ottoman realm. In 1511, the Şahkulu rebellion was a widespread pro-Shia and pro-Safavid uprising directed against the Ottoman Empire from within the empire. The Ottomans led a large-scale incursion into Eastern Anatolia by Safavid ghazis under Nūr-ʿAlī Ḵalīfa. Even though they won major territory and the capital of Ismail, Tabriz, the Ottoman soldiers refused to spend the upcoming winter in the cold and the army returned back. This invasion was the first of a 200+ year long war fought between the Ottomans and the Persians that had major consequences for both sides.

After the death of Shah Ismail, his young son, Shah Tahmāsp, took the throne.  Iran was in a dire state, but in spite of a weak economy, a civil war and foreign wars on two fronts, Tahmāsp managed to retain his crown and maintain the territorial integrity of the empire (although much reduced from Ismail's time). During the first 30 years of his long reign, he was able to suppress the internal divisions by exerting control over a strengthened central military force. In the war against the Uzbeks he showed that the Safavids had become a gunpowder empire. His tactics in dealing with the Ottoman threat eventually allowed for a treaty which preserved peace for twenty years. In cultural matters, Tahmāsp presided the revival of the fine arts, which flourished under his patronage. Safavid culture is often admired for the large-scale city planning and architecture, achievements made during the reign of later shahs, but the art of Persian miniature, book-binding and calligraphy, in fact, never received as much attention as they did during his time. Another big change Tahmasp brought to the Safavid Dynasty was that of ruling classes. During his reign he had realized while both looking to his own empire and that of the neighboring Ottomans, that there were dangerous rivaling factions and internal family rivalries that were a threat to the heads of state. Not taken care of accordingly, these were a serious threat to the ruler, or worse, could bring the fall of the former or could lead to unnecessary court intrigues. For Tahmāsp the problem circled around the military tribal elite of the empire, the  Qizilbash , who believed that physical proximity to and control of a member of the immediate Safavid family guaranteed spiritual advantages, political fortune, and material advancement. Despite that Tahmāsp could nullify potential issues related to his family by having his close direct male relatives such as his brothers and sons routinely transferred around to various governorship in the empire, he understood and realized that any long-term solutions would mainly involve minimizing the political and military presence of the  Qizilbash  as a whole. To solve this dilemma Shah Tahmāsp started the first of a series of invasions of the Caucasus region, both meant as a training and drilling for his soldiers, as well as mainly bringing back massive numbers of Christian Circassian and Georgian captives, who would form the basis of a military slave system (a system  introduced by the Abbasid Caliphate during the reign of al-Mu'tasim (r. 833–842)), as well as at the same time forming a new layer in Iranian society composed of ethnic Caucasians. This was the starting point for the corps of the royal slaves, who would dominate the Safavid military for most of the empire's length. As non-Turkeman converts to Islam, these Circassian and Georgian soldiers were completely unrestrained by clan loyalties and kinship obligations. Many of the transplanted women became wives and concubines of Tahmāsp, and the Safavid harem emerged as a competitive, and sometimes lethal, arena of ethnic politics as cliques of Turkmen, Circassian, and Georgian women and courtiers vied with each other for the shah’s attention. After Tahmasp's death a 12 year period of political turmoil reigned between his sons and successors, until Shah Abbas took over in 1588.

At only 16 years of age, Shah Abbas had to navigate his way and empire whilst solely relying on the support of the Qizilbash, yet over the course of ten years Abbas was able, using cautiously-timed but nonetheless decisive steps, to affect a profound transformation of Safavid administration and military, throw back the foreign invaders, and preside over a flourishing of Persian art.   Abbas was able to begin gradually transforming the empire from a tribal confederation to a modern imperial government by transferring provinces from mamalik (provincial) rule governed by a Qizilbash chief and the revenue of which mostly supported local Qizilbash administration and forces to khass (central) rule presided over by a court appointee and the revenue of which reverted to the court. Particularly important in this regard were the Gilan and Mazandaran provinces, which produced Iran's single most important export; silk. With the substantial new revenue, Abbas was able to build up a central, standing army, loyal only to him. This freed him of his dependence on Qizilbash warriors loyal to local tribal chiefs.

What effectively fully severed Abbas's dependence on the Qizilbash, however, was how he constituted this new army. In order not to favor one Turkic tribe over another and to avoid inflaming the Turk-Persian enmity, he recruited his army from the "third force", a policy that had been implemented in its baby-steps since the reign of Tahmasp I—the Circassian, Georgian and to a lesser extent Armenian ghulāms who (after conversion to Islam) were trained for the military or some branch of the civil or military administration. The standing army created by Abbas consisted of 10,000–15,000 cavalry ghulām regiments solely composed of ethnic Caucasians, armed with muskets in addition to the usual weapons (then the largest cavalry in the world); a corps of musketeers, mainly Iranians, originally foot soldiers but eventually mounted, and a corps of artillerymen. Both corps of musketeers and artillerymen totaled 12,000 men. In addition the shah's personal bodyguard, made up exclusively of Caucasian ghulāms, was dramatically increased to 3,000. This force of well-trained Caucasian ghulams under Abbas amounted to a total of near 40,000 soldiers paid for and beholden to the Shah. Abbas also greatly increased the number of cannons at his disposal, permitting him to field 500 in a single battle. Ruthless discipline was enforced and looting was severely punished. Abbas also moved the capital to Isfahan, deeper into central Iran. From this time the state began to take on a more Persian character. The Safavids ultimately succeeded in establishing a new Persian national monarchy.

Even though Shah Abbas signed treaties with some Christian European empires against their common enemy, the Ottomans, it was ultimately his relationship with the English that proved most fruitful. Abbas was able to draw on military advice from a number of European envoys, particularly from the English adventurers Sir Anthony Shirley and his brother Robert Shirley, who arrived in 1598 as envoys from the Earl of Essex on an unofficial mission to induce Iran into an anti-Ottoman alliance. The Shirley brothers helped reorganize the Iranian army, which proved to be crucial in the Ottoman–Safavid War (1603–18), which resulted in Ottoman defeats in all stages of the war and the first clear pitched Safavid victory of their arch-rival. The English at sea, represented by the English East India Company, also began to take an interest in Iran, and in 1622 four of its ships helped Abbas retake Hormuz from the Portuguese in the Capture of Ormuz (1622). This was the beginning of the East India Company's long-running interest in Iran.

The growth of Safavid economy was fueled by the stability which allowed the agriculture to thrive, as well as trade, due to Iran's position between the burgeoning civilizations of Europe to its west and India and Islamic Central Asia to its east and north. The Silk Road which led through northern Iran was revived in the 16th century. Abbas I also supported direct trade with Europe, particularly England and The Netherlands which sought Persian carpet, silk and textiles. Other exports were horses, goat hair, pearls and an inedible bitter almond hadam-talka used as a spice in India. The main imports were spice, textiles (woolens from Europe, cottons from Gujarat), metals, coffee, and sugar. In the late 17th century, Safavid Iran had higher living standards than in Europe. According to traveler Jean Chardin, for example, farmers in Iran had higher living standards than farmers in the most fertile European countries.

Under the governance of the strong shahs, especially during the first half of the 17th century, traveling through Iran was easy because of good roads and the caravansaries, that were strategically placed along the route. Thévenot and Tavernier commented that the Iranian caravansaries were better built and cleaner than their Turkish counterparts. According to Chardin, they were also more abundant than in the Mughal or Ottoman Empires, where they were less frequent but larger. Caravansaries were designed especially to benefit poorer travelers, as they could stay there for as long as they wished, without payment for lodging. During the reign of Shah Abbas I, as he tried to upgrade the Silk route to improve the commercial prosperity of the Empire, an abundance of caravanseries, bridges, bazaars and roads were built, and this strategy was followed by wealthy merchants who also profited from the increase in trade. To uphold the standard, another source of revenue was needed, and road toll, that were collected by guards (rah-dars), were stationed along the trading routes. They in turn provided for the safety of the travelers, and both Thevenot and Tavernier stressed the safety of traveling in 17th century Iran, and the courtesy and refinement of the policing guards.

A new age in Iranian architecture began with the rise of the Safavid dynasty. Economically robust and politically stable, this period saw a flourishing growth of theological sciences. Traditional architecture evolved in its patterns and methods leaving its impact on the architecture of the following periods. Indeed, one of the greatest legacies of the Safavids is the architecture. In 1598, when Shah Abbas decided to move the capital of his Iranian empire from the north-western city of Qazvin to the central city of Isfahan, he initiated what would become one of the greatest programs in Iranian history; the complete remaking of the city. The Chief architect of this colossal task of urban planning was Sheikh Bahai , who focused the program on two key features of Shah Abbas's master plan: the Chahar Bagh avenue, flanked on either side by all the prominent institutions of the city, such as the residence of all foreign dignitaries. And the Naqsh-e Jahan Square ("Examplar of the World"). The ingenuity of the square was that, by building it, Shah Abbas would gather the three main components of power in Iran in his own backyard; the power of the clergy, represented by the Masjed-e Shah, the power of the merchants, represented by the Imperial Bazaar, and of course, the power of the Shah himself, residing in the Ali Qapu Palace. Distinctive monuments like the Sheikh Lotfallah (1618), Hasht Behesht (Eight Paradise Palace) (1469) and the Chahar Bagh School (1714) appeared in Isfahan and other cities. This extensive development of architecture was rooted in Persian culture and took form in the design of schools, baths, houses, caravanserai and other urban spaces such as bazaars and squares.

The demise of the Safavid Dynasty was caused by the ongoing threat of external forces such as the Ottomans, the Uzurks and the new rising Russian Muscovy; as well as internal upheaval by various tribes unhappy with the forced mass resettling of  Qizilbash Turkic tribes in Khakheti to repopulate the province. The overseas trade routes run by European powers also hampered trade although Persia managed to maintain and grow the Silk Route over land. The Dutch and English continuously drained the Persian government from precious metals and thus took much needed funds out of the country. Bad management and reckless spending by the rulers following Shah Abbas II eventually led to Persia not being able to defend her borders and opened the way for the Hotak Dynasty, of Afghan Pashtuni descent, to take over power for a  short period of time. Thanks to the bravery of the founder of the Afsharid dynasty, Nader Shah Afshar, the Hotaks were defeated in 1738 and he started the reestablishment of Iranian suzerainty over all regions lost decades before against the Iranian arch-rival, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire.

