The masterpieces of Iranian art now on exhibit at the Aga Khan Museum tell the story of a society at a crossroads between tradition and transformation, through pieces from the Louvre, Houston’s museum of fine arts, Sackler gallery and McGill University’s special collections vault. The trends are seen in a painting of the first Persian ruler to take full advantage of large-scale portraits as a symbol of power, a gift from Napoleon I, in rare book bindings, European military influences, pre-Islamic Iranian symbols, to Christian references in Persian art.
A microcosm of life in 19th century Iran on a pen case.
I see a photograph of myself. In it I was on the bus travelling north to Tehran. We were going to visit friends, but that is not so important to the story. I was sitting alone because he was not talking to me. We were driving through the flat, dry landscape of my dreams, like the movies. I was wearing a maghnae, like a schoolgirl would wear, or a nun’s wimple. It’s tight around my face, but easier than wrestling with a headscarf that slides off my hair too easily. This particular day there was a stray hair sticking out, under my chin. I remember trying to locate it, unsuccessfully. It was troubling me. In the photograph I can see it, under my chin. That little hair sticking out reminds me of how I felt that day. Resigned. As much as I may have tried to tame the stray bits, one always found its way out of its cover.