MIA.2014.85Qatar Museums has opened Qajar Women: Images of Women in 19th-Century Iran exhibition today (Wednesday 8 April 2015) at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA).

Running until 16 June 2016, this new temporary exhibition showcases a wide variety of artworks from the Qajar period, all of which feature Persian women as the main subject. Under the patronage of QM Chairperson, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, this exhibition demonstrates the importance of women in the art of 19th-century Iran and how this continues to inspire contemporary artists. Commenting on the exhibition launch, Director of the MIA, Aisha Al Khater, said:

This innovative exhibition is designed to completely change the perception of Qajar art as a male-dominated medium. The wide variety of objects and artworks on display illustrate the ways in which images of women can be used to understand the history of their daily lives, their roles in aristocratic pursuits, how notions of feminine beauty change over time and how women were used as symbols in Qajar art. We hope these stories will capture the imagination of visitors from a wide range of communities and across cultures, just as they continue to inspire and educate artists today.’

Qajar Women presents a completely new and innovative approach to Qajar art. Until now, the most popular representations of the Qajar era (1779 to 1925) have been of male sovereigns whose life-size portraits exaggerate masculinity to depict power. Yet this era is also characterised by artistic modernisation in Iran. This is particularly true of paintings and photography, in which women became essential characters in the events and scenes portrayed. The exhibition includes artworks that reflect various interpretations of female musicians, aristocratic women, women at the court and in private quarters, all exploring the rarely-told narratives of the Qajar artistic tradition.

A wide variety of objects, including lacquers, watercolours, manuscripts, jewellery, ceramics, and metalwork, are displayed in the Temporary Exhibition Galleries on the 4th floor of MIA. The exhibition is divided into four themes: ‘Notions of Beauty: Images of Women in Qajar Art’; ‘Daily Life’; ‘Women, Power, and Refinement’; and ‘Women as Symbols in Art.’

Qajar Women: Images of Women in 19th-Century Iran offers visitors a visually stunning introduction into this important period of art history. Works by contemporary artists inspired by Qajar iconography are also on view, demonstrating how the imagery of Qajar women continues to inspire artists today.

MIA is also offering special public programmes in association with the exhibition, targeting women, academics, and families. These include daytime tours with exhibition curators, family activities on weekends, a learning beyond the classroom event scheduled for teachers, and many other programmes. A special talk entitled ‘Beauty and Moustaches in Qajar Art’ will be delivered by the exhibition curators Dr Mounia Chekhab-Abudaya and Dr Nur Sobers-Khan in May 2015.

Visitors are encouraged to share their photos of the exhibition on social media using #QajarWomen. For more information or museum hours, visit MIA’s website.