The Negarestan Museum of 18th and 19th Century Iranian Art

The Negārestān Museum was inaugurated on April 23rd, 1975 (24 Farvardīn, 1354) by Their Majesties Empress Farah and the late Moḥammad Reza Pahlavi.
M. Pirnia, “Monarch, Empress Open 'Most Precious Museum'” from Kayhan International,
Tehran, April 23, 1975. View of the grounds of Kakh e Marmar Palace, the former Negārestān Museum circled in red, and the Qurʾān Museum, Tehran, Iran (map in the public domain; Google Maps)

The Negārestān Museum was situated in downtown Tehran, in a park adjoining the Marble Palace (Kākh-e Marmar) on the corner of present-day South Felestīn Street and Emām Khomeini Street (then Kakh and Sepah streets). The building itself was constructed at the time of Reza Shah Pahlavi (1925-41).

Formerly used as the residence of the Queen Mother, Tāj al-Moluk (tenure 1925-1941), the building served as the residence of Empress Farah during her engagement in 1959. During the renovation of the structure in 1974-75, the interior was converted by the consulting design firm, "Art Centrum" of Czechoslovakia, (Professor Jaroslav Friç Director), into a modern museum in collaboration with Her Imperial Majesty's Private Secretariat.

The selection of paintings covered a wide range. The majority of the collection belonged to the finest and most clearly defined period of the nineteenth century, that is, the reign of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah. Also on permanent exhibit were examples of the arts of the book, lacquer work, and decorative arts of the period. The collection was acquired in part through the Private Secretariat and its advisors, and in part through the generosity of private collectors. The collection grew from a few hundred works in 1975 to approximately 3,000 works by 1978.

After its opening, the Negārestān became the permanent home of the largest and finest public collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century Iranian painting in the Western Hemisphere. Sixty-three Qajar paintings, formerly in the collection of the Rt. Hon Julian Amery, were acquired by Empress Farah in 1969. By this historic and unprecedented act, the works were returned to their country of origin from England.

Portrait of Fath 'Ali Shah, by Mihr 'Ali, 1813 from Falk, Stephen John. 
Qajar paintings: Persian oil paintings of the 18th & 19th centuries. Faber & Faber, 1972.

Among its activities were art education and temporary exhibition programs. In keeping with the aims of the Negārestān, these exhibitions covered a wide range of themes and materials, culled from private and public collections. The exhibitions were documented by bilingual catalogues (in Persian and English) and printed posters. In all, seven exhibitions were presented from 1975-78. The Revolutionary Guards occupied the building in 1979 and the Museum became an official government building. The collection, which had been catalogued, sealed and locked up, was handed over to officials at that time. As far as is known, the collection was transferred elsewhere but has not been sold.

M. Pirnia, “Monarch, Empress Open 'Most Precious Museum'” from Kayhan International, Tehran, April 23, 1975.
©Layla S. Diba, PhD.

 

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