The Persian fridge

Persians may have been the first civilization to build and use "refrigerator buildings" to store ice and refrigerate food. Yakhchāl (yakh meaning "ice" and chāl meaning "pit") is an ancient type of evaporative cooler.

Above ground, the structure had a domed shape, but had a subterranean storage space. It was often used to store ice, but was also used to store food as well. The subterranean space coupled with the thick heat-resistant construction material insulated the storage space year round. These structures were mainly built and used in Persia.

By 400 BC, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of using yakhchāls to create ice in the winter and store it in the summer in the desert. In most yakhchāls, the ice is created by itself during the cold seasons of the year; the water is channeled from the qanat (Iranian aqueduct) to the yakhchāl and it freezes upon resting inside the structure. Usually a wall is also made along an east-west direction close to the yakhchāl and the water is channeled from the north side of the wall so that the shadow of the wall keeps the water cool to make it freeze more quickly. In some yakhchāls, ice is also brought in from nearby mountains for storage or to seed the icing process.

Iran's "other" black gold - caviar

When it comes to Iranian exports, a few things come to mind: oil, rugs, pistachios, and caviar. With the finest sturgeon coming from the waters of the Caspian Sea, caviar is one of the country’s main exports. From the Persian word khâviyâr, caviar refers to the roe from wild sturgeon, and the earliest records date back to the 4th century B.C.

It is said that the people of the Persian Empire were the first to taste caviar, believing it had medicinal properties and was a source of energy (a widely-held belief still today). It also made an appearance during the Roman Empire, but the heaviest consumers of caviar were arguably the czars of old Russia. It’s perhaps for this reason that even though the Persians are credited with preparing caviar by salting the roe, it was the Russians who defined it as a luxury.

Today, Iranian caviar comes from the northern Gilan, Mazandaran, and Golestan provinces bordering the Caspian Sea. Along with other species of sturgeon, the bottom-dwelling beluga sturgeon thrive especially well in these icy brackish waters, which give the caviar a unique taste. With some amazing survival instincts, beluga have a lifespan of up to 100 years, reaching maturity at around 20 years. The best quality caviar, known as “Iranian diamond,” comes from this particular species.

Excerpts: culture trip

Persian Festivals: Mehregan - Fall Festival

In ancient Iran, Mehrgān was celebrated in an extravagant style at Persepolis. Not only was it the time for harvest, but it was also the time when the taxes were collected. Visitors from different parts of the Persian Empire brought gifts for the king all contributing to a lively festival.

During pre-Islamic and early Islamic Iran, Mehrgān was celebrated with the same magnificence and pageantry as Nowruz. It was customary for people to send or give their king, and each other, gifts. Rich people usually gave gold and silver coins, heroes and warriors gave horses while others gave gifts according to their financial power and ability, even as simple as an apple. Those fortunate enough would help the poor with gifts.

Gifts to the royal court of over ten thousand gold coins were registered. If the gift-giver needed money at a later time, the court would then return twice the gift amount. Kings gave two audiences a year: one audience at Nowruz and other at Mehregān. During the Mehregān celebrations, the king wore a fur robe and gave away all his summer clothes.

After the Mongol invasion of Iran, the feast celebration of Mehrgān lost its popularity. Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kermān continued to celebrate Mehrgān in an extravagant way.

In present time for this celebration, the participants wear new clothes and set a decorative, colorful table. The sides of the tablecloth are decorated with dry marjoram. A copy of the Khordeh Avesta ("little Avesta"), a mirror and a sormeh-dan (a traditional eyeliner or kohl) are placed on the table together with rosewater, sweets, flowers, vegetables and fruits, especially pomegranates and apples, and nuts such as almonds or pistachios. A few silver coins and lotus seeds are placed in a dish of water scented with marjoram extract.

A burner is also part of the table setting for kondor/loban (frankincense) and espand (seeds of Peganum harmala, Syrian rue) to be thrown on the flames.

At lunch time when the ceremony begins, everyone in the family stands in front of the mirror to pray. Sharbat is drunk and then—as a good omen—sormeh is applied around the eyes. Handfuls of wild marjoram, lotus and sugar plum seeds are thrown over one another's heads while they embrace one another.

In 1960s the Postal Service in Tehran issued a series of stamps to commemorate Mehrgan Festival.

Persian Empires: Chapter 4

Persian influence in Islamic art & philosophy: 651AD - to date

When Iran was taken during the Arab Conquest the Persians were resistant to the new rulers of their land. The Arabs found an empire rich and well developed during the golden era of the Sasanid Dynasty and thus the Persians attempted to retain as much of that as they could. For starters, they resisted converting to Islam as most of them were Zoroastrian (a religion practiced in Iran from 1700BCE) and it was only during the Middle Ages that most of the conversions took place. They also resisted Arabic as their lingua franca but compromised by translating the Arabic alphabet into Persian and adding four more letters to the alphabet to accommodate their language.

There is an old saying in Iran: "Instead of Persians becoming influenced by invaders, they Persianize the invaders" and that is exactly what happened. The Persian arts was the single most influential force in Islamic arts as we know it today. A key form of Islamic art that is world renowned is calligraphy. This is an art form that they learned from the Persians who have already developed it during Achaemenid times 500BC. The Persian miniatures (done before the Sasanid Empire) were also incorporated into Islamic texts and paintings. Persian metalwork, carpets, silk, glass work, ceramics, tiles, poetry and architecture were all used and adapted by the various different Islamic empires that ruled Persia.

Persian architectural designs that were used and modified were paradise garden, courtyards, hypostyle halls, arches, vaulting, squinches, muqarnas, iwans and pishtaqs. Islamic geometric patterns, such as the girih tiles, were also derived from Greek, Roman and Sasanid influences, with many great examples in mosques and buildings in Iran.

The intellectual tradition in Persia continued after Islam and was of great influence on the further development of Iranian Philosophy. In the Islamic Golden Age, due to Avicenna's successful reconciliation between Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism along with Kalam, Avicennism eventually became the leading school of Islamic philosophy by the 12th century. Avicennism was also influential in medieval Europe, particularly his doctrines on the nature of the soul and his existence-essence distinction, along with the debates and censure that they raised in scholastic Europe.

Rumi, one of Iran's foremost philosophers, was also active during the Islamic Golden Age. Rumi's poetry forms the basis of much classical Iranian and Afghan music. To many modern Westerners, his teachings are one of the best introductions to the philosophy and practice of Sufism. Today Rumi's poems can be heard in churches, synagogues, Zen monasteries, as well as in the downtown New York art/performance/music scene.

Another Persian philospher is Al-Khwarizmi, His popularizing treatise on algebra (The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing, c. 813–833 CE) presented the first systematic solution of linear and quadratic equations. One of his principal achievements in algebra was his demonstration of how to solve quadratic equations by completing the square, for which he provided geometric justifications. Because he was the first to treat algebra as an independent discipline and introduced the methods of "reduction" and "balancing" (the transposition of subtracted terms to the other side of an equation, that is, the cancellation of like terms on opposite sides of the equation), he has been described as the father or founder of algebra. The term algebra itself comes from the title of his book (specifically the word al-jabr meaning "completion" or "rejoining"). His name gave rise to the terms algorism and algorithm.

Omar Khayyam was another Persian mathematician, astronomer and poet active during the Islamic Golden Age. As a mathematician, he is most notable for his work on the classification and solution of cubic equations, where he provided geometric solutions by the intersection of conics. Khayyam also contributed to the understanding of the parallel axiom. As an astronomer, he designed the Jalali calendar, a solar calendar with a very precise 33-year intercalation cycle.
There is a tradition of attributing poetry to Omar Khayyam, written in the form of quatrains.This poetry became widely known to the English-reading world in a translation by Edward FitzGerald (Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1859), which enjoyed great success in the Orientalism of the fin de siècle.

Hafez was a Persian poet during the 14th century who "lauded the joys of love and wine but also targeted religious hypocrisy". His collected works are regarded as a pinnacle of Persian literature and are often found in the homes of people in the Persian-speaking world, who learn his poems by heart and still use them as proverbs and sayings. Hafez is best known for his poems that can be described as "antinomian" and with the medieval use of the term "theosophical"; the term "theosophy" in the 13th and 14th centuries was used to indicate mystical work by "authors only inspired by the holy books" (as distinguished from theology). Hafez primarily wrote in the literary genre of lyric poetry, or ghazals, that is the ideal style for expressing the ecstasy of divine inspiration in the mystical form of love poems. His influence on Persian speakers appears in "Hafez readings" and in the frequent use of his poems in Persian traditional music, visual art, and Persian calligraphy. Adaptations, imitations and translations of his poems exist in all major languages.

Al-Biruni is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era and was well versed in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences, and also distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist and linguist. He studied almost all fields of science and was compensated for his research and strenuous work. Royalty and powerful members of society sought out Al-Biruni to conduct research and study to uncover certain findings. He lived during the Islamic Golden Age, in which scholarly thought went hand in hand with the thinking and methodology of the Islamic religion. In addition to this type of influence, he was conversant in Khwarezmian, Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, and also knew Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. In 1017 he travelled to South Asia and authored a study of Indian culture (Tahqiq ma li-l-hind...) after exploring the Hinduism practised in India. He was given the title "founder of Indology". He was an impartial writer on customs and creeds of various nations, and was given the title al-Ustadh ("The Master") for his remarkable description of early 11th-century India.

Ferdowsi was a Persian poet during the Islamic Golden Era and the author of Shahnameh ("Book of Kings"), which is the world's longest epic poem created by a single poet, and the national epic of Greater Iran. Ferdowsi is celebrated as the most influential figure in Persian literature and one of the greatest in the history of literature.

The Persian Empires: Chapter 3

Sasanian Empire 224 - 651AD

The Sasanian Empire (also recorded as the Sassanian, Sasanid and Sassanid) or the Neo-Persian Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians was the last kingdom of the Persian Empire before the rise of Islam. Named after the House of Sasan, it ruled from 224 to 651 AD. The Sasanian Empire succeeded the Parthian Empire and was recognised as one of the leading world powers alongside its neighbouring arch-rival, the Roman-Byzantine Empire for a period of more than 400 years.

