Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pearls of Persian Art @ Harvard Art Museum

Among the roughly 170 pieces of Islamic art that Norma Jean Calderwood and her husband left to Harvard, one in particular hints at the late collector’s philosophy: an earthenware bowl bearing, in precise calligraphy, the epigram “Greed is a sign of poverty.”

Now that little-seen collection, amassed by Calderwood over 30 years and donated by her and her husband, Stanford, to Harvard in 2002, will be put on public display.
Among the fruits of Calderwood’s labors are folios from illustrated manuscripts of famed medieval Persian poems, such as the “Shahnama” (“Book of Kings”) and the “Khamsa” (“Quintet”); elegant ceramic bowls bearing both Islamic teachings and lines of Persian poetry; and single-page compositions such as “Young Dervish” by Riza Abbasi, the most influential artist of 17th-century Iran.