At Islamic courts, tents were symbols of royal power and prosperity; wealthy dynasties owned thousands of tents in various shapes and sizes. Tents were often presented as luxurious gifts but also pitched for imperial ceremonies and military campaigns, and while travelling. The Cleveland Museum of Art has acquired a spectacular imperial tent, on display to the public for the first time from July 19, 2015, to August 21, 2016, created for Muhammad Shah who ruled Iran from 1834 to 1848 during the Qajar dynasty.
This royal tent retains its complete ceiling, with each roof panel displaying birds flanking the base of blossoming branches. Seven of the original fourteen wall panels form a semicircle, which allows visitors to see and enter the ornate interior. Featuring inlaid, brilliantly colored woolen cloth embellished with silk-thread embroidery, each interior wall panel is decorated with a single large vase of exuberant blossoms set between robust birds on a rocky mound under a niche with blossoming vines. The exterior, in contrast, is covered with a plain red cotton cloth.
This exhibition will include a portrait of the owner and a video with images of the royal family and courtly life, contextualizing the times in which such tents were commissioned and used.