The Sasanian Empire was founded by Ardashir I, after the fall of the Parthian Empire and the defeat of the last Arsacid king, Artabanus V. At its greatest extent, the Sasanian Empire encompassed all of today's Iran, Iraq, Eastern Arabia (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatif, Qatar, UAE), the Levant (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan), the Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, Republic of Azerbaijan, Dagestan), Egypt, large parts of Turkey, much of Central Asia (Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), Yemen and Pakistan. According to a legend, the vexilloid of the Sasanian Empire was the Derafsh Kaviani.

The Sasanian Empire during Late Antiquity is considered to have been one of Iran's most important, and influential historical periods and constituted the last great Iranian empire before the Muslim conquest and the Islamization of Iran. In many ways, the Sasanian period witnessed the peak of ancient Iranian civilisation. The Sasanians' cultural influence extended far beyond the empire's territorial borders, reaching as far as Western Europe, Africa, China and India. It played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asian medieval art. Much of what later became known as Islamic culture in art, architecture, music and other subject matter was transferred from the Sasanians throughout the Muslim world.

The Sasanian kings were patrons of letters and philosophy. Khosrau I had the works of Plato and Aristotle, translated into Pahlavi, taught at Gundishapur, and read them himself. During his reign, many historical annals were compiled, of which the sole survivor is the Karnamak-i Artaxshir-i Papakan (Deeds of Ardashir), a mixture of history and romance that served as the basis of the Iranian national epic, the Shahnameh. When Justinian I closed the schools of Athens, seven of their professors went to Persia and found refuge at Khosrau's court. In his treaty of 533 with Justinian, the Sasanian king stipulated that the Greek sages should be allowed to return and be free from persecution.

Under Khosrau I, the Academy of Gundishapur, which had been founded in the 5th century, became "the greatest intellectual center of the time", drawing students and teachers from every quarter of the known world. Nestorian Christians were received there, and brought Syriac translations of Greek works in medicine and philosophy. Neoplatonists also came to Gundishapur, where they planted the seeds of Sufi mysticism. The medical lore of India, Persia, Syria and Greece mingled there to produce a flourishing school of therapy.

The main exports of the Sasanians were silk; woolen and golden textiles; carpets and rugs; hides; and leather and pearls from the Persian Gulf. The Baharestan Carpet is the most famous late Sasanian royal carpet, now lost, but known from historical accounts. It most likely covered the floor of the great audience hall of Taq Kasra, an iwan in the Sasanian capital of Ctesiphon. The carpet was 27m long and 27m wide. Woven of silk, gold, silver, and rare stones, the carpet depicted a splendid garden akin to paradise, and for this reason makes No 2 on our list of the most legendary carpets of all time. When Ctesiphon was captured by the Arab Conquerors in 637 the carpet was seized and sent to the Rashidun caliph Umar, who was in Medina. There the carpet was cut into small fragments and divided among the Arabs. One of the Arabs who received a piece of the carpet was Ali who, although he did not receive the best piece, managed to sell it for 20,000 dirhams.

There were also goods in transit from China (paper, silk) and India (spices), which Sasanian customs imposed taxes upon, and which were re-exported from the Empire to Europe.It was also a time of increased metallurgical production, so Iran earned a reputation as the "armory of Asia". Most of the Sasanian mining centers were at the fringes of the Empire – in Armenia, the Caucasus and above all, Transoxania. The extraordinary mineral wealth of the Pamir Mountains on the eastern horizon of the Sasanian empire led to a legend among the Tajiks, an Iranian people living there, which is still told today. It said that when God was creating the world, he tripped over the Pamirs, dropping his jar of minerals, which spread across the region.

Sasanian culture and military structure had a significant influence on Roman civilization. The structure and character of the Roman army was affected by the methods of Persian warfare. In a modified form, the Roman Imperial autocracy imitated the royal ceremonies of the Sasanian court at Ctesiphon, and those in turn had an influence on the ceremonial traditions of the courts of medieval and modern Europe. The origin of the formalities of European diplomacy is attributed to the diplomatic relations between the Persian governments and the Roman Empire.

Important developments in Jewish history are associated with the Sassanian Empire. The Babylonian Talmud was composed between the third and sixth centuries in Sasanian Persia and major Jewish academies of learning were established in Sura and Pumbedita that became cornerstones of Jewish scholarship. Several individuals of the Imperial family such as Ifra Hormizd the Queen mother of Shapur II and Queen Shushandukht, the Jewish wife of Yazdegerd I, significantly contributed to the close relations between the Jews of the empire and the government in Ctesiphon.

The collapse of the Sasanian Empire led to Islam slowly replacing Zoroastrianism as the primary religion of Iran. A large number of Zoroastrians chose to emigrate to escape Islamic persecution. According to the Qissa-i Sanjan, one group of those refugees landed in what is now Gujarat, India, where they were allowed greater freedom to observe their old customs and to preserve their faith. The descendants of those Zoroastrians would play a small but significant role in the development of India. Today there are over 70,000 Zoroastrians in India. The family of Freddie Mercury, late front man of the world renowned band Queen, are descendants of these Zoroastrians.

The Muslim conquest of Persia, also known as the Arab conquest of Iran, led to the fall of the Sasanian Empire of Iran (Persia) in 651 and the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion. The rise of Muslims coincided with an unprecedented political, social, economic, and military weakness in Persia. Once a major world power, the Sasanian Empire had exhausted its human and material resources after decades of warfare against the Byzantine Empire. The internal political situation quickly deteriorated after the execution of King Khosrow II in 628 AD. Subsequently, ten new claimants were enthroned within the next four years. With civil war erupting between different factions, the empire was no longer centralized.

The abrupt fall of the Sassanid Empire was completed in a period of just five years, and most of its territory was absorbed into the Islamic caliphate; however, many Iranian cities resisted and fought against the invaders several times. Islamic caliphates repeatedly suppressed revolts in cities such as Rey, Isfahan, and Hamadan. Conversion to Islam was gradual and incentivized over period of centuries with some never converting still to this day, however, there were cases of Zoroastrian scriptures being burnt and some priests being executed, particularly in areas that experienced violent resistance. However, the Persians began to reassert themselves by maintaining Persian language and culture. Islam would become the dominant religion late in the Middle Ages.


“And since we all came from a woman

Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman

I wonder why we take from our women Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?

I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you're fed up ladies, but keep your head up"
- Keep Your Head Up - Tupac Shakur

Why should I be scared to be a woman?
Why should I be scared my body will be taken
For someone else's gain?
Why should I be scared that my mind could
Be under attack?

Why should I be afraid to walk alone?
Why should I be afraid to go to the bathrooms Alone?
Why should I be afraid every time someone looks at me slightly too long?

Why can I not wear what I want because of the
Fear of being violated?
Why can I not say what I want in fear of being

Enough is enough
Our voices will be heard
I will not be silenced

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH - Crystal Clear

#aminext #stoprapingourwomen #stoprapingourpeople #southafricaunite #blackfriday #peace #love #southafricaunite #ghorbanycares

Collectors: Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller

The Swiss collector and museum founder Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller died in December 2016 at the age of 86. His wide involvement and generous support for the visual arts included the foundation of the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva in 1977 and, 20 years later, the Barbier-Mueller Museum of Pre-Columbian Art in Barcelona. His literary patronage included setting up the Barbier-Mueller Foundation for the Study of Italian Renaissance Poetry at the University of Geneva in 1997. Below is Susan Moore’s 2010 interview with Barbier-Mueller for Apollo, focusing on his passion for, and knowledge of tribal art.

It is tempting to believe that there is a collecting gene. Certainly the Barbier-Mueller clan would seem to present a convincing case for one. For each of the past four generations of this Swiss family has produced passionate collectors. Over the last century and more they have honed and created what can only be described as a collection of collections, the breadth and quality of which are astonishing.

As I sit with Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller in the salon of his 17th-century, Mansart-designed hotel particulier in Geneva, it seems appropriate that the presence of his father-in-law should dominate the room. For Josef Mueller is the founder of this dynastic collection. Hanging here is not only Ferdinand Hodler’s portrait of him but also, wrapped around the walls, is the artist’s mesmerising, monumental frieze Die Liebe or Love. The 22-year-old Mueller spent an entire year’s income to secure it in 1909. He lived frugally in order to gather – by 1918 – seven Cézannes (including the Portrait of the gardener Vallier), five works by Matisse and five Renoirs, as well as Picassos and Braques. Hit by the economic depression of the 1930s, he shifted his focus to the powerful African tribal art that was astounding avant-garde artists and poets in Paris.

In 1955, his daughter Monique married Jean Paul Barbier, who had already begun to amass a distinguished library of the finest editions of French renaissance poetry but subsequently became intrigued by his father-in-law’s antiquities and tribal art. Over the years, she acquired the likes of Giacometti, Tinguely, Stella, Warhol, Bacon and Jeff Koons. Their eldest son Jean Gabriel has, with his wife Ann, formed the finest private collection of Samurai arms and armour in the world, and they are due to open the world’s first Samurai museum, in Dallas, Texas, this autumn. ‘It is about time he opened a museum,’ laughs his father, ‘he is 53; I was 47 when I opened mine!’

Of Jean Gabriel’s two brothers, Stéphane’s interest is coins and antiquities while Thierry’s is German contemporary art. The fruits of the fledgling fourth generation’s acquisitiveness are already apparent in the dazzling mineral collection of their nephew, Alexis.

While many of the Barbier-Mueller collections have remained very private entities, Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller has always been committed to exhibiting, researching and publishing the tribal art collection that he has assiduously expanded and refined over the decades. There are more than 7,000 pieces in the inventory, even after various constituent parts have been sold to, or donated to, other museums. ‘I did not imagine that I would open a private museum and, believe me, I did not imagine that one day there would be four Barbier-Mueller museums in the world,’ reflects this most courteous and civilised of men, ‘but I always had the idea of showing my pieces.’

Initially he created a private display space in a barn at his former home, and then in an office building. ‘I started to have visits almost every day from enthusiasts who had heard about the collection by word of mouth. This barn gave me the idea of making a private, but public, museum.’ After he moved to different headquarters which did not have appropriate space for the collection, he searched for a year for suitable premises until an employee in his property company pointed out that they already owned the perfect building, in the rue Jean-Calvin, in the heart of Geneva’s Old Town.

The museum of the now combined tribal collection opened in 1977, three months after Josef Mueller’s death. Mueller did not buy primitive art with the same discrimination that he bought paintings, and masterpieces jostled with the workaday. Jean Paul and Monique Barbier-Mueller took the decision to sell around 1,500 minor objects at Christie’s, reinvesting the proceeds in further acquisitions. ‘We have never stopped acquiring new pieces,’ Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller says, adding: ‘In this market you have minor pieces which are sold for high prices and you have very important pieces sold for a little, and also important pieces which are sold for a tremendous amount. Nobody can explain why.’

