The turmoil of Imam Khomeini and Hassan Abad Squares is so incredible that seldom one would notice the door of a unique museum in Sheikh Hadi Street. According to Mehr News agency, Moqadam Museum is located right amidst all this commotion. Yet, as soon as you put your foot into the entrance vestibule -hashti -of the house, you immediately leave the everyday mechanical life behind. The walls do not allow all this commotion to enter the private enclosure of this house now called the most valuable house of the world.
It came to be known as such in 50s and 60s when Professor Pope, the American art historian wrote an article titled: Survey of Iranian Arts in Sepid-o-Siah magazine on this unique house and its valuable historical objects.The house belonged to Mohsen Moqadam the youngest son of Ehtesab-o-al-Molk, the mayor of Naser-aldin’s Shah’s era.
Mohsen loved painting since childhood. He studied painting at Kamal-ol-Molk School. He can even be seen in Kamal-ol-Molk’s famous painting of his class. Later together with his brother Hassan, Mohsen was sent to Switzerland to study painting. He returned to Iran during the WWII, but left again, this time to study history and archaeology. On returning home he began to travel with archaeological groups to various historical sites such as Deylaman and Shush as a supervisor.
Mohsen Moqadam was one of the fist Iranian archaeologists who worked with great specialists of this field at several historical sites. He was the founder of Fine Art College and taught at Tehran university. Together with his French wife, they decide to dedicate their lives to set up a museum of all the valuable objects on the verge of demolition. The couple living in Moqadam’s building decided never to have children and instead consider the historical objects in their house as their children which they should look after and leave for the next generations.
The house now mentioned as Moqadam’s Museum was one of the luxurious houses of the Qajar period and has the two normally found sections in the old Iranian houses called biriouni (public wing) and andarouni (private wing). Along with all the other splendid constituent parts of this majestic house, we can also see exculsively valuable golden tiles which in order to be preserved, Moqadam had installed them in a suitable place in the walls. Some of these tiles are absolutely unique in the world.
Moqadam’s textile collection is also among rare textile collections of the world. They are now kept frozen in the complex and only one is publicly displayed in a glass frame. In addition to all the doors and titled walls of Moqadam’s gorgeous building, there is also a small room next to the entrance door to the basement with all its door and walls decorated with valuable and semi-valuable gems and beautiful corals.
In his journals, Moqadam has mentioned how he has found most of the existing historical objects now on display, buying them either from vendors or house-owners intending to destroy their historical houses with whatever inside them. Others were either being smuggled out or circulating hands in foreign countries which Moqadam bought with his inherited wealth keeping them in or bringing them back to Iran.
However, some of the other historical objects were given to Moqadam as gifts by foreign ambassadors or guests, like those which are speculated to be from Jerusalem. There are also objects such as the red potteries of Cheshmeh Ali dating back to the fifth millennium before Christ, which are extremely valuable and nobody knows how they have found their way to this house. They are going to be studied further by the head office of the museums of Tehran University which is now supervising this museum.
Moqadam bequeathed his family house to Tehran University in 1972 and left this world in 1982. After his death the house was in custodianship of his life-companion until 1990 when she handed it to the University of Tehran. The museum was opened to the public in august 2009 after the required restoration work was terminated.
* Text and some of the photos were cross-posted from Tavoos Art Magazine, the electronic newsletter of Iranian Art Publishing, founded and directed by Manijeh Mir-Emadi.