February 3rd, 2010
Being Iranian, I am fascinated by Persian rugs and the exquisite uniqueness that defines them. The art of carpet weaving in Iran is deeply connected with the culture and the customs of the country.
Being away from California, surrounded by snow in Switzerland and far from my natural “soft fascinations” (read flowers, sunshine, rustling trees) I am experiencing a funny sense of “ecoanxiety” that may be cured by writing about my favorite permanent garden: the Persian Rug…
The designs (naghsheh or cartoon—a grid on paper with spaces colored to guide rug weavers in selecting pile yarns) are still mostly drawn by hand even though computers are doing wonders in this field.
Iranians are literally conceived, born and brought up on Persian rugs! Warmed by their soft and comfortable texture, touching, caressing, lying down and relaxing on them, comes naturally to Persians. The rugs add warmth underfoot like my favorite red carpet with these gorgeous Shah Abbasi patterns (with floral and leaf motifs mainly in the form of lotus blossoms):
The density of tightly woven Persian knots (or guereh) are the calibrating tool for the quality of the rug,
a good Nain rug may have 500 kpsi or 500 knots per square inch (farsibaaf, asymmetric or Persian pile knot.)
This is how a flower looks on the back of this Nain (Na’in):
and the same carpet from the front:
Like most textiles, carpets consist of warps (tar) and wefts (pud). The warps are the threads running the length of the carpet. The wefts are the threads that run across its breadth. This is the same carpet spread out:
Persian rugs go by region (cities mostly— like Tabriz, Esfahan, Nain, Kashan, Kerman, etc…) and each region has its MasterWeaver brand. A small encased signature can usually be found in the minor border like Habibian in Nain, Pirouzian in Tabriz and Taghavi in Bijar.
The most important signature must be Maqsud Kashani’s (from 1540) on the famous pair of Ardabil Carpets. A poem of Hafez is woven into the cartouche:
“Except for thy threshold, there is no refuge for me in all the world.
Except for this door there is no resting place for my head.”
جز آستان توام در جهان پناهی نیست
سر مرا بجز این در حواله گاهی نیست
The Ardabil Carpets have an interesting story: the lower field and border of one of them has been used to restore the other (now in Victoria and Albert Museum in London). The used and abused twin sister was kept in the dark (not to outshine the V&A version) until 1931 and finally found her way to Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1965.
After exhaustive restoration done to the dazzling beauty, the LACMA sister was finally shown last year (look at how they had to wash it!)
The Ardabil carpets are the world’s oldest dated and historically important carpets in the world. This is the twin sister in Victoria and Albert museum in London:
A love for fine Farsh (rug in persian) may be one of the few things that Shahs and Mullahs have always agreed upon!
Even though I have visited the great Manufacture des Gobelins some years ago,
I am dying to see the real thing in Iran,
and take some great pictures.
I will leave you with this superb painting of my favorite Orientalist painter, Gerôme, called The Carpet Merchant (ca 1887):
A great site to get acquainted with Persian rugs: Farsh Mashad
Weaving Art Museum here
About different motifs and style here
December 19th, 2009
Strasbourgers in the Alsace region of France claim that they are the “Christmas Capital” of Europe so as a good muslim I went there to check.
Well, they keep saying it everywhere:
It was a very cold day but thousands of poeple were swarming the streets of this beautiful Alsatian city:
walking up and down narrow streets,
They have no pity for their babies fighting the cold,
maybe because they drink this mulled wine called “Vin Chaud” (hot wine) or “Gluehwein” (in german): a concoction usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar. They sell it in every other stand on the big Christmas market in Strasbourg:
I saw my first chocolate covered “strawberry kababs”:
Strasbourg is home to one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe:
where Jesus’ birth will be celebrated this year with pomp and thousands of little ornaments made in Alsace (read China):
The market is not close to the big church but right at its feet with Santa Claus himself selling some of the stuff:
Here is Alsace in all its glory (albeit in miniature):
with little chefs baking for the big birthday (Jesus’, remember?)
and big chefs of course making macaroons:
but for people with a weakness for great pastry I have a better treat:
and anything related to it:
Chocolate not being on my repertoire much, I opted for the fabulous chestnut cream “Mont Blanc”:
I went to the cathedral where a thousand Santas were busy clicking away on their cameras,
and a thousand candles promised to fulfill wishes…
By the end of the day, I was one of the few without a red hat,
Alsace’s emblem is a stork—you see them everywhere:
I couldn’t resist buying my first real mistletoe:
and looking at the holly,
I went to see the Fine Arts Museum:
where I revisited “the beautiful woman from Strasbourg”:
and the fabulous dutch still life paintings and my favorite Kessel insects of course:
By the time I got out it was getting dark but the market was still hustling and bustling,
This whole trip almost made me forget Copenhagen’s climate summit, the American Health Bill disaster and the Swiss minarets…
Have a golden Christmas everybody!
November 12th, 2009
I was inspired to create this poster here and the clip at the end of the post:
Some of the images were breathtaking and I would like to share them with you.