While he has proved a more systematic and scholarly collector than his father-in-law, he similarly places aesthetic value above ethnographical significance. It is telling that in the museum’s small, exquisite exhibition space each object is accorded an individual display case and a dramatic presentation that unashamedly encourages wonder and awe.

Crucially, the exhibitions generated by the museum have never been confined to Geneva. ‘My goal always was to organise travelling exhibitions,’ Mr Barbier-Mueller explains. ‘I think we have made more than 80 major shows in 32 years, all with huge catalogues.’ Indeed, the current show is the first to open here – ‘often they come to Geneva last, after 15 or 16 museum venues in the US.’ This exhibition, ‘Man-Made Jewels, Jewels of the Earth: Jean Paul & Alexis Barbier-Mueller Collections’, presents the extraordinary collection of ethnic jewellery embracing every era and almost every corner of the world, and materials ranging from gold, silver and jadeite to ivory, feathers and shells. Each piece is artfully complemented by the no-less-exuberantly structured minerals drawn from Alexis’s collection.

Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller describes his Damascene conversion as a collector striking in 1967. Up until then, he recalls, he had bought decorative, pleasant pieces, nothing worthy of a museum. ‘I had been working so hard I did not realise that I could now afford to go up a gear.’ He was on business in New York, and went to see a great primitive art dealer every day after work and each time reserved a statuette or a little mask. On the last day, the dealer showed him a large wooden ceremonial platter with a figure which had been collected by the Reverend Yates in the Melanesian Espiritu Santo in the early 19th century, and told him that was what he should be buying. With a discount, it was only $200 more than the sum of all the ‘trinkets’ he had reserved. ‘I owe him an immense debt of gratitude,’ he smiles.

The tragedies of the Biafran war proved an opportunity to buy more masterpieces. The chance discovery in Amsterdam of a statuette from the remote and tiny island of Nias, west of Sumatra, sparked a new adventure. Overwhelmed by the piece, he travelled there with Monique, began a photographic survey of the megalithic stone sculptures on the island, made over six voyages, and wrote a book. He also bought all the stone sculpture he could lay his hands on. His unique Indonesian collection of some 500 pieces was sold to the Musée du quai Branly in Paris in 2001, and 500 other works from South-East Asia were also donated.

Through the Tibetan dealers in New Delhi he was also able to form another outstanding and revelatory collection. This was of pieces made by the isolated Naga, tribes of former head- (and, peculiarly, foot-) hunters living in territories annexed by India in the 1920s and still largely closed to foreigners. Among them are extraordinary royal jewels and bronze sculpture made using the lost-wax method. Looking for an author, he tracked down the only known expert, Baron Von Furer-Haimendorf, who was then 88, so the collector wrote the book himself, using the Baron’s manuscripts and unpublished photographs. This collection was another gift to the Musée du quai Branly.

When I ask him what attracts him to these widely differing cultures, he replies: ‘It is the man who is behind each work. I am fascinated by the diversity and the capacity for creation of our species. When I discover a form of creativity I do not know, I am intrigued, astounded and want to know more. That is why I set up a foundation to research ethnic groups which have been neglected.’ He draws an analogy with music. ‘Until recently, everyone wanted to play J.S. Bach but no one was interested in the minor musicians around him. It is the same on the Ivory Coast. Everyone wants to study the Senufu – their secret initiation societies, their masks and fetishes, social organisation … But my wife and I made a lot of expeditions in the bush and discovered a little ethnic group of itinerant bronze casters next to them, the Lorhon, who have never been studied. It drives me crazy when I look at auction catalogues and see a lot of Lorhon bronzes which they wrongly describe as Senufu. I am sending an ethnologist.’

If he judges a collection to be complete, he is happy to see it go to a new home. When the South African mining company AngloGold Ashanti asked him if they could purchase his collection of gold artefacts and jewellery from Mali, Senegal, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, he agreed. ‘I had considered the collection complete for a long time – I had all the types of rings, pendants, fly whisks and scepters – and it had been travelling for 17 years.’ He continues: ‘It is not a question of price, I do not need money, it is a question of how you will treat it, how you will show it.’

Their idea was to open a museum to preserve the artistry of African goldsmithing and inspire modern jewellery design. It opened in an old colonial house in Cape Town in 2001. Last December, he signed a 10-year, renewable contract with the museum to send them annual loan exhibitions, starting with the current jewellery exhibition. ‘The museum has not changed since it installed the collection. Our new collaboration is a way of bringing it to life,’ Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller enthuses. He marked the occasion by donating the gift of an important and very early wooden ancestor Bambara statue from Mali. The institution is now the Gold of Africa Barbier-Mueller Museum.

In contrast, the Pre-Columbian collection is not complete, so it remains on long-term loan to Spain in ‘a jewel of a palace’ opposite the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Since the loan began in 1997, he has added 300 more pieces, shipped to Barcelona immediately. He is not one to fill any perceived holes with unworthy examples.

After 43 years of seriously collecting tribal art, Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller’s passion has not abated. In fact, he believes it is this evident passion which has allowed him to succeed in his various projects. ‘The important thing for me is that I want people to understand that I am trying to establish a connection between the unknown people who are the authors of the works that I own and other unknown people who are the visitors coming to see them. I am in the shadows trying to organise this contact in the hope that these encounters will be a revelation–and in the dark the authors of these works are smiling in silence and probably happy to see that the objects that they did not make as works of art are important. By accident, out of a hundred craftsmen, one was an artist. Yes, I have tried to find the one that is the artist.’

Susan Moore is associate editor of Apollo.

This interview originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Apollo.

The Persian Empires: Chapter 2

The Parthian Empire 247 BC - 224 AD

After Alexander the Great invaded Persia, the Achaemenid Dynasty came to an end. Alexander's reign also only lasted from 336 BC - 323 BC and after his death (and lack of an heir) his entire empire was divided and finally succeeded by the Seleucid dynasty which existed from 312 BC to 63 BC, founded by Seleucus I Nicator. During the time of the Seleucid rule, however, the Parthian satrapy was conquered by Arsaces I who was the first king of Parthia, as well as the founder and eponym of the Arsacid dynasty of Parthia, ruling from 247 BC to 217 BC. The leader of the Parni, one of the three tribes of the Dahae confederacy, Arsaces founded his dynasty in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the satrapy of Parthia (now shared between Turkmenistan and Iran) from Andragoras, who had rebelled against the Seleucid Empire. He spent the rest of his reign consolidating his rule in the region, and successfully stopped the Seleucid efforts to reconquer Parthia. Due to Arsaces' achievements, he became a popular figure amongst the Arsacid monarchs, who used his name as a royal honorific. By the time of his death, Arsaces had laid the foundations of a strong state, which would eventually transform into an empire under his great-grand nephew, Mithridates I, who assumed the ancient Near Eastern royal title of King of Kings. Mithridates I of Parthia (r. c. 171–138 BC) greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to eastern Iran. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han dynasty of China, became a center of trade and commerce.

The Parthians largely adopted the art, architecture, religious beliefs, and royal insignia of their culturally heterogeneous empire, which encompassed Persian, Hellenistic, and regional cultures. For about the first half of its existence, the Arsacid court adopted elements of Greek culture, though it eventually saw a gradual revival of Iranian traditions. The Arsacid rulers were titled the "King of Kings", as a claim to be the heirs to the Achaemenid Empire. There is unfortunately very limited historical records available on the Parthian Dynasty's inventions, but it is clear from remains that they maintained significant Greek cultural influences throughout the dynasty's existence. There are however a few "inventions" that were made famous by the Parthians.

One of their military branches was the light cavalry who was recruited from among the commoner class and acted as horse archers.They used composite bows and were able to shoot at enemies while riding and facing away from them; this technique, known as the Parthian shot, was a highly effective tactic While in real or feigned retreat their horse archers would turn their bodies back in full gallop to shoot at the pursuing enemy. The maneuver required superb equestrian skills, since the rider's hands were occupied by his composite bow. As the stirrup had not been invented at the time of the Parthians, the rider relied solely on pressure from his legs to guide his horse.

A signature feature of Parthian architecture was the iwan, an audience hall supported by arches or barrel vaults and open on one side. Use of the barrel vault replaced the Hellenic use of columns to support roofs. Although the iwan was known during the Achaemenid period and earlier in smaller and subterranean structures, it was the Parthians who first built them on a monumental scale. The earliest Parthian iwans are found at Seleucia, built in the early 1st century AD. Monumental iwans are also commonly found in the ancient temples of Hatra and perhaps modeled on the Parthian style. The largest Parthian iwans at that site have a span of 15 m (50 ft).

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the Parthians was an eager revival of the Persian culture that was nearly lost during the Hellenic times. Because of their desire to return to Iranian traditions, they gave rise to the Sassanid Dynasty who would end their reign, but lead Persia back to her roots for nearly 400 years. The Parthian Empire, weakened by internal strife and wars with Rome, was followed by the Sassanid Empire. Indeed, shortly afterward, Ardashir I, the local Iranian ruler of Persis (modern Fars Province, Iran) from Estakhr began subjugating the surrounding territories in defiance of Arsacid rule. He confronted Artabanus IV at the Battle of Hormozdgān on 28 April 224 AD, perhaps at a site near Isfahan, defeating him and establishing the Sassanid Empire. The Sassanians would not only assume Parthia's legacy as Rome's Persian nemesis, but they would also attempt to restore the boundaries of the Achaemenid Empire by briefly conquering the Levant, Anatolia, and Egypt from the Eastern Roman Empire during the reign of Khosrau II (r. 590–628 AD). However, they would lose these territories to Heraclius—the last Roman emperor before the Arab conquests.

The Toms Collection

The Toms Collection is one of the most important ancient tapestry collections privately assembled during the second half of the twentieth century. Bequeathed to the State of Vaud by Mary Toms in 1993, it comprises more than one-hundred wall tapestries and decorative tapestry pieces, representing major early sixteenth- to late nineteenth-century European manufactories.

In 1958, having amassed a fortune in real estate, the English property developer Reginald Toms (1892-1978) and his wife Mary (1901-1993) settled in the Château de Coinsins, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. They discovered a passion for ancient tapestries and, in the sixties, made the acquisition of some one hundred pieces.

