Hidden Treasures: Gertrud Rennhard’s “Iran Collection”

On Sunday December 4th the GRASSI Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig is not only officially unveiling the restored Josef-Alber-Window on the main staircase and opening the Werner Bünck retrospective “Metall.Keramik.Stein”.

The Pfeilerhalle is also hosting a new exhibition displaying some of the items from Gertrud Rennhard’s “Iran Collection”

Born in Zürich Gertrud Rennhard joined the Swiss Foreign Office in 1945 and in 1947 received her first overseas posting, to Sao Paulo. Following tenures in Rome and in Basel, Gertrud Rennhard was posted to Tehran in 1962 where she remained until her retirement in 1976.

During this 14 year period Gertrud Rennhard not only travelled extensively throughout Iran and neighbouring countries, but passionately collected objects of Islamic art: be it calligraphy, carpets, coins, jewellery, furniture, whatever…

Comprising around 800 objects Gertrud Rennhard’s “Iran Collection” is a remarkable catalogue of the history and culture of the region from antiquity Persian until 20th century Iran.

Gertrud Rennhard’s collection is now in the possession of the GRASSI Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig, and by way of an introduction, part of the collection will be on display in the Pfeilerhalle until February 5th 2012.

Ahead of the opening we spoke to Historic Collection curator Dr Thomas Rudi, about the collection and museums plans for it.

Grassi Blog: To begin with, how did the collection come to be in the museum’s possession?

Dr. Thomas Rudi: In her will Frau Rennhard entrusted her two friends, Herr Steffan und Herr Schwäbe, with her collection on the condition that they should look for an appropriate museum to whom to present the complete collection. And we were lucky enough to be asked if we would like to take possession of the collection.

Grassi Blog. Very generous! How often does such a gift occur?

Dr. Thomas Rudi: We receive occasional gifts for which we are always very thankful; but a gift in this scale, a collection of around 800 objects, that is very rare. Unfortunately!

Grassi Blog: And what for you is the attraction in the collection?

Dr. Thomas Rudi: It is a very heterogeneous collection, that contains some truly outstanding objects such as the bronzes from Lorestan or the ceramics  from the middle ages. But then there are also some very interesting objects from the 19th and 20th centuries, so relatively late, and also items such as the porcelain from Russia that doesn’t originate in Iran, but which was produced specifically for the Iranian market.

Grassi Blog: The exhibition here is on display until February 2012. What happens to the collection then?

Dr.Thomas Rudi: The biggest job, which has already began, is that of documenting, describing and cataloging each individual object. The majority of the collection will then go into our magazine, but hopefully some of the pieces can also can be shown as part of our permanent exhibition.

Hidden Treasures: Gertrud Rennhard’s “Iran Collection” is on display at the GRASSI Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig from December 4th 2011 until February 5th 2012.

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