This focused exhibition features illustrated Persian manuscripts and detached folios that were collected in the early 20th century by Harvard alumnus Bernard Berenson (1865–1959), the famous American art historian and connoisseur of Italian Renaissance painting. Berenson prized these works at his home in Florence, Villa I Tatti, which he bequeathed to Harvard and which now serves as the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. The exhibition offers the first opportunity to see these works outside Villa I Tatti.
Works in the exhibition are grouped according to the style in which each was created between the 14th and 17th centuries in Iran and Central Asia. Berenson’s important 15th-century Timurid manuscript will be displayed in an unbound state as part of an ongoing conservation and rebinding process. The show will also include additional related works from the Harvard Art Museums, the Morgan Library and Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. These works were collected by close associates of Berenson who shared his enthusiasm for Persian painting, at a time when this area of art was gaining considerable prestige among collectors.
The exhibition sheds important new light on Berenson’s little-known and understudied Persian collection, highlighting current research from various scholars on Berenson’s collecting interests and the artistic and cultural significance of the objects.