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Persia - Expo Paris 1878

Missing picture

The Persian exhibition had a particular attraction for us this time; the ruler of Persia, - the only exhibitor, says the official catalogue, - is known to us; we have seen him in Paris, we have met him in our streets, in our theatres. Persia should therefore have inspired us with a particular interest.

It must be acknowledged that it deserves in every respect the attention given to it by the visitors.

His Majesty Nasr-Eddin must have given his particular care to the composition of this exhibition, which is very complete and gives a perfectly accurate idea of the riches of the country.

We shall examine it class by class.

Here are the musical instruments first.

Mr. J. Weber, in the newspaper Le Temps, spoke as follows about the Persian exhibition, from the musical point of view.

After noting that the fashion for mosaics has extended to musical instruments, he adds:
"I did not see any wind instruments, but only stringed instruments and percussion instruments.

"There are two very pretty toun-beck or small drums made of Shiraz ivory mosaic, shaped like ciboriums or very large stemmed glasses; then two dairek or large Basque drums, fitted with rings; two small timpani together and two metal castanets, about four centimetres in diameter.

"The sauntour is also made of mosaic; it is the instrument we met in the Hungarian exhibition under the name of cymbalum. The Hungarian instrument has 34 notes, each with 3 or 4 metal strings; the sauntour has 18 notes, with 4 strings each. I need not remind you that the strings are set in vibration by percussion, by means of small hammers. The plucked instruments are represented by a kind of guitar with a long neck and four strings; the only bowed instruments are two rebobs, one of which is made of mosaic; on the other, the bridge is missing. In these last three instruments, the upper part of the sounding board is made of a skin, the purpose of which is easy to guess, but which cannot take away from the rebob its thin and nasal sound; perhaps it even contributes to give it this defect which, for oriental ears, is a quality.


Persian earthenware is justly renowned; so it is to be regretted, especially when contemplating splendid glazed dishes, that ceramics are not more abundantly represented.

Carpets are the triumph of Persia; there are splendid samples of them at the Champ de Mars. We would like to describe them; but how can we explain the marvellous effect of these silk embroideries of a perfect finish, running capriciously over incomparable sheets? How can we describe these velvets so richly embroidered with gold and silver and interspersed with pearls?

Goldsmiths show us glove boxes, silver spoons inlaid with gold, etc., etc.

The art bronzes are also very remarkable, firstly because of their richness, and secondly because they give the visitor an idea of the comfort and refinement of Persian life.

Next come inlaid plates, vases, torches, Persian pipes, bath buckets, coffee pots, incense burners, etc., etc.

It should be noted, moreover, that the Orientals seek beauty, not only to appear, not only for the gallery, but above all for themselves. They want all objects, even those used for the smallest purposes, to be beautiful, elegant and sought after.

Weapons are the objects for which they demand the most luxury. The exhibition of Persian weapons is very curious; it is completed by a certain quantity of ancient weapons.


We have finished with the luxury objects; we shall now go through the second part of the exhibition; this second part will acquaint us with the riches of the soil.

The mines produce earth coal, silver lead and copper ores, marble, porphyry, agates, turquoise, etc.

The trees of the country are the oak, the beech, the plane tree, the jujube, the walnut, the lemon tree, the orange tree, the mulberry tree; in this class we even find specimens of vine stocks.

Silk, indigo, madder, gall, saffron, tobacco, opium, mallows, manna, assa-foetida, castor oil seeds, appear alongside superb hides from buffalo, cows, goats, etc.

Let us note in passing, among the furs, some splendid astrakans.

Finally, when we have mentioned the cereals: wheat, barley, rice, corn, and the vegetables and fruits: peas, beans, lentils, almonds, pistachios, preserved grapes and figs, it only remains to salute the renowned wines of Shiraz and Casbin.

©Les Merveilles de l'Exposition de 1878