Panoramic watercolour of Mecca, 1843.

Islamic Treasures from the Nasser D. Khalili Collection

Judith with the Severed Head of Holofernes, signed Muhammad Zaman, Iran, Isfahan, c. 1680 AD, opaque gold and watercolor on paper, 33.5 x 21 cm.

Hookah Base and Mouthpiece.


Emirates Palace Hotel
West End Corniche
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates
The Arts of Islam:
Treasures from the
Nasser D. Khalili Collection

January 23-April 30, 2008

The Arts of Islam: Treasures from the Nasser D. Khalili Collection comprises over 500 pieces and include a number of works that have never been exhibited before, such as an exquisitely detailed panoramic watercolour of Mecca, painted in 1843, which is the earliest known visual record of the Holy City.

The exhibition will present both the religious and secular arts of Islam, through a series of themes. These will include: the development of the arts associated with manuscripts of the Holy Qur’an, especially calligraphy; arts associated with pilgrimage; everyday and treasury objects; miniature painting; and carpets and textiles. Other groups of objects will focus on the talismanic use of verses of the Holy Qur’an; science in the service of religion; horsemanship; falconry; and interaction with Europe, among others.

The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic art comprises some 20,000 works and is the largest and most comprehensive in the world, encompassing the entire history of Islamic art from its beginnings in the 7th century until the present day. The entire Collection is being published under the auspices of the Khalili Family Trust and will comprise 31 volumes in total, 17 of which are already available. Professor Nasser D. Khalili, an eminent scholar, is passionate about art and collecting. One of his reasons for assembling the Khalili Collection is to promote a greater understanding between people of different cultures and faiths and to increase awareness of the rich contributions of Islamic cultures to world art. He believes that ‘religion and politics have their own languages, but the language of art is universal’. All Khalili’s cultural and educational endeavours, as a patron, writer and lecturer, stem from this conviction.

Professor Nasser D. Khalili KSS KCFO, was born in Iran in 1945. A scholar, collector and benefactor of international standing, he was described by the former Foreign Minister and the Iranian Ambassador to London as 'a cultural ambassador of Islam'. After completing his schooling and national service, he left in 1967 for the USA where he continued his education. In 1978 he settled in the United Kingdom.

Since 1970 he has assembled, under the auspices of The Khalili Family Trust, a number of impressive art collections in a broad range of fields. In addition to the comprehensive collection of the arts of the Islamic world (dating from c.700-2000), there are also collections of Japanese art from the Meiji period (1868-1912), of Swedish textiles (1700-1900), of Spanish damascened metalwork (1850-1900) and Enamels of the world (1700-2000). Combined, The Khalili Collections comprise some 25,000 objects and these are now being researched and presented to the public in a series of publications, published by The Khalili Family Trust, and exhibited worldwide.

Nasser D. Khalili is a frequent lecturer in the four areas of his interest. He has made notable contributions to the scholarