For several hundred years, the Mughal Emperors and then the Maharajas ordered extraordinary jewellery. First to Indian craftsmen and later to the great French and European jewellery houses.
Portrait of the Maharaja Sir Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar Bahadur, circa 1906. Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Although many pieces are kept in the world’s greatest museums, no one today has the impressive collection belonging to Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah At-Thani. For several years, he has been patiently collecting pieces illustrating Indian jewellery from the 17th to the 21st century. This includes historical Mughal pieces, Art Deco creations by Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels and Boucheron, as well as contemporary jewellery by designers such as Viren Bhagat, who illustrates and pays homage in his creations to the extraordinary opulence of the ancient Maharajas.
Gold pendant, pearls, rubies, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, glass and enamel. circa 1575-1625. Photo: ©The Al Thani Collection 2016. All rights reserved. Photographs taken by Prudence Cuming
His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani is a prominent member of the royal family of Qatar. He is the son of Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al-Thani (one of the brothers of the country’s first Emir and a cousin of the current Emir). This art collector and close friend of the British Royal Family is known for having purchased and fully restored Dudley House, the house that belonged to the Ward family in London.
Platinum and diamond turban ornament made by Cartier in 1934. The centre stone weighs 61.56 carats. Photo: ©The Al Thani Collection 2016. All rights reserved. Photographs taken by Prudence Cuming
After being exhibited in New York (MET) in 2014 and in London (V&A) in 2015, part of the collection arrives in Paris – at the Grand Palais – and will be on view from 29 March to 5 June 2017. The exhibition “Jewels from the Great Mughals to the Maharajahsthe exhibition “Jewels from the Great Mughals to the Maharajahs” invites visitors to immerse themselves in and understand one of the oldest and most impressive jewellery traditions of our time, such as the Kundan technique, which consists of setting stones by adding gold leaf between the gem and its setting. But also to discover the Bikaneri or Jaipuri jewels presenting a reverse side completely enamelled with bright colours.
This brooch was bought by the Maharajas of Kapurthala in 1905. Made by Mellerio dits Meller, it is in enamelled gold and diamonds. Photo: ©The Al Thani Collection 2013. All rights reserved. Photographs taken by Prudence Cuming
More than 250 pieces will be presented to the public, combined with important loans from prestigious institutions and private collections. Historic diamonds from the Golconde mines, precious, bold and spectacular objects will be on display, celebrating the evolution of Indian jewellery tastes and techniques over the last five centuries: Agra diamonds, the Eye of the Tiger or the Argot II, spinels from Badakhshan (Afghanistan) or emeralds from Colombia often engraved with the names and titles of Mughal emperors, such as the impressive 30.61-carat Shah Jahan emerald.
The Agra diamond weighs 28.15 carats. It was mined in Golconde before 1536 and recut in the 1880s. Photo: ©The Al Thani Collection 2015. All rights reserved. Photographs taken by Prudence Cuming
Among the most beautiful pieces, the jade cup engraved with Persian poetry of the Emperor Jahangir, elements of the throne of Tipû Sâhib or a stool set with gems from the Mughal treasure and stolen by Nadir Shah during the capture of Dehli in 1739. There is also a peacock egret from the house of Mellerio dits Meller and necklaces ordered by the Maharajas who were friends of Jacques Cartier: Patiala and Nawanagar. Not forgetting pieces signed by JAR or Viren Bhagat.
For those who would like to go even further, I can only advise you to discover the books written by Juliette Benzoni. Published by Pocket, they feature Aldo Morosini, a Venetian prince turned antique dealer who hunts down the most beautiful historical pieces in Europe. The title “La perle de l’empereur” (The Emperor’s Pearl) takes you on a journey in pursuit of the Regent in a Paris where the Maharadjas are permanent guests. A must read!
See you soon!