With their sumptuous surfaces, original designs, and technical sophistication, luxury textiles played a critical role in the social, cultural, religious, and economic life of Safavid Iran (1501–1722). Used for clothing, furnishing, and movable architecture, fabrics also functioned as important symbols of power and as ubiquitous forms of artistic expression. In the seventeenth century, they became the most lucrative economic commodity in Iran and were exported by land and sea to both Europe and the East, generating tremendous wealth and prosperity for the Safavid Empire.
To celebrate the Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is collaborating with the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, part of Qatar Museums, on an exhibition focusing on a selection of extraordinary seventeenth-century textiles and full-length portraits from Safavid Iran. Fine illustrated manuscript folios from our collections are also included in the exhibition.