[skip to content]

Islamic Art and Patronage

An exhibition of Islamic art from the al-Sabah Collection
1st October - 11th December 1998

Islamic Art & Patronage presents a fine selection of objects from one of the most comprehensive collections of Islamic Art, assembled in Kuwait by Sheikh Nasser al-Sabah and his wife, Sheikha Hussah al-Sabah, members of the Kuwaiti ruling family. the exhibition illustrates the diversity and splendour of the al-Sabah collection and includes unique manuscripts, ceramics, metalwork, glass, rock crystals, jades, jewellery, stonework, woodwork, textiles and rugs.

Representing ten centuries of artistic achievement and spanning geographical boundaries from Spain to India, the exhibition explores the remarkable development of artistic patronage within the Islamic world and the diverse social classes that sponsored the arts, ranging from caliphs, sultans, and shahs to royal ladies, military amirs, and wealthy merchants.

United by a theme of patronage, the wealth of objects included in the exhibition represents diverse periods and regions, highlights unique techniques and styles, and reflects the development of the artistic traditions in the world of Islam through four historical periods: early Islam (622-1050), when characteristic motifs and decorative concepts were formulated; classical Islam (1250-1500), when the arts achieved unprecedented heights; post-classical Islam (1250-1500), when established traditions were refined and the arts of the book reached their epitome; and late Islam (1500-1800), when splendid items were produced in the courts of the great emperors - Ottoman, Safavid, and Murghal.

This outstanding collection of Islamic art which has travelled since 1990 has been exhibited at such prestigious venues as The Hermitage State Museum, St. Petersburg; Walters Art gallery, Baltimore; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Palazzo Vecchio, Florence and Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon. The Brunei Gallery provides a unique opportunity for this internationally renowned collection to be enjoyed in London. Islamic Art & Patronage is being sponsored by BP Kuwait Ltd., reflecting the company's continuing commitment to the arts and underlining their long association with the people and the culture of Kuwait. The exhibition is accompanied by an education pack, and coincides with Asian Art in London (10-21 November 1998), a varied programme of events that aims to span the academic and commercial art worlds.

Some samples from the collection:


Slip-painted ceramic bowl with spout, Iran, 10th century
Brass astrolabe, Iraq, 927/8
Carved marble capital, Spain, 972/73
Folio from a Quran manuscript, Iran, 11th century
Tile with epigraphic blazon of Sultan Qaitbay, Egypt, late 15th century
Enamelled and gilded glass vase, Egypt or Syria, first half 14th century
Carved wood box for Quran manuscripts, Iran, c.1344
Lion Hunt - illustration, India, 17th century
Ceramic jug with floral design, Turkey, 16th century
Lustre-painted ceramic bottle, Iran, second half 17th century
Jade pendant, India, 1637/38
Gold pendant set with gems, India, 18th century
Steel dagger with gold hilt and scabbard, India, first quarter 17th century
Rock crystal bowl set with gems, India, 18-19th century
Embroidered tent hanging, India, 17th century
Rug with overall pattern, Iran or Afghanistan, 16th century

Sponsored by BP Kuwait Ltd.