The Artistic Director of the Photoquai biennial is my friend, Anahita Ghabaian Etehadieh, Iranian founder and owner of the Silk Road Gallery, the only establishment in Iran dedicated exclusively to photography.
These two women were photgraphed by Bahman Jalali, one of the two curators of the exhibition:
More ambitious than the biennial itself, is the homage given to a sample of 165 years of Iranian photography, in the museum. It gives an overview of Iranian photography from the end of the 19th century, with the portraits from the Qajar era, up until the most contemporary works by major Iranian photographers. An uneven, discontinuous road full of great surprises…
I love this shy Tar player:
The exhibition was especially interesting to me in its depth if not breadth of the older photos. I love these cute children photographed with their father in early 20th century peeking out of their hejab:
The exhibit spills into 20th century with masterpieces like Kaveh Golestan’s images of Iran Iraq war:
This visual storytelling will continue in the Musée de la Monnaie, museum of the French Mint and Treasury until December 20th. The exhibition is called “between Hope and Chaos” dedicated to 30 years of Iranian photojournalism, the three most recent generations of Iranian photographers between the 1979 Islamic Revolution and 2009.
I would look for my favorite works exhibited by Newsha Tavakolian:
I prefer this one that I got from her site—there is something otherworldly about Persepolis under snow…
Photoquai tries to highlight and promote artists unknown or little known in Europe encouraging cross-cultural dialogue across the globe.
A promenade along the Seine at quai Branly had been transformed into an open-air exhibition of photography where 50 photographers, chosen by the likes of Reza Deghati, the phenomenal Iranian photographer, exhibit their work.
Watch a great clip in TV5 here (even if you don’t speak french!)
165 years of Iranian photography here
PhotoQuai, Quai Branly Museum here
Iran, between Hope and Chaos here
May 25th, 2009
A NY weekend —short and sweet just the way I like it.
The Chrysler building is still magnificent—I like the upper east side best.
sometimes photographers have to take some risks,
New York is a walking city and the shop windows are fabulous—I have dedicated an entire future post to it—Bergdorf Goodman’s window displays are so sophisticated, they are like mini-exhibitions.
India is big on Fifth Avenue:
so is the cathedral…
Manhattan is a “hall of mirrors” with a maze of old and new architecture to dazzle you:
Brownstones are beautiful in springtime,
so are bluestones!
Prepare yourself to eat half a cow at Carnegie Deli,
and then the other half:
Jim Dine’s Venus on the 6th avenue,
The upper west side is younger and hipper—Amsterdam avenue leads you to a little gem of a café, good enough to eat.
A hole in the wall, Zibetto espresso bar, is an ideal place to get you going again,
to see some more of this beautiful city:
and its skyline.
I visited the Metropolitan museum and the Frick Collection as my usual pilgrimage but the most exciting show was at the New York Public Library. I have two great exhibitions to tell you about but that’s got to be in the next post.
April 13th, 2009
These are the most interesting jazz images i’ve seen! The exhibition in Quai Branly museum in Paris was amazingly rich with visual complements to my favorite genre of music. Catch it if you can but if you don’t, here’s my report:
Miles Davis remains one of my favorites—the following are mostly LP covers from the mid 20th century:
To go through all of my images and get inspired to prepare them for this post, I’ve been listening to Mingus’ “better get it in your soul”.
Just look at this super cool Count Basie cover by Andy Warhol:
Benny Carter plays pretty:
Sidney Bechet in Paris in 1952:
Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet,
Daddy plays the horn,
The beautiful music of Charlie (the Bird) Parker,
I like these very 50’s percussion disc covers,
I am listening to Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane’s “Nutty”,
Now some posters from the 1920’s forward—Cary Hauser’s Jonny Mene La Danse from 1928:
Look at the musicians here:
Jan Mara’s Mezze Mezzrow is soooo not “Kenny (my middle name is boring) G”!
A relatively more recent poster from the Lincoln Center:
Now some paintings—Harlem Jazz by Winold Reiss, 1925:
The Lindy Hop by Miguel Covarrubias, 1936:
James Weeks‘ Two Musicians;
Nicolas de Stael‘s Musicians:
Blues by Archibald J. Motley Jr, 1929
Bernard Buffet‘s light drawings:
This Coltrane image is haunting:
and a very politically incorrect piece here called “cake-walk”—can’t imagine an American museum showing this:
Last but not least was this fabulous Fred Astair’s homage to Mr Bojangles on a huge screen that I manipulated of course!
to see him dance watch this absolutely great clip here.
It was very hard to take these pictures (some were on very fast slide shows!) and to clean and edit them later but it was a labor of love; I’ve been wanting to do a post about Jazz for the longest time but where to start? Where to end? Who to cover? This was the shortest way I could record my visit to the Land of Jazz. Thank you Daniel Soutif!
Voilà! Now you know…I have not even started talking about some of my other favorites: Louis Armstrong, Bill Evans, Fats Waller, Keith Jarrett, Ahmad Jamal, Lionel Hampton, etc…
To see some cool clips from the coolest of them all, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, go here
for a taste of the great Monk, go here
to hear the Bird, click here
to see the genius of Fred Astaire here.
