Louvre Abu Dhabi’s first loan to an international museum on view at The Met
For its first major loan to an international institution, Louvre Abu Dhabi has lent an ornate chain from the 16th century to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, known as The Met, in New York.
Part of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s permanent collection, the piece is an enamelled gold collar from the Order of the Golden Fleece, a society of knights established in 1430 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. It is one of three known examples to have survived from the 15th to 16th centuries. Hanging from its delicately carved links is a golden ram pendant that references Greek mythology and Christianity.
On display at The Met until January, the collar is part of an exhibition titled The Last Knight: The Art, Armor, and Ambition of Maximilian I, which explores ideas of knighthood through the life of Maximilian I (1459-1519), who served as the Order of the Golden Fleece’s Grand Master or Sovereign in 1478 and became Holy Roman Emperor in 1508 until his death.
Known as the “Last Knight”, Maximilian had a penchant for propaganda and selfpromotion, commissioning European craftsmen to produce expensive armour, which he gave as gifts to his potential allies. The collar is shown alongside this armour, as well as swords, documents and artworks that provide insight into the ruler’s power and ambition.
The loan came about quite straightforwardly, explains Souraya Noujaim, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s scientific, curatorial and collections management director. A curator from The Met knew about the piece being in the museum’s collection and asked Noujaim if they could borrow it for the show. “When you have an institution at the level of The Met calling you, as head of the department, you know you’re on the right track,” she says, adding that the loan is a way of promoting the museum’s collection abroad.
Amna Al Zaabi, a curatorial assistant at Louvre Abu Dhabi, was responsible for accompanying the piece as it travelled more than 9,650 kilometres to its destination in New York. At The Met, the piece is housed in a glass case and displayed in a way that allows visitors to walk around it. The decision was made after close consideration of the collar’s history. Al Zaabi and curators at The Met studied old paintings to understand exactly how the piece was worn, and devised a way to hang the jewellery similarly and “to have a sense of volume,” she says.
“You have different ways of showing the piece depending on the curatorial choice,” Al Zaabi explains, adding that she had several discussions with The Met curator and mounters to agree on a “beautiful way of installing it and showing it to the public”.
Statues from the period reveal that members of the order were required to wear the collar every day. After a knight’s death, his family was obligated to return the jewellery to the order.
“The importance of the piece is that it was worn by the elite of society and it illustrates the art of chivalry,” says Al Zaabi. The Order of the Golden Fleece exists to this day, and has taken a total of 1,201 recipients over its 589 year existence.
The piece in Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection belonged to Adrien de Croy, who was made a knight of the order in 1519. The collar was acquired through a private sale by the museum in 2010.
The 16th century enamelled gold collar on display at The Met in New York, far left, is on loan from Louvre Abu Dhabi