Lou­vre Abu Dhabi’s first loan to an in­ter­na­tional mu­seum on view at The Met

The National - News - - ARTS&LIFESTYLE - Alexan­dra Chaves

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

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