About the Exhibit
Gift-giving between foreign leaders is an important part of international relations. President and First Lady Mrs. Kennedy received gifts from 106 different Heads of State from all over the world. On display are a selection of these ceremonial gifts that were presented to the Kennedy White House as symbols of diplomacy in an exhibit that recreates the White House corridor.
The exchange of gifts among heads of state is a centuries-old tradition, and remains a part of the culture of modern-day international relations. President and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy delighted in the gifts presented to them by representatives of countries around the globe, particularly items which showcased the fine work of a foreign country’s craftsmen. In both the Oval Office and the rooms of the White House, the president and first lady would display such gifts for visitors to enjoy.
As the gifts that U.S. presidents received started to become more extravagant, a rule was enacted to ensure there was no impression of impropriety. The Foreign Gifts and Declarations Act of 1966 put a limit to the value of a gift a president could accept, with most gifts going directly to the National Archives after being presented.
Gold purse with openwork floral design bordered along front edges with inset alternating rubies and emeralds. Center front of purse has a raised floral design inset with diamonds surrounding an emerald in center. Five smaller leaf motifs inlayed with diamonds and emeralds are at each corner and top of the purse. The purse has a chain link strap.
King Hassan of Morocco presented First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy with this gold purse, decorated with diamonds, rubies and emeralds.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Courtesy of Caroline B. Kennedy
2nd century A.D. Gandharan style stucco head of Buddha presented to President John F. Kennedy on September 5, 1963, by His Majesty Mohammad Zahir Shah, King of Afghanistan during his state visit to the White House.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 95.91
This vase was presented to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy during her tour of the Wein Augarten Porcelain Factory by the Lord Mayor of Vienna Austria, Franz Jonas as part of President John F. Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy's state visit to Vienna in 1961.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 63.1255
Porcelain figurine of a rider of the Spanish Riding Academy in Vienna on a white horse. This figurine was presented to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on the occasion of her visit to Austria for the Vienna Conference in June 1961 while on tour of the Augarten Porcelain Factory.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 63.480
Carved replica of the Pietá, very similar to Michelangelo's original in overall composition and detail, depicting the dead body of Jesus in the arms of his mother Mary, after his crucifixion. Jesus bears the wounds of crucifixion on his rib cage and feet. The base is inscribed in Latin: "PAULUS VI P.M. IOANNI F. KENNEDY POSTR. KAL. IUL. A. MCMLXIII." (Pope Paul the VI Pontificus Maximus for John F. Kennedy on the day following the 1st of July 1963).
This replica was received in Rome during President John F. Kennedy's state visit to Italy on July 2, 1963.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 63.6096
Replica of General George Washington's sword, which he wore while commanding the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, made from a silicone cast of Washington sword at the Smithsonian. President Kennedy had this sword made to give to select visiting heads of state; he presented swords to Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and President Eamon de Valera of Ireland.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 69.11a-b
10th century Iranian ceramic bowl decorated with a bird and scroll design presented to President John F. Kennedy by the Shah of Iran Mohammed Reza Pahlavi during his state visit to the White House on April 11, 1962.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 63.542
Pair of bone china blue jays made by Crown Staffordshire. These birds were presented to President John F. Kennedy by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan of England (1957-1963), at his country house Birch Grove in Sussex during the President's state visit to England June 29-30, 1963.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession Number MO 63.1309a-b