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1  The Buccleuch Sanguszko Carpet, Kerman, Iran, 1550-1600. 2.26 x 4.52 m(7' 5" x 14' 10"). This carpet belongs to a group named after the most famous example of type, now in the Miho Museum, Japan, which was reportedly war booty after the Battle of Chocim (1621) and later passed to the Sanguszko family. The carpets in the group depict animals and were made in Kerman in the second half of the 16th century, and are perhaps the earliest extant production from the city’s looms. The cartouche field is unique within the group and the blue border has large yellow cartouches similar in form to those on the V&A’s Ardabil Carpet. This carpet shares many features with the Mantes Cathedral ‘Paradise Park’ carpet in the Louvre and may be contemporaneous. Boughton House, Northamptonshire, UK

2  Portrait of a Woman from New Julfa, Markos, before 1649. Royal Collection Trust

Marvels of five millennia

‘Epic Iran’, set to open soon at the V&A, is London’s first large-scale exhibition of the country’s culture for ninety years. Sarah Piram, the museum’s Curator for the Iranian Collections, puts the event in context

The UK’s last major exhibition to present an overarching narrative of Iran was in 1931: the ‘International Exhibition of Persian Art’ at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. With more than 2,000 objects on display, it was a major success with both the public and the art market. In the manner of the time, works were organised according to the materials used or by vague chronology. A central hall of carpets was flanked by a room of ‘masterpieces’ and another room of ‘miscellaneous’ objects.

Almost a century has passed since then, and our knowledge of Iranian culture has developed considerably through several different disciplines, from ancient archaeology to discoveries of Islamic art. Now comes a fresh opportunity to examine Iran’s rich artistic history while showcasing works by leading contemporary artists.

Opening in spring 2021, the exhibition ‘Epic Iran’ will not only explore Islamic Iran, but will also cast a light on 5,000 years of Iranian culture, from 3200 BCE to the present day. The event brings together over 300 objects drawn from the V&A collections alongside national and international loans, including works from significant private collections. It is organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum—which has one of the world’s leading collections of Iranian art from the Islamic period— together with the Iran Heritage Foundation and the Sarikhani Collection.

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