17th century paintings unveiled at MIA

January 25, 2013 - 3:10:06 am

Orientalist Museum Director Dr Olga Nefedova explaining the exhibit Dinner given by the Grand Vizier in honour of the Ambassador  at the Museum of Islamic Art, yesterday.   Qassim Rahmatullah


DOHA: Four rare newly restored 17th century paintings were unveiled for the first time at the opening of the “Heritage of Art Diplomacy: Memoirs of an Ambassador” at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) yesterday.

Under the patronage of H E Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani, Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) Chairperson, the Orientalist Museum yesterday launched the exhibition which runs until March 18 at the fourth floor gallery of MIA.

The oil paintings, dated 1640, were commissioned by the Habsburg Ambassador, Hans-Ludwig von Kuefstein, after his diplomatic mission to Istanbul and are part of the Orientalist Museum’s collection.

Two of the paintings titled Janissary and Sbahi depict Ottoman army members. The other two show important occasions, including ‘Imperial Procession’ and ‘Dinner Given by the Grand Vizier in Honour of the Ambassador’. All four paintings were attributed to painters Franz Hörmann and Hans Gemminger.

The paintings will be shown to the public for the first time starting today, together with an in-depth look into their restoration process through a movie depicting the arduous work of the researchers and restorers to bring the paintings back to life.

“It took us two years to restore these paintings which are historically very important and rare,” said Orientalist Museum Director, Dr Olga Nefedova, who is curating the exhibition.

Ten restorers started working on the paintings in 2010, said Dr Nefedova.

“Restoration and conservation is one of the three pillars of Orientalist Museum,” she said, adding education and research are the other aspects which have been reflected in the first two expos organised by the Orientalist Museum — ‘A Journey into the World of the Ottomans’ in 2010 and the current ‘Art of Travel: Bartholomäus Schachman’.

In addition to the four large-scale paintings, 12 gouache works from a collection in Austria — the original inspiration for the paintings — are also on display.

The artworks trace back to 1628, when the Grand Embassy of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, led by von Kuefstein, departed from Vienna to Istanbul to the court of the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV. 

In addition to its diplomatic and political success, the Kuefstein embassy is remembered for its artistic legacy and documentation of different aspects of its mission to Istanbul. These documents include the ambassador’s diary, the draft of a final report to the emperor, some diplomatic correspondences, a list of the gifts presented and received, a series of gouaches executed in Istanbul and several oil paintings. 

The latter serve as illustrations of various aspects of Ottoman 17th century life and provide a detailed account of the ambassador’s mission.

A comprehensive education programme complements the exhibition, including an international conference on March 7 during which distinguished scholars and specialists from art history, conservation science, and cultural studies will explore the museum’s scientific activities in the fields of restoration and preservation.

A bilingual illustrated book was published by Skira to accompany the exhibition. The Peninsula