More than fifty of the tapestries in the Toms Collection were woven in the workshops of Flanders, mostly in the Baroque period and the eighteenth century. Beautiful tapestries from English, Italian and French workshops, as well as English embroidered pieces, complete this prestigious ensemble which is noteworthy not only for its geographical, chronological and thematic diversity, but also for its remarkable condition.

Since the 1994-2002 restoration campaign conducted by Manufacture royale De Wit, in Mechelen, Belgium, the treasures of the Toms Collection have been admired at the Abbey of Payerne, Switzerland, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne, the Palacio Real in Madrid, the Cité de la Tapisserie in Aubusson, and the Musée Rath in Geneva”

But for me the most interesting part of the Toms story is that Reginald and his wife Alice Mary were extremely good at collecting Persian carpets and they lived in South Africa from 1947 selling cold harbor wood and bought General Botha’s house in 1952 in Standerton where they bred horses. I assume they were buying great antiques and Persian carpets while residing in South Africa or maybe they bought the house of General Botha with furniture and carpets included.

Later on they moved to America and then settled in Switzerland. After the death of Reginald in 1995 Sotheby’s sold most of the carpets including this Northwest Medallion carpet (this carpet sold for £42200 with warp depression, 3 shoots of wefts, Asymmetrical open to left) to get funds for restoring the tapestry collection. The entire collection was moved to a small museum after the death of his wife.

Was this carpet once in General Botha’s house in South Africa? On 24 Oct 2007 the carpet once again came to Sotheby’s and sold for only £23300. Such a low price for such a rare carpet belonging to a rare category very similar to Medallion carpet of Calouste Gulbenkian foundation. A 16th century badge is definitely well deserved for this carpet.

The woman who ended king Cyrus’ reign

The details of Cyrus's death vary by account. The account of Herodotus from his Histories provides the second-longest detail, in which Cyrus met his fate in a fierce battle with the Massagetae, a tribe from the southern deserts of Khwarezm and Kyzyl Kum in the southernmost portion of the steppe regions of modern-day Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, following the advice of Croesus to attack them in their own territory.

The Massagetae were related to the Scythians in their dress and mode of living; they fought on horseback and on foot. In order to acquire her realm, Cyrus first sent an offer of marriage to their ruler, the empress Tomyris, a proposal she rejected.

He then commenced his attempt to take Massagetae territory by force (c. 529), beginning by building bridges and towered war boats along his side of the river Jaxartes, or Syr Darya, which separated them. Sending him a warning to cease his encroachment (a warning which she stated she expected he would disregard anyway), Tomyris challenged him to meet her forces in honorable warfare, inviting him to a location in her country a day's march from the river, where their two armies would formally engage each other. He accepted her offer, but, learning that the Massagetae were unfamiliar with wine and its intoxicating effects, he set up and then left camp with plenty of it behind, taking his best soldiers with him and leaving the least capable ones.

The general of Tomyris's army, Spargapises, who was also her son, and a third of the Massagetian troops, killed the group Cyrus had left there and, finding the camp well stocked with food and the wine, unwittingly drank themselves into inebriation, diminishing their capability to defend themselves when they were then overtaken by a surprise attack. They were successfully defeated, and, although he was taken prisoner, Spargapises committed suicide once he regained sobriety. Upon learning of what had transpired, Tomyris denounced Cyrus's tactics as underhanded and swore vengeance, leading a second wave of troops into battle herself. Cyrus the Great was ultimately killed, and his forces suffered massive casualties in what Herodotus referred to as the fiercest battle of his career and the ancient world. When it was over, Tomyris ordered the body of Cyrus brought to her, then decapitated him and dipped his head in a vessel of blood in a symbolic gesture of revenge for his bloodlust and the death of her son. However, some scholars question this version, mostly because Herodotus admits this event was one of many versions of Cyrus's death that he heard from a supposedly reliable source who told him no one was there to see the aftermath.

The Persian Empires: Chapter 1

The Achaemenid Dynasty: 500 - 330BC

 The Achaemenid Dynasty is the first of the Persian Empires and its creator was Cyrus the Great. It is widely regarded as the largest empire to ever exist encompassing 40% of the worlds population at its vastest moment. It stretched from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east. Its structure was copied by many of the great world empires, including the Greeks and Romans.

It was the first successful model of a centralized bureaucratic administration through satraps under the king. It brought us building infrastructure such as road systems, the postal system, use of an official language across all territories, development of civil services and a large professional army. The legendary "Immortals" were part of this great army. According to Herodotus the Immortals consisted of a steady force of 10,000 highly trained soldiers (men and women, as both sexes enjoyed equality under the Achaemenids). The force was kept steady by replacing dead, injured or ill soldiers immediately and it was only disbanded in 1979 with the Revolution, at which time it was only 5,000 men strong, lasting an astonishing 2,500 years!

Its' founder, Cyrus the Great, was the son of Cambyses I, king of Anshan, and Mandane, daughter of Astyages - king of Media. According to legend Cyrus' grandfather, Astyages, had two dreams in which a flood and then a series of fruit bearing vines emerged from his daughter's pelvis and covered his entire kingdom. This happened while Mundane was pregnant and his advisers interpreted this as a foreboding sign that his coming grandson will dethrone him. So Astyages summoned Mandane back to Ecbatana and ordered the baby to be killed upon birth. The task was given to Mithradates, a shepherd, who instead passed off his own stillborn infant as the dead baby and raised Cyrus as his own son. At the age of 10, however, Cyrus was reunited with his real family when the truth was revealed. After his father's death Cyrus inherited his throne. Astyages wanted to overthrow Cyrus but after key figures of his army defected to the side of Cyrus, a 3 year war ensued that saw Cyrus as the victor and for the first time the Achaemenid kingdoms were united.

Cyrus had to defend the borders of his newly founded kingdom and in so doing conquered more lands. He was a just king and demanded tolerance and respect towards all races and religions inside the borders of his kingdom. He wrote the first human right's charter (contained in the Cyrus cylinder) of which the original is held in the British Museum and a replica in the United Nations headquarters. He was called "the father" by all inhabitants of the empire and is still called that by all Persians. As part of his empire's expansion he encountered the Massagatae, a tribe from the southern desserts of Kwharezm and Kyzyl Kum. During one of the battles he was fatally wounded by an arrow and buried in his capital city, Pasargade, where his tomb stands to this day. The translated ancient Roman and Greek accounts give a vivid description of the tomb both geometrically and aesthetically; the tomb's geometric shape has changed little over the years, still maintaining a large stone of quadrangular form at the base, followed by a pyramidal succession of smaller rectangular stones, until after a few slabs, the structure is curtailed by an edifice, with an arched roof composed of a pyramidal shaped stone, and a small opening or window on the side, where the slenderest man could barely squeeze through.

Within this edifice was a golden coffin, resting on a table with golden supports, inside of which the body of Cyrus the Great was interred. Upon his resting place, was a covering of tapestry and drapes made from the best available Babylonian materials, utilizing fine Median worksmanship; below his bed was a fine red carpet, covering the narrow rectangular area of his tomb. Translated Greek accounts describe the tomb as having been placed in the fertile Pasargadae gardens, surrounded by trees and ornamental shrubs, with a group of Achaemenian protectors called the "Magi", stationed nearby to protect the edifice from theft or damage.

After his death various successive kings expanded on his empire until it was finally brought to an end by Alexander the Great. A part of the empire survived in the Pontic Empire, founded by the Persian, Mithridates. It is believed that it was directly related to Darius the Great and the Achaemenid dynasty. The kingdom was proclaimed by Mithridates I in 281 BCE and lasted until its conquest by the Roman Republic in 63 BCE. It reached its largest extent under Mithridates VI the Great, who conquered Colchis, Cappadocia, Bithynia, the Greek colonies of the Tauric Chersonesos, and for a brief time the Roman province of Asia. After a long struggle with Rome in the Mithridatic Wars, Pontus was defeated; part of it was incorporated into the Roman Republic as the province Bithynia et Pontus, and the eastern half survived as a client kingdom.

Here are some key innovations, inventions, and contribution of the ancient Persian Empire: the Persians were the first people in history to give men and women equal rights, abolish slavery and write the very first human and animal bill of rights. They also built in 400s BC the very first stadium, the Apadana in Persepolis (later burnt down by Alexander). The Apadana was able to seat 15 (fifteen thousand) people in it, with space left for a grand ceremony. This massive building was roofed. Unlike the Colosseum, the architectural and worth of this single building, if it lived through the fire Alexander put it through, would have dwarfed the city of Rome. Persian emperors of the 6th century BC are among the first to make a display of lavish floor coverings. Carpets became one of the characteristic art forms of people living on the high plateau of West Asia, from Turkey through Iran, where winters can be extremely cold.

The Achaemenids built an efficient infrastructure of roads and ports. They bought water to remote areas throughout the empire through the use of qanats, (underground irrigation system). Darius the Great, had a canal built to link the Nile to the Red Sea (an early precursor of the Suez Canal). Embroidery was first invented by the Scythian people (a branch of Persians). The first travelers Inns called caravansaray (Inns of caravan) some of which still exist along the Silk Road, were built in Persia. The largest mud-brick structure is the citadel of Bam, in Kerman Province of Iran. King Cambyses II, of Persia, was the first person that examined the dead bodies of the mummies of Egypt, after conquering the Egyptian City of Memphis.

The Prehistoric Mound Of Tall-i-Bakun - 4200-3800 BC

Tall-i Bakun or Tall-e Bakun (in modern Fars Province, Iran) was a prehistoric site in the Ancient Near East about 3 km south of Persepolis. It was inhabited around 4000-3500 BC.

Additional work was done at the site in 1937 by Erich Schmidt leading the Persepolis Expedition of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Some limited work was done at Tall-i Bakun by a team from the Tokyo University led by Namio Egami and Seiichi Masuda in 1956. The most recent excavations were by a joint team of the Oriental Institute and the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation. The site was active from circa 6th millennium BC to circa 4th millennium BC.

Three kilometers south of Persepolis, in the plain of Marv Dasht, lies the prehistoric site of Tall-i-Bakun, consisting of two flat hillocks. Here in 1928, Ernst Herzfeld, of the University of Berlin, decided to undertake a trial excavation of the western mound, where he had previously discovered many prehistoric sherds Iying about on the ground. Later, in 1932, he conducted more extensive excavations, subsequently continued by Erich F. Schmidt (1935–37).