April 6th, 2009
Just came back from a brief stay in Paris and these are some of my pictures:
The Louvre is glorious in early morning,
some jet-lagged tourists were the only people around,
early birds can witness the majesty of an empty Louvre Court.
When you wake up that early in the morning, everything is beautifully calm even in the nauseatingly crowded Paris,
Another lonely hyper-connected dude:
I met Jon Stewart at Deux Magots for breakfast that day—he made me laugh…
Angelina still has the best Mont Blanc of the city and it’s my duty to check the quality every time I am in town:
Of course my favorite is always “un petit noir au comptoir” (a quick small espresso at the cafés’ counter):
Couldn’t resist adding this image of Maryam from a couple of years ago…
October 5th, 2008
These are scary times and as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t bring myself into making a light post about the beauties of the old world…
I watched the debates in awe, witnessed the bickering over the financial bailout with disbelief and then Paul Newman died and I had the Paris Blues… Watch this magnificent trailer of Newman and Sidney Poitier in Paris of the 60’s.
Did anybody looked cooler than this guy? Beautiful man with a more beautiful heart. Smoking killed him.
Paris remains splendid in spite of all the bad news I have been getting from home—a walk through Place des Vosges at night washed away some of that.
The infernal crowds finally went home and left Isle Saint Louis in peace:
The best remedy— albeit temporary —for the blues is a visit to the Patisserie. Just looking at them can send you to the hospital…
I am not a chocolate or a strawberry person but I would kill for a Religieuse Café!
Window watching is a pleasure in this “walking city”,
Nobody has the money to buy any of these overpriced un-necessities anymore.
United States is trying to absolve itself from its sins and Europe will follow…
This one reminds me of the “poustines” we were wearing as kids back home:
Beautiful Mansard roofs are breathtaking:
but not enough to make me forget this:
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe. Einstein
June 16th, 2008
With these shameless gas prices, it’s less painful to look at cars than driving them. I went to an auto show today and two hours and 100 pictures later, I was about to over-dose on beautiful antique cars, gorgeous vintage sports cars and even the vulgar Ferraris and Maseratis…
I’ve never seen so many shades of red outside the cosmetic counter’s lipstick section! A good name for a shade of lipstick would be a “Ferrari red” – a “Corvette carmine” for a nail polish:
Lovely 1956 Chevrolet Bel Airs:
It was Rolls Royce galore in Rodeo Drive today but that will be for another post.
This 1938 Dubonnet Hispano Suiza is out of this world:
or this Delahaye:
To see more about fast cars, go here. Happy Father’s Day!
May 12th, 2008
It’s all about real human bodies preserved through Plastination. It takes more than 1500 hours of work to transform a corps into a plastinate – the near perfect representation of a once living human body. It’s interesting to see how each body has it own unique features, even on the inside.
We usually forget that beneath even the most beautiful bodys’ skin lies a skeleton, muscles, several feet of intestines and lots of other goodies!
This whole experience reminded me of a great rainy day last year when I visited the small Dupuytren museum in the school of medicine in Paris. Just look at the skull of this man hit by a rifle stick in 1807 – he died after two days.
And if you are (unlike me) into mythology, you may enjoy seeing a real Kyklōps (cyclops). After being exposed to all of the above, I listened today to my favorite podcast about the history of Brain.
I am not all flowers and poetry after all, am I?
To see more of the beautiful Joey House go to my post sex, sex, sex here.
added on September 15th 2009:
I have thousands of visitors to this post; can somebody please let me know, who/what is sending you here aside the hunt for beautiful naked bodies?
April 6th, 2008
Farah Pahlavi, the queen of Iran, is still alive and well, but people are not talking about her much. Things changed when it was reported last month that “the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art has put on display an exhibition that art experts call the most important collection of modern Western art outside Europe and the United States.” In the 1970’s she collected great works of art – about 150 paintings – by Picasso, Monet, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, etc…
I bought some old Paris Match magazines some years ago in Paris spanning from 1958 through 1969. It was interesting to see her on the cover from practically the minute she met the Shah in Paris. I put some of the photos from Paris Match together to share them with you.
She lived a Cinderella story that turned sour at the age of 41 after the Iranian revolution of 1979.
In spite of my belief that monarchy is absurd in the 21st century, it seems like I can’t shake my affinity for this lady; the fact that we both went to the same school (Jeanne d’Arc of Tehran) and had to endure the same French nuns may not have much to do with it.
The deposed queen has somehow survived the animosity that follows the Pahlavis wherever they go. At the minimum she should be applauded for amassing a collection of priceless art, as opposed to worthless shoes or stolen jewelry (see Queen Elizabeth and Imelda Marcos).
Her good reputation lasted way longer than her jewelry.
Two of her kids committed suicide: Leila and AliReza Pahlavi; that would be way more painful than losing a country. Aside from her oldest son, the other three never really had a chance…