Myriad worlds

Updated 2018-05-08 14:49:06

Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani, a Qatari royal family member, brings his abundant collection to Beijing for a major exhibition at the Palace Museum (Photo by Jiang Dong and Yao Ying/China Daily)

Rare items from a Qatari royal collection of ancient and modern artifacts are on display at the Palace Museum in Beijing. 

A kaleidoscopic collection of Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah al-Thani, a Qatari royal, is on show at Beijing's Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City.

The two-part exhibition, Treasures from the Al Thani Collection, began on April 17 and is showcasing some 280 rare artifacts and more than 270 jewels and gems from different places.

"Many people asked me why I began this collection," Al Thani said at the opening ceremony. "That is rooted in my devotion and love for history and beauty."

He says the exhibition will help deepen people's understanding of fine craftsmanship.

He would like people to know about the rare characteristics of different cultures as well as the common spirit they shared, he added.

Starting with a few items that are both enthralling in appearance and of historical value, according to Al Thani, his collection of artifacts has grown to more than 6,000 items. And an individual pursuit has turned into an educational program for people through such exhibitions.

A 21st-century BC head sculpture of a man from Mesopotamia. (Photo by Jiang Dong and Yao Ying/China Daily)

Ancient times

Masterpieces from a Royal Collection, the first of the two-part show, takes visitors on a 5,000-year journey.

Beijing marks the debut of this section for Al Thani's collection outside Qatar.

Several exhibits unveil glimpses of early civilizations.

They range from a 21st-century BC quartzite head sculpture of a man from Mesopotamia, a red-jasper statue of an ancient Egyptian royal figure created between the 15th and 13th centuries BC, to a stela with a high relief portraying a female priest produced between the first century BC and the first century AD in the south of the Arabian Peninsula.

A bronze mask of Silenus from Ancient Rome, a Mayan jade mosaic mask and a terracotta sculpture of a man's head thought to be at least 1,500 years old from today's Nigeria are on show.

Amin Jaffer, the exhibition's main curator, says the collector likes human engagement via precious objects, which explains the many faces and images among the exhibits.

The exhibition showcases the "finest human artistic creation and expression over a period of time", Jaffer adds.

Religious artifacts include a standing statue of the Buddha from sixth-century India, a curtain made in Egypt during the Ottoman rule for Kaaba, which is Islam's holiest site in Mecca, and an enamel church-altar piece from Barcelona.

The criteria of selecting items for this exhibition was strong visual impact and rich history.

"Many pieces in the exhibition have already been in many important collections (before Al Thani's), and we've known so much about their patronage," Jaffer says.

Some displayed objects originated from the Faberge, a studio serving imperial Russia's rulers, while some others were once owned by the legendary Rothschild family, who are originally from Germany.

A jade censer made in northern India with a Chinese gold lid (a Palace Museum collection). (Photo by Jiang Dong and Yao Ying/China Daily)

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