TEHRAN – The key role played by birds of prey in the arts and culture of Iran and some other countries takes center stage at a new exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington DC
“Falcons: The Art of the Hunt” features items as old as an Egyptian limestone slab depicting a falcon dating from 664 to 525 BC from an attack, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC reported.
Additionally, the exhibit features a late 15th-century Ming dynasty hanging scroll of a falcon pursuing waterfowl, and from Iran, a 1640s drawing of two horsemen hunting with their birds.
Massumeh Farhad, the museum’s chief curator and scholar of Islamic art, says the collection was originally curated in 2020 before the COVID pandemic to complement the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s outdoor showcase that would spotlight the Arab Emirates. united, where falconry is particularly valued and has evolved into an innovative conservation practice.
Falconry – the sport of training the bird to capture prey and deliver it to human trainers – can date back to 2000 BC. Scholars disagree on the origin of falconry; some argue that the practice began in ancient Mesopotamia, others say ancient Iran.
The history of falconry has uncertain origins. “Whether it started in Iran or whether it started further west in the Arab world. Most scholars believe that in the 8th century, at the very beginning of Islam, we have evidence that falconry has become part of courtly and royal traditions,” says Farhad. “This is where we are on firm ground.”
A falcon as a rejected gift is one of many scenes in a colorful and heavily populated Iranian manuscript leaf from 1556 to 1565. Even harder to discern at first, a group of hunters and birds nestled in the corner of the Indian watercolor Maharaja Macho Singh Marches to the Hunt, circa 1775.
“Falcons: The Art of the Hunt” continues at the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art through July 17, 2022.