The main deposits of the western hill produced a large quantity of ceramics with unusually beautiful painted patterns dating mostly to the fourth millennium B .C. Unexpectedly, many rooms of the settlement contained a substantial number of unbroken vessels, many of them standing on the floors of the houses, sometimes nested one in another. A great wealth of designs and variations are seen in this cream-colored ware. Many show different geometrical patterns, some simple, some intricate. Fewer have beautifully stylized animal designs depicting either ibexes or mouflons. These vessels manifest a remarkable artistic balance between geometric ornament and animal design. Large jars, usually made in two parts, show distinct markings characteristic of a vessel turned by hand.

Besides these pottery vessels, numerous painted clay figurines of humans and animals were discovered. Other ceramic objects consisted of scrapers, in the form of stirrups, which were used for smoothing and decorating vessel surfaces before the vessels were fired. These scrapers—although made of clay—were so strong, and their scraping edges so sharp, that they were also used for scraping hides. In addition to this vast amount of pottery, there were large quantities of knives, blades, and copper daggers. There were also many button seals, mostly made of green stone, showing beautifully incised designs. Finally, some well-preserved clay labels and seal impressions were excavated.

Tall-i Bakun phase A was inhabited c. 4000-3500 BCE. Four layers can be distinguished. Layer III was the best preserved and shows a settlement in which the residential buildings were built close together with no roads or paths. Individual houses consisted of several rooms. Remains of mural paintings and of wooden columns suggest a once rich interior.

Richly painted pottery was produced. There were also ceramic female figurines and those of animals. There were also cylinder seals, which indicates some type of administrative activities.

Artifactual remains from the site include objects made of copper, pottery and stone.

The wealth and variety of material items at Bakun and the evidence of large workshop areas point to the existence of local industry and connection/trade with distant regions such as the Persian Gulf, the central plateau, Kerman, and northeastern Iran whence goods like shells, copper, steatite, lapis, and turquoise were procured. If my inferences are correct, we have a settlement that is spatially arranged according to its functional needs and socio-economic organization.

Bakun culture

The Bakun culture flourished in the Fars Province of Iran in the fifth and early fourth millenniums BC. It had a long duration and wide geographical distribution. Its pottery tradition was as sophisticated as that of Susa I. Nevertheless, it was mostly a nomadic culture, and its settlements were typically much smaller than those of Susa.

Bakun pottery is known in the Fars region in the form of bowls and jugs with green, reddish brown or deep brown bands and stripes.

Outside Fars this pottery has been found in northern Khuzestan, in the Bakhtiari mountains, and in the Behbahan and Zuhreh regions.

In the late fifth and early fourth millennia BC, Bakun A settlements were at once manufacturing sites and centres for the administration of production and trade. Their painted pottery featured some unusual specific motifs, such as large-horned mountain sheep and goats, that were rare or unique elsewhere.

After the decline of Bakun, Lapui period followed. In recent publications, Bakun period is dated 4800-4100 BC, and the Lapui period is dated to 4100-3500 BC.

Source of images:The Oriental Institute of
The University of Chicago

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The Abegg-Stiftung

The Abegg-Stiftung is committed to the collection, conservation and study of historical textiles. It is based just outside the village of Riggisberg in the foothills of the Bernese Alps, which is where the museum of textiles and applied art, the research library and the Villa Abegg, the Abeggs’ former home that is now a museum, are situated.

The studio for textile conservation and restoration is also a training centre for budding young conservators. The Abegg-Stiftung publishes books and papers in which it shares its research findings with fellow historians and conservators as well as a lay readership. Year after year, its annual exhibitions shed new light on a material that has served humanity for thousands of years, whether made up into objects of everyday use or in the form of exquisite works of art.

Pictured here: Griffin

This wall hanging is patterned with circular medallions containing winged horses, each with rigorously geometrical coat markings and fluttering white ribbons attached to the neck and fetlocks. Both the pattern itself and the individual motifs were derived from existing silks, especially those made in Persia in Late Antiquity. The Sasanid Dynasty that came to power in the 3rd century presided over the ascendancy of a great empire, whose arts and culture made waves throughout the Orient.
Egypt or the eastern Mediterranean, 4th–6th century, wool tapestry, h. 250 cm, w. 158 cm, inv. no. 2191

#ghorbanycarpets #mondaymuseums #collection #ancienthistory #sassanid #textiles #monday #love #fun

Glencairn Museum

Glencairn (1928-39) is a castle-like mansion in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, that was home to the Pitcairn family for more than 40 years.


Now the Glencairn Museum, it contains a collection of about 8,000 artworks, mostly religious in nature, from cultures such as ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and medieval Europe, as well as Islamic, Asian, and Native American works. The museum is affiliated with The New Church, and the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Arts - Kiev, Ukraine

The house was owned by a famous collector of art and benefactor Bohdan Khanenko (1849-1917), and his wife Varvara (1852-1922). In 1919, on the base of their private collection, a museum was opened in this house. For a long period of time it was known as Kyiv State Museum of Western and Eastern Art. Now its initial name has been given back. The embellishments of the collection are works of outstanding Renaissance masters. Rich diversity of genres distinguishes the museum’s holdings of North European countries. The exposition of Spanish art includes two true gems from the XVII century - “Portrait of Infant Margarita” by Diego Velasquez and “Still Life with Chocolate Milk” by Juan de Zurbaran.... The Museum of Art named after Bogdan and Varvara Khanenko was founded in 1919 on the basis of their private museum. The museum is also called the Museum of Western and Oriental Art. Now it keeps one of the best collections of foreign art in Ukraine. From 1919 the number of exhibits has been more than 13 times increased - from 1,250 to nearly 17,000 artworks, with 2,000 pieces exposed in museum halls. Visitors can view many remarkable samples of foreign art: Ancient Greek, Roman, Italian, French, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Persian, Turkish, Egyptian, etc.

Famous founders of museum's collections Bogdan Khanenko and his wife Varvara always dreamt to open the public museum of art in Kiev, while collecting works of famous artists and sculptors. Finally their dreams came true. In 1999 the museum they have created celebrated its 80th anniversary. The collection of the museum consists of 25 thousands of exhibits and is considered to be the biggest foreign art collection in Ukraine. Among the museum's collection there are real fine art masterpieces. There is, for example, the world-famous work of Diego Velasquez, The Portrait of Infanta Margaret, located in the Spanish hall of the museum.
The famous portrait appeared in Kiev after Bogdan Khanenko had purchased it in Berlin on the sale of Hamburg council Weber's collections. The presentation of the painting in Kiev was arranged very mysteriously. Khanenko hasn't informed the guests of the banquet about the real reasons. When the curtain was taken away from the Velasquez' masterpiece, the audience was really impressed. The picture created a real furore in cultural life of Kiev at that time.

Khanenko's cultural heritage is the core of the museum's collection. The breadth of collectors' range of interest is impressive. There are Egyptian statues and bronze sculptures, antic terracotta and glassware, Roman and Greek sculptures, Byzantine exhibits, ivory, church stained-glass, icons, fabrics, jewelry of Kievan Russia. With time the collection enriched and formed, thanks to the efforts of many famous people. The famous patron of art from Saint Petersburg, V. Shavinskiy, donated about 200 priceless masterpieces of Flemish, Netherlands and Dutch painting schools. The museum's stock was enriched with unique Chinese paintings of the 16th-20th centuries. Taisia Jasparre, native Ukrainian wife of French ambassador in Peking Andre Stephen Jasparre, presented 400 scrolls of paintings to the museum.
Every item of the museum's collection has its interesting history. The appearance of valuable Juan de Zurbaran's still-life painting is the whole story. Once famous stud-owner from Moscow Malyutin decided to get rid of old things left from the previous owner on the attic of his new house. Moscow millionaire was not interested in the stuff kept there but also hasn't allowed Khanenko to research it. He was forcing Khanenko to buy all the stuff at once. Khanenko have decided to take a risk. The result was not a loose. Among these things there was the valuable masterpiece of famous Spanish painter, a fantastic boon for an art collector and also some of excellent paintings of Dutch masters.

The building of museum was constructed under the project of famous architect from Saint Petersburg F. Meltzer in the 80s of the 19th century. Then it was reconstructed and decorated several times according to plans of Khanenko family. Being the famous specialist in the history of Kiev V. Kovalinsky once said "this building was the shell and the architectural addition to the great art collections of Khanenko family."
Although the collection covers a wide range of countries, it does not claim to complete representation of periods and styles of the foreign art and creative manners of foreign artist. It is not the number of art pieces, but unique nature of many of them that makes Kiev Museum of Western and Oriental Art famous not only in Ukraine but far abroad as well.

Hermitage Museum, Russia

The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia is the second-largest art museum in the world that was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired an impressive collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. It has been open to the public since 1852.

Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise over three million items (the numismatic collection accounts for about one-third of them), including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collections occupy a large complex of six historic buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors. Apart from them, the Menshikov Palace, Museum of Porcelain, Storage Facility at Staraya Derevnya, and the eastern wing of the General Staff Building are also part of the museum. The museum has several exhibition centers abroad.

Oriental Art

Over 180,000 items including paintings, sculptures and examples of applied art (jewellery, domestic and cult objects), give an idea of a remarkable cultural heritage of the Orient from the time of the ancient civilizations emergence to the present. The exhibitions occupying 50 museum rooms contain the collections of items from Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Central Asia, Byzantium, countries of the Near and Far East.

Pazyryk Carpet

Created: Russia. Pazyryk Culture. 5th - 4th century BC

Found: Pazyryk Barrow No. 5 (excavations by S.I. Rudenko, 1949). Altai Territory, Pazyryk Boundary, the Valley of the River Bolshoy Ulagan

The world's most ancient pile carpet was found in the largest of the Pazyryk burial mounds. Its decoration is rich and varied: the central field is occupied by 24 cross-shaped figures, each of which consists of 4 stylized lotus buds. This composition is framed by a border of griffins, followed by another one of 24 fallow deer. The widest border contains 28 figures of men on horseback and dismounted. The once bright yellows, blues and reds of the carpet are now faded, but must originally have provided a glowing range of colours. The Pazyryk carpet was woven in the technique of the symmetrical double knot (3600 knots per 1 dm2, more than 1,250,000 knots in the whole carpet), and therefore its pile is rather dense. The exact origin of this unique carpet is unknown. There is a version of its Iranian provenance. But perhaps it was produced in Central Asia through which the contacts of ancient Altaians with Iran and the Near East took place. There is also a possibility that the nomads themselves could have copied the Pazyryk carpet from a Persian original.

