Iran at odds with France over ancient artworks

Iran has declared a cultural war with one of the world's largest museums, the Louvre in Paris, which it accuses of reneging on a promise to send part of its collection of ancient Persian artefacts to an exhibition in Tehran.

The Iranian vice president and culture minister, Hamid Baghai, said this week that Tehran was cutting all relations with the museum but he failed to pursue a threat, made in February, to sever all cultural links between Iran and France.

The dispute has similarities with a row last year between Tehran and the British Museum. Iran demanded damages and threatened to cut links with the London museum after it postponed the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder, one of the most significant examples of early cuneiform writing from ancient Persia. The cylinder was eventually sent in September to a very successful exhibition in the capital.

Officials at the Louvre deny promising to send part of their Persian collection – one of the finest in the world – for display in Iran. They say a general cultural accord with Iran, which ends in June, spoke vaguely of possible loans but made no commitments.

Iran has not publicly asked for any specific items in the collection but the museum holds some of the most important Persian objects, including a basalt tablet engraved with the Code of Hammurabi, found in Iran by the French archaeologist Jacques de Morgan in 1901. The code of the 17th century BC Babylonian king is one of the oldest known sets of laws.

The tablet includes the injunction: "If a man knocks the teeth out of another man his own teeth will be knocked out."

Although the Franco-Iranian row has not got to the fisticuffs stage it does reflect an increasingly militant attitude by several Middle Eastern countries to large parts of their ancient cultural heritage being in museums in Europe and the United States.

Hamid Baghai, Iran's culture, heritage, handicrafts and tourism minister, said: "Based on our agreement, [the Louvre] should have sent us some artefacts in order to set up an exhibition here but for unknown reasons they have not."

"In the cultural field, we do not accept that European countries look down on us."

Officials at the Louvre said the museum had never signed a "precise and definite" agreement to send items to Iran. They said there was a "partnership" agreement which spoke of possible exhibitions but no definite plans.

Iran did, however, lend artefacts from the Safavid-era (1501-1736) to the Louvre's exhibition called, "The Song of the World" from October 2007. Tehran claims it was led to expect the French museum would allow part of its Persian collection to go to Iran in return.

The Louvre collection, running to hundreds of objects, was removed from Persia, as it was then known, by French archaeologists in the 19th century.

As well as the Code of Hammurabi, the Louvre also has large sections of ornamental walls from the palace of the Persian emperor Darius I (522-486 BC) including a beautiful frieze of lions and a frieze of archers. These were acquired in the 1880s by the French archaeologist Marcel Dieulafoy.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Scandi crush: Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    Th Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn