Find a Treasure Trove in Grinnell

“Combat Between Two Horsemen from Firdowsi’s Shahnama (Book of Kings),” from the mid-14th to early 16th century, was a gift from Nanette Rodney Kelekian to the Grinnell College Museum of Art.

In the 1890s, a Turkish-born art and antiquities dealer named Dikran Kelekian set up shop in Istanbul and sailed to the United States to oversee the Persian pavilion at the Chicago World’s Fair. Nearly a century later, one of his granddaughters started donating pieces of his vast collection to several prominent institutions, including Harvard University and Grinnell College, where more than 50 pieces are on display in a new show.

Fragmentary Visions: Grinnell College’s Kelekian Collection” showcases rare ceramics, textiles and manuscripts from the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Some are more than a thousand years old.

This is the first time the collection has been displayed together, although students have examined the objects in storage over the years. “It’s a wonderful teaching tool,” museum director Susan Baley says. “It’s really cool to be able to physically touch works that have been around that long.”

Visitors can see (but not touch) the exhibition through May 6 at the Grinnell College Museum of Art. Its four student curators plan to discuss their research during a brief talk at 11 a.m. Feb. 21.

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