History of French silk

Italian silk cloth was very expensive, as much a result of the cost of the raw material as of the production costs. The craftsmen in Italy proved unable to keep up with the exigencies of French fashion, which continuously demanded lighter and less expensive materials.[38] These materials were used for clothing, and garment production began to be done locally. Nevertheless, Italian silk long remained among the most prized, mostly for furnishings and the brilliant colours of the dyes.

Following the example of the wealthy Italian city-states of the era, such as Venice, Florence, and Lucca, which had become the center of the luxury-textile industry, Lyon obtained a similar function in the French market. In 1466, King Louis XI decided to develop a national silk industry in Lyon. In the face of protests by the Lyonnais, he conceded and moved the silk fabrication to Tours, but the industry in Tours stayed relatively marginal. His main objective was to reduce France's trade deficit with the Italian states, which caused France to lose 400,000 to 500,000 golden écus a year. It was under Francis I in around 1535 that a royal charter was granted to two merchants, Étienne Turquet and Barthélemy Naris, to develop a silk trade in Lyon. In 1540, the king granted a monopoly on silk production to the city of Lyon. Starting in the 16th century, Lyon became the capital of the European silk trade, notably producing many reputable fashions. Gaining confidence, the silks produced in the city began to abandon the original oriental styles in favor of their own distinctive style, which emphasized landscapes. Thousand of workers, the canuts, devoted themselves to the flourishing industry. Fabrics were diversified with the first mechanical looms. By the 18th century, silk production was the pillar of Lyon’s economy: 28,000 people were registered as silk workers in 1788.

In the early 19th century, the Napoleonic era gave new impetus to the silk business, as did the invention of the Jacquard loom in 1801. Fabric dying techniques helped drive the development of the chemical industry, solidly in place by the mid-1800s. By 1870, the silk industry accounted for 75% of Lyon’s total industrial activity, with about 100,000 looms in operation.

But the history of silk in Lyon also saw dark moments during the revolt of the “Canuts” silk workers. These weavers, concentrated in the Croix-Rousse district of Lyon, were employed by the great silk merchants. In 1831, they revolted against the prices set for silk weaving and their exhausting working conditions. At the end of November that year, the Canuts took control of the Croix-Rousse and Presqu’Ile areas, but on December 2nd, the army took back the city and crushed the uprising. In February 1834, a second revolt erupted and the Canuts held out against 12,000 soldiers for six days, before another violent repression (300 killed and hundreds injured).

Today, automatic looms and new weaving techniques have replaced the Canuts. Silk makers turned to other fibers or shifted to highly specialized skills such as restoration of historic fabrics or supplying haute-couture designers.

The Museum of Textiles preserves the history and heritage of Lyon’s silk industry. Though the future of the museum is currently uncertain, the epic history of silk nonetheless continues, as can be seen in the recent opening of a train service between China and Lyon running along the old Silk Road.

The Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs, Lyon, France

The Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs is a museum in the city of Lyon, France. Located in two 18th century hôtels particuliers of Lyon's 2nd arrondissement, the institution consists in two distinct museums although they are administered as one : the Musée des Tissus (Museum of Textiles) and the Musée des arts décoratifs (Decorative Arts Museum).

Founded in 1864, the musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs houses one of the largest international collection of textiles, the holdings amounting to 2,500,000 units. The collection spans a 4,000 year period, from Antiquity to the present, and covers a wide range of techniques and all the geographical areas of the world. The history of Lyon's silk industry is particularly well represented in the collection.

The musée des Arts Décoratifs holds works in many different fields: furniture, majolica, drawings, jewelry, painting, sculpture etc.


The Pergamonmuseum - Berlin, Germany

The Museum für Islamische Kunst presents its diverse collection of Islamic art at the Pergamonmuseum on the Museumsinsel Berlin. It is after the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo the oldest and one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. It occupies an unrivalled position in Germany – no other institution contains such a systematic and comprehensive collection of masterpieces of art and applied arts and objects of material culture stemming from Islamic societies as well as the Christian and Jewish communities living among them.

The pièce de résistance in the collection is the ornately decorated yet no less monumental façade from the palace of Mshatta, which the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II presented to the museum as a gift. Together with this seminal work of architecture, the collection’s array of objects spanning all genres are testimony to the high aesthetic, artistic, artisanal, and technical skill of the masters who crafted them. They include centuries-old pages of the Koran, with their splendidly colourful decorations, prayer rugs, ivory carvings, and the dazzling turquoise faience mosaics of mihrabs (prayer niches). These objects boast a bewildering and intense sense of colour, form, and pattern. The collection’s holdings span all epochs of Islamic history from the 7th to 19th century, and also include Old South Arabian antiquities and ancient Iranian artefacts.

Besides showcasing such works, the Museum für Islamische Kunst is also one of the leading research institutions in its field and is active, both at home and abroad, in the areas of conservation, cultural heritage protection in Islamic countries, international cultural exchange, and (inter)cultural education in Germany.

About the collection

The collection contains works of art, cultural artefacts, and archaeological finds from Islamic peoples and societies that range in date from late antiquity to the last century. Its exhibits stem objects from an area that extends from the southern and eastern Mediterranean region and Spain across Anatolia, the Middle East and Central Asia all the way to India.

In this way, the museum’s exhibitions interrelate, both geographically and culturally, to the displays of classical antiquities in the Antikensammlung and of ancient Near-Eastern art from the Vorderasiatisches Museum, also on show in the Pergamonmuseum. Visitors to the Pergamonmuseum can thus explore at length the art and cultural history of these regions spread over several millennia.

The tour through the Museum für Islamische Kunst’s collection is chronological and follows the successive dynasties of various epochs. The exhibition begins with the early Islamic period and the great empires of the first caliphs (7th to 10th century) that emerged against the wider backdrop of the pre-Islamic cultures of the ancient world and Iran. A high point from this period is the façade of the Mshatta desert palace. It is joined by stucco walls from homes and palaces from Samarra – the legendary Abbasid caliphate capital in the today’s Iraq and one of the largest cities in the world in its day. Seen together, these pieces of architecture create a unique survey of early Islamic history.

Objects from the Middle Period (11th to 15th century) include glazed prayer niches from Kashan (Iran) and Konya (Turkey), fine damascened inlay work on metal vessels, and the famous carved wooden ceiling from a domed tower in the Alhambra in Granada, with its entrancingly rich detail.

The famous Berlin collection of carpets, with its array of intensely luminous patterns, largely ranges in date from the early Modern Period (16th to 18th century). It was also in this period that the Aleppo Room was crafted. Its astonishingly ornate, painted wood panelling makes it an undoubted highlight in the collection.

The museum also presides over a specialist library of the most outstanding quality dedicated to Islamic art, archaeology, and material culture. The museum is furthermore internationally active as a research facility, cooperating with universities and museums, particularly in regions from where the objects in its collection originate.

In the difficult climate currently surrounding the public discourse on Islam, the Museum für Islamische Kunst sees itself as a mediator of a culture of great sophistication. Its exhibitions uncover the history of other cultures, something which in turn helps foster a better understanding of the present. This lends the collection its sharp political relevance, both within Germany and abroad, as a cultural storehouse for Islamic societies.

The Louvre, Paris

History of the Louvre From château to museum A visit to the Louvre and its collections lets visitors discover Western art from the Middle Ages to 1848, as well as a large number of ancient civilizations. Yet it also offers another history to explore. The grand palace that houses the museum, which dates back to the late twelfth century, is a true lesson in architecture: from 1200 to 2011, the most innovative architects have in turn built and developed the Louvre. Long the seat of power, this royal residence was also home to French heads of state until 1870 and is one of the major backdrops to the history of Paris and of France.


History of the Islamic art department

In 1893, a “Muslim art” section was created at the Musée du Louvre and in 1905 the first room dedicated to the Islamic collection was opened within the Department of Decorative Arts. The collection was expanded considerably under two curators, notably Gaston Migeon. The bequest of Baroness Delort de Gléon in 1912 enriched the section with prestigious objects from her husband's collection and led to the creation of the Salle Delort de Gléon in 1922 in the Pavillon de l'Horloge.

In 1932, the Department of Asian Arts was created and housed the Islamic collections. After World War II, in 1945, the Far Eastern works were transferred to the Musée Guimet, and the Islamic section was incorporated into the Department of Near Eastern Antiquities; the works were first exhibited in the Salle de la Chapelle of the Pavillon de l'Horloge and then in two rooms at the end of the Department of Near Eastern Antiquities.

In 1993, the creation of the Grand Louvre and the departure of the Ministry of Finance from the Richelieu wing made room for the Islamic collections in 1,000 sq.m of exhibition space.

In 2003, the Musée du Louvre created its eighth department dedicated to Islamic art.

Embracing new horizons, the department opened on September 22, 2012 to 3,000 sq.m of new exhibition space, nestled between the restored facades of the Cour Visconti. Led by Rudy Ricciotti and Mario Bellini, the project is the museum’s greatest architectural work since the Grand Louvre; soon visitors can admire the new glass veil of undulating gold metal covering the courtyard like the wing of a dragonfly.

Creation of the collection

Boasting 14,000 objects and admirably complemented by 3,500 works from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs — many of which are being exhibited for the first time — the department's collection reflects the wealth and breadth of artistic creation from Islamic lands.The history of the collections reflects both history in the broadest sense and the history of artistic taste.

The first Islamic objects exhibited at the Louvre came from royal collections, following the creation of the Museum Central des Arts in the wake of the Revolution, in 1793. Notable works include an inlaid metal basin known as the “Baptistère de saint Louis,” made in Syria in the 14th century, as well as Ottoman jade bowls that had belonged to Louis XIV. There are also the works from the royal abbey of Saint Denis (like the rock crystal ewer made in Egypt in the early 11th century).

From the final decade of the 19th century to World War I, Paris was a locus for the creation of Islamic art collections. The museum owes many of its finest acquisitions (the candlestick with ducks bequeathed by Charles Piet-Lataudrie, the Delort de Gléon family bequests, the Mughal miniatures from the Georges Marteau collection, etc.) to its public of art lovers and collectors. In addition to these generous gifts, the collections were enriched with prestigious purchases such as the Pyxis of al-Mughira, the Mantes carpet, the Barberini vase and the Mughal miniatures acquired from Mme Duffeuty, to name a few.

