Walking into the Shah ‘Abbas exhibition in the British Museum’s Reading Room was almost a sense of ‘déjà vu’ as the very English Sir Robert Sherley & wife Teresia gaze down as they did in the Tate’s ‘Lure of the East’ exhibition last year .
This time they were not included because of the gorgeous costumes but for Robert Sherley’s role as Persian Ambassador from Shah ‘Abbas to various European Courts .
In 2007 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque which of course has a very Persian flavour to it with the style of Shah Abbas’s dynasty throughout the interior of the building.
As Sultan Qaboos seems to like Persian art he will enjoy his visit to Iran this month. Perhaps the visit by the Omani Minister of Tourism in May to Homs and other Iranian cities was a build up to this visit – one trusts that the current political uncertainty will not affect His Majesty’s visit.
I enjoyed a visit to Tate Britain during ‘The Lure of the East’ painting exhibition. The canvases, by British artists, included one of Sir Robert Shirley, an envoy between the Persian and British courts, looking quite splendid in Persian style garments; their colour and decoration being Safavid are in the same style as the carpet in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Remarkably I came across a watercolour by the Victorian artist’ Arthur Melville cited as being inspired by a cock fight in Muscat.
Another piece by him showing an interior with ‘Mashrabiya” was set in a section of the gallery screened with a Mashrabiya – a nice setting .
On the same day I had a meeting with Jessica Harrison-Hall the Curator of Chinese Ceramics at the British Museum. No sooner did I arrive but the door was opened with the instruction – “we need to evacuate the building”. Fortunately, it was only for about 40 minutes and she then very kindly dated some shards I had come across in various locations in Oman. The Hadrian exhibition will have to wait for another day.