British Museum: Love and Marriage in Iran

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Courting to Contract: Love and Marriage in Iran

The British Museum
21 May – 20 November 2016

Detail, Lovers in a garden. Painted in the style of ᶜAbd Allah. Ink, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Bukhara, c. 1560–1570. Bequeathed by Percival Chater Manuk and Miss G M Coles and funded by the Art Fund, 1948,1009,0.57


This small display in the British Museum celebrates the traditions associated with love, courtship and marriage in Iran and neighbouring regions.


Bridal outfit of Esther Manassah. Silk, cotton and gilded lace. Baghdad, Iraq, about 1865. Gift of Mrs R.E. Rea, As1971,09.2-3


A heart without love is a body without a soul. A soul lives forever because of love.’ So wrote the Persian poet, scholar and mystic, Jami (1414–1492), on love – of all subjects, perhaps the most universal to humankind. In Persianate culture, the theme of love has permeated literature, art and music for thousands of years. 



In the display, love and courtship are explored through drawings, illustrated manuscript pages and objects, depicting intimate scenes and classical Persian accounts of celebrated romances.



Illuminated Persian marriage contracts (ghabaleh), along with a Judaeo-Persian example (ketubbah) and an Old Babylonian contract carved onto a clay tablet, reflect the legal and social aspects of marriage and its roots in ancient tradition.



The works are complemented by a number of richly embroidered textiles, including wedding garments and accessories.



Dating mainly between the 1500s and the 20th century, these objects situate love and marriage within the histories, narratives and contexts of people from the Middle East and Central Asia.



The British Museum in London is one of the most famous museums of the world housing Persian artifacts which are preserved in the Department of the Middle East . This Department covers the ancient and contemporary civilisations and cultures of the Middle East from the Neolithic period until the present.



There is a wide range of archaeological material and ancient art from Mesopotamia (Iraq); Iran; the Levant (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel); Anatolia (Turkey); Arabia; Central Asia and the Caucasus. Highlights of the collection include Assyrian reliefs, treasure from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, the Oxus Treasure, Phoenician ivories and the library of cuneiform tablets from Nineveh.



The Islamic collection includes archaeological assemblages from Iraq, Iran and Egypt as well as collections of inlaid metalwork from medieval Iran, Syria and Egypt and Iznik ceramics from Turkey. In addition to Persian, Turkish and Mughal Indian works on paper, the department holds a major collection of contemporary art from the Middle East.



The department has an active fieldwork policy, and is currently involved in excavations across the Middle East. All material in the collection is made available to researchers in the Arched Room, one of the few rooms in the British Museum to have retained its Victorian splendour.


Source: The British Museum

More by British Museum in Iran Review: Iranian Antiques in British Museum

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