The collections still received large donations after World War I: bequests in 1922 from the Rothschild collection and from Mr and Mrs Koechlin in 1932 (including the Peacock dish). The movement subsided slightly thereafter but has gained momentum since the creation of the new department in 2003. The museum received over 100 artworks in 2009 (from the Pantanella-Signorini collection), the most important donation since that of Count François Chandon de Briailles in 1955.

Collections at the Musée du Louvre

The display of the department’s new exhibition spaces provides an overview of artistic creation from the dawn of Islam in the 7th century to the early 19th century, encompassing architectural elements, stone and ivory objects, metalwork, glasswork, ceramics, textiles and carpets, manuscripts and so on. Based on the juxtaposition of various cultures and the constant exchange between the different regions of the Islamic world, the installation highlights both the homogeneity of Islamic art (which makes it instantly recognizable) and its extraordinary creativity with regard to common themes expressed throughout the centuries.

A sustained acquisition policy as as well the major holdings of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs have enriched the collections in areas that had been less represented until now, such as the Maghreb and Mughal India, thus offering a more comprehensive view of the art of the last great Islamic empires.

Francis Cabot Lowell and the Power Loom

By Mary Bellis - ThoughtCo Thanks to the invention of the power loom, Great Britain dominated the global textile industry at the turn of the 19th century. Hampered by inferior looming machinery, mills in the United States struggled to compete until a Boston merchant with a penchant for industrial espionage named Francis Cabot Lowell came along.

Origins of the Power Loom

Looms, which are used to weave fabric, have been around for thousands of years. But until the 18th century, they were manually operated, which made the production of cloth a slow process. That changed in 1784 when the English inventor Edmund Cartwright designed the first mechanical loom. His first version was impractical to operate on a commercial basis, but within five years Cartwright had improved his design and was weaving fabric in Doncaster, England.

Cartwright's mill was a commercial failure, and he was forced to relinquish his equipment as part of filing for bankruptcy in 1793. But Britain's textile industry was booming, and other inventors continued to refine Cartwright's invention. In 1842, James Bullough and William Kenworthy had introduced a fully automated loom, a design that would become the industry standard for the next century.

America vs. Britain

As Industrial Revolution boomed in Great Britain, that nation's leaders passed a number of laws designed to protect their dominance. It was illegal to sell power looms or the plans for building them to foreigners, and mill workers were forbidden to emigrate. This prohibition didn't just protect the British textile industry, it also made it nearly impossible for American textile manufacturers, who were still using manual looms, to compete.

Enter Francis Cabot Lowell (1775-1817), a Boston-based merchant who specialized in the international trade of textiles and other goods. Lowell had seen firsthand how international conflict jeopardized the American economy with its dependence on foreign goods. The only way to neutralize this threat, Lowell reasoned, was for America to develop a domestic textile industry of its own that was capable of mass production.

During a visit to Great Britain in 1811, Francis Cabot Lowell spied on the new British textile industry. Using his contacts, he visited a number of mills in England, sometimes in disguise. Unable to buy drawings or a model of a power loom, he committed the power loom design to memory. Upon his return to Boston, he recruited master mechanic Paul Moody to help him recreate what he had seen.

Backed by a group of investors called Boston Associates, Lowell and Moody opened their first functional power mill in Waltham, Mass., in 1814. Congress imposed a series of duty tariffs on imported cotton in 1816, 1824, and 1828, making American textiles more competitive still.

The Lowell Mill Girls

Lowell's power mill wasn't his only contribution to American industry. He also set a new standard for working conditions by hiring young women to run the machinery, something nearly unheard of in that era. In exchange for signing a one-year contract, Lowell paid the women relatively well by contemporary standards, provided housing, and offered educational and training opportunities.

When the mill cut wages and increased hours in 1834, the Lowell Mill Girls, as his employees were known, formed the Factory Girls Association to agitate for better compensation. Although their efforts at organizing met with mixed success, they earned the attention of author Charles Dickens, who visited the mill in 1842.

Dickens praised what he saw, noting that, "The rooms in which they worked were as well ordered as themselves. In the windows of some there were green plants, which were trained to shade the glass; in all, there was as much fresh air, cleanliness, and comfort as the nature of the occupation would possibly admit of."

Lowell's Legacy

Francis Cabot Lowell died in 1817 at the age of 42, but his work did not die with him. Capitalized at $400,000, the Waltham mill dwarfed its competition. So great were the profits at Waltham that the Boston Associates soon established additional mills in Massachusetts, first at East Chelmsford (later renamed in Lowell's honor), and then Chicopee, Manchester, and Lawrence.

By 1850, Boston Associates controlled one-fifth of America's textile production and had expanded into other industries, including railroads, finance, and insurance. As their fortunes grew, the Boston Associates turned to philanthropy, establishing hospitals and schools, and to politics, playing a prominent role in the Whig Party in Massachusetts. The company would continue to operate until 1930 when it collapsed during the Great Depression.

Dallas Museum of Art

The museum's history began with the establishment in 1903 of the Dallas Art Association, which initially exhibited paintings in the Dallas Public Library. Frank Reaugh, a Texas artist, saw in the new library the opportunity to display works of art. This idea was championed by May Dickson Exall, who was the first president of the Dallas Public Library. Her intention was the following: “to offer art interest and education through exhibitions and lectures, to form a permanent collection, to sponsor the work of local artists, to solicit support of the arts from individuals and businesses, and to honor citizens who support the arts.”

The museum’s collections started growing from this moment on. It soon became necessary to find a new permanent home. The museum, renamed the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1932, relocated to a new art deco facility within Fair Park in 1936, on the occasion of the Texas Centennial Exposition. This new facility was designed by a consortium of Dallas architects in consultation with Paul Cret of Philadelphia. It is still possible to visit this building.

In 1943, Jerry Bywaters became the director of the museum, a position he held for the next twenty-one years. Artist, art critic, and teacher, Bywaters gave a sense of identity and community to the museum. Gustave Courbet, Fox in the Snow, 1860 Under Bywaters' tenure, impressionist, abstract, and contemporary masterpieces were acquired and the Texas identity of the museum was emphasized. This identity is today represented by works by Alexandre Hogue, Olin Herman Travis, Bywaters himself, and others.

In 1963, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts merged with the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art, whose director for the previous four years had been Douglas MacAgy. In 1964 Merrill C. Rueppel became the director of the newly merged Museum. The permanent collections of the two museums were then housed within the DMFA facility, suddenly holding significant works by Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Gerald Murphy, and Francis Bacon. In 1965, the museum held an exhibition called The Art of Piet Mondrian and one entitled Sculpture: Twentieth Century.

By the late 1970s, the greatly enlarged permanent collection and the ambitious exhibition program fostered a need for a new museum facility. Under Harry Parker’s direction, the museum was able to move once again, to its current venue, at the northern edge of the city’s business district (the now designated Dallas Arts District). The $54 million facility, designed by New York architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, was financed by a 1979 City bond election, together with private donations. The project was galvanized by the slogan “A Great City Deserves a Great Museum,” and the new building opened in January 1984.

The Keir Collection Gallery presents a selection of masterworks of Islamic art from the Keir Collection, now on long-term loan to the Dallas Museum of Art. Ranking among the finest private collections of Islamic art in the world, the collection is particularly strong in Islamic ceramics, encompassing almost the whole range of innovations in ceramic design and technology from the 8th to the 19th century. The collection also includes fascinating examples of medieval Islamic metalwork, including a bronze ewer with silver inlay made for a Christian monastery in Mosul, Iraq, by famed artisan Ahmad al-Dhaki al-Mawsili. Perhaps the most emblematic object in the Keir Collection is a 10th-century rock crystal ewer (pitcher) made for a Fatimid caliph in Cairo from a single, massive quartz crystal. It has gold enameled mounts added by French jeweler Jean-Valentin Morel in the late 19th century.

Every four months, the presentation is refreshed with a new selection of rare manuscripts, book paintings, textiles, carpets, and other organic materials. This practice helps conserve delicate, centuries-old materials by limiting their exposure to the effects of light. Works of art by contemporary artists from the Islamic world are also displayed in rotation from time to time.

Easter eggs

Eating and giving eggs during Easter time has a long and interesting past and comes from various different cultures. The oldest decorated eggs have been found in Diepkloof, South Africa - ostrich eggs dated 60,000 years old!

In the Ancient World eggs were always given as gifts during the Spring equinox as a symbol of rebirth and life and in Ancient Persia, these eggs were painted and decorated since 1500 BCE. It is a practice that is still done to this day during Nowrooz. Not just were eggs coloured and decorated but many games were also played with them and the winner would win all the eggs.

After harsh Winter months eggs were revered as food that would give instant life and energy and thus to receive it as a gift at the start of Spring was regarded as a very special gift. After the spread of Christianity in Europe, boiled eggs were eaten after the strict fasting periods preceding Easter Friday and parents later would start treasure hunts for their children with the eggs. Colouring these eggs was part of the festivities prior to Easter to excite children for the treasure hunt. Happy Easter everyone!

The Victoria and Albert Museum

This history of the V&A is a story like no other. From its early beginnings as a Museum of Manufactures in 1852, to the foundation stone laid by Queen Victoria in 1899, to today's state-of-the-art galleries, the Museum has constantly evolved in its collecting and public interpretation of art and design. Its collections span 5,000 years of human creativity in virtually every medium, housed in one of the finest groups of Victorian and modern buildings in Britain.

Henry Cole, the V&A's first Director, declared that the Museum should be a "schoolroom for everyone". Its mission was to improve the standards of British industry by educating designers, manufacturers and consumers in art and science. Acquiring and displaying the best examples of art and design contributed to this mission, but the 'schoolroom' itself was also intended to demonstrate exemplary design and decoration. The story of the design and construction of the V&A's buildings, and of the personalities who guided this process, is one of persistent vision and ingenuity, amid the changing artistic, political and economic circumstances of the last 150 years.

The V&A holds over 19,000 items from the Middle East and North Africa, ranging from the early Islamic period (the 7th century) to the early 20th century. These vibrant collections include holdings of metalwork, ceramics, architectural woodwork and textiles, in particular from Iran, and also from Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and the countries of North Africa. Highlights include the Ardabil Carpet, the world's oldest dated carpet and one of the largest, most beautiful and historically important.