About the Exhibit

AR6433-A  President John F. Kennedy Meets with Ambassador of Ireland, Thomas J. Kiernan

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. As of January 2014, the limit is $375.

Exhibit Highlights

 Head of Buddha A Gandharan style stucco head of Buddha created at Hadda, a Buddhist temple five miles south of Jelalabad in Afghanistan. The sculpture was presented to President Kennedy on September 5, 1963, by Mohammad Zahir Shah, King of Afghanistan during his state visit to the White House. 
Replica of Michelangelo's Pieta A carved replica of the Pieta, 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. This sculpture was received in Rome during President Kennedy's state visit to Italy, July 2, 1963.
 Gold Purse A gold purse with openwork floral design bordered along front edges with inset alternating rubies and emeralds. This purse was a gift to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy from the King of Morocco Hassan II.

Click here to see more State Gifts from the collection