The Pergamonmuseum is completely closed due to construction work. Pergamonmuseum. Das Panorama remains open. Tickets


Museum für Islamische Kunst Acquires Silk Tapestry from the Estate of Alfred Cassirer

Museum für Islamische Kunst

The Museum für Islamische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin has acquired a spectacular 16th-century silk tapestry form the workshops of the Iranian city of Kashan. This masterpiece of textile-making forms part of one of the most valuable groups of tapestries in the world and originates from the estate of the art collector Alfred Cassirer. The tapestry is now on display in the Pergamonmuseum.

This new acquisition is one of a group of extraordinarily fine silk tapestries that made their way to Europe from the courts of the Shah of Iran in the 16th and early 17th centuries, many of which were commissioned by, or created as gifts for, foreign rulers. Produced from silk yarns and adorned with gold and silver thread, this group of silk tapestries is comparable in production technique to European wool tapestries, but the textiles are much finer in terms of material, execution, and visual effect. Iranian textiles and carpets are renowned right around the world and have been traded in the East and West alike for centuries.

The Art Collection of Alfred Cassirer

The German-Jewish industrialist and art collector Alfred Cassirer (1875–1932) acquired this rare piece and other major items in the 1920s on the advice of the Museum für Islamische Kunst, partly with a view to filling some of the gaps in the Berlin collection over the ensuing years and decades. Cassirer had left numerous objects to the museum before his death, but never formally donated them. His collection, which from 1932 was in the possession of his daughter, Eva Cassirer, was partially destroyed by the Nazis in 1934.

After Eva Cassirer passed away, the remaining 14 classical carpets were returned to her heirs in 2012, who later offered the Museum für Islamische Kunst the chance to acquire the pieces. Thanks to the support of the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung and the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States, the jewel of this collection has now been acquired and will once again enrich the Museum’s collection.

This silk tapestry is of exceptional quality and vibrancy; it is a very special piece. But it also has a significant emotional value for us. Not only does it underscore Alfred Cassirer's close connection with our collection, it also bears witness to a pluralistic society that endured for centuries and to the intertwined histories of Europe and the Islamic world. My thanks for this spectacular acquisition go to the Alfred und Eva Cassirer Stiftung, the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, and the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States.

Stefan Weber, Director of the Museum für Islamische Kunst

This acquisition is accompanied by a donation of seven ceramic objects and eight carpets. Since 2020, in collaboration with the Alfred und Eva Cassirer Stiftung, the Museum für Islamische Kunst has been conducting a provenance research project on the dispersal of Alfred Cassirer’s art collection between 1933 and 1945.

The role of Jewish collectors, donors and scholars was of crucial importance for Islamic art in the 19th and early 20th centuries. During this era, they were central to the establishment of related academic disciplines and made numerous key donations that helped consolidate the Berlin collection, which is the oldest museum of its kind in Europe or America. The objects in the Pergamonmuseum also illustrate the presence of Jewish traditions within predominantly Muslim regions. For centuries, religious minorities were active forces in cultural production in North Africa and Central Asia. This theme will not only be the focus of a number of films that will accompany the exhibition in the museum’s Mediathek, but from 2027, will be explored in more depth in the new permanent exhibition of the Museum für Islamische Kunst in the Pergamonmuseum’s renovated north wing.

The newly acquired silk tapestry is now on display in the Safavid Room in the Pergamonmuseum, and will remain there until the museum is closed for refurbishment on 23 October 2023.