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Fifty Shades of Collecting: Jean Pozzi and his Islamic Collection 

Negar Habibi 

British Institute of Persian Studies, 22.5.24, Zoom 


This talk aims to document the life and art collecting career of Jean Pozzi (1885-1967), a French plenipotentiary Minister in Iran (in 1935) and Egypt (1939-1942). 

Over the course of nearly 60 years, Pozzi collected more than 3500 art objects in his Parisian apartment, including textiles, carpets, manuscripts, album folios, ceramics, and tiles from the Islamic lands and beyond. Despite this, his career remains largely unexplored today, mainly due to the fact that his collection was widely dispersed to various museums, auction houses and heirs after his death. 

We examine specifically his first collection catalogue, commented on and published by Edgar Blochet in 1930. Reviewing the keen Parisian interest in “Oriental” arts and crafts, and especially their appeal to renowned French couturiers and designers, we argue that Jean Pozzi’s catalogue may be seen as one of the persuasive Persian collections of the early twentieth century, providing the forms and tones that French industries of textile design and fashion sought before World War II.