the sackler gallery

Refugees are by definition the most vulnerable people among us. Families don’t choose to sacrifice everything they have and leave their homes unless their homes become like the mouth of a shark. Scapegoating people who are fleeing for their lives is an inhumanity that no person with a heart should be able to defend.
—  Commentary by Bilal Askaryar, who helps manage the Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries. He holds a master’s degree from the American University School of International Service. He arrived in the United States as a refugee fleeing the war in Afghanistan when he was 5 years old.

When you walk into the Smithsonian’s “Art of the Qur'an” exhibition, you’re met with a book that weighs 150 pounds. The tome, which dates back to the late-1500s, has giant pages that are covered in gold and black Arabic script.

“Somebody spent a lot of time, probably years, to complete this manuscript,” says curator Massumeh Farhad. “… The size tells you a great deal about it. I mean, clearly this was not a manuscript that could have been taken out every day for private reading. This was a manuscript that was intended for public display.”

That manuscript is among more than 50 centuries-old Qurans on display at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. The exhibition isn’t about the words of the Quran so much as the people who laboriously copied the book, letter by letter. Some of their names are listed (one manuscript was written by a vizier, or prime minister, of the Ottoman Empire), but most of the creators are unknown.

Quran Exhibition Shines A Light On The Holy Books’ Dedicated Artists

Photos: Raquel Zaldivar/NPR

“Excavation of Persepolis (Iran): Throne Hall, Southern Wall, West Jamb of Western Doorway: View of Uppermost Register Picturing Enthroned King Giving Audience under the Winged Symbol with Partly Encircled Figure of Ahuramazda”


glass negative from the Ernst Herzfeld Papers

Freer and Sackler Archives

The Shapur Plate


Medium: Silver and gilt 

Type: Metalwork

Date: 4th century 

 Accession Number: F1934.23 

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

“I, Shapur, king of kings, partner with the Stars, brother of the Sun and Moon, to my brother Constantius Caesar offer most ample greeting.…”

Description from The Smithsonian Museum:  “Like Shapur’s flowery letter to the Roman emperor Constantine, this masterpiece of silverwork presents Shapur II as a ruler of the universe, the king of kings.

It was produced during the fourth century CE for Shapur II, the Sasanian king who is identified by his distinctive crown. He was one of the most powerful rulers of the Sasanian dynasty, which controlled Iran and much of the Ancient Near East from 224 to 651 CE. During Shapur’s reign, scenes depicting the king hunting gazelle, boars, bulls, and ibex were important metaphors for royal power. The plate, like several other similar examples, was presented as a gift to dignitaries or was displayed prominently in the Sasanian palace to assert Shapur’s sovereignty.

This Sasanian plate, however, was not discovered in Iran, but in Russia. Its journey from Iran to Russia and then to the United States and the Freer Gallery of Art is as important to its identity as was its role in the Sasanian court. Acquired by a wealthy Russian noble family, the Stroganovs, on the borderlands of Siberia, it was displayed in their palace in Saint Petersburg until the Russian Revolution of 1917. In 1934 it became one of the first works of Sasanian art to enter the United States, and it is among the most important Sasanian objects in an American museum”  via: smithsonian 


Text:   Smithsonian Museum

“Excavation of Persepolis (Iran): Gate of All Lands, Colossal Sculptures Depicting Man-Bulls: View before Excavation, Looking North-West”


glass negative from the Ernst Herzfeld Papers

Freer and Sackler Galleries


Have you seen #artofquran?

#Reposting @esagheer – From our visit to the The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts Exhibition!
Don’t miss it! You will love the gift shop.
#artofquran #quran #Islam
Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries
October 22, 2016–February 20, 2017
Almost sixty sumptuous manuscripts, created from Herat to Istanbul between the early eighth and the seventeenth century, are featured in The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. This exhibition is the first major presentation of Qur’ans in the United States. Celebrated for their superb calligraphy and lavish illumination, these manuscripts play a significant role in the history of the arts of the book in the Islamic world. The volumes were once the prized possessions of Ottoman sultans, queens, pashas, and viziers, who presented them as gifts to other rulers, as rewards to noblemen, or endowed them to important public institutions. Together, the manuscripts convey stories of personal piety and political power that are explored in this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.
Here is the link to the official website

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“Excavation of Persepolis (Iran): Gate of All Lands, Trilingual Cuneiform Inscription, XPa, Inscribed on North Jamb of Western Doorway”


glass negative from the Ernst Herzfeld Papers

Freer and Sackler Galleries