Bestowing Beauty: Masterpieces from Persian Lands—Selections from the Hossein Afshar Collection

Yale Univ. 2019. 304p. ed. by Aimee Froom. ISBN 9780300247022. $85. fine arts;.
Published as a “reflection” of a 2017–18 exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, this impressive volume includes a wealth of information provided by specialists in the field, gathered by curator Froom, who overseas the museum’s Art of the Islamic Worlds collection. This title looks at one of the most distinguished and diverse private collections of Persian art spanning several centuries. Miniatures, ceramics, portraits, gold inlaid pages of the Qur’an, velvets, silks, paintings from Firdausi’s epic Shahnama (Book of Kings), and miles of splendid carpets depicting the natural and mythical world are included. A 17th-century copper bowl, inscribed with a prayer for its owner, glows with a sheen contrasted by the black incisions. A more modern addition is a 19th-century portrait of the fourth ruler of the Qajar dynasty, seated in his gilded chair, draped in jewels. The themes are universal: faith and piety, nature and fantasy, celebrations and rituals, as well as warriors, battles and sacrifice.
VERDICT Art lovers and scholars alike will delight in this visually and intellectually stimulating collection of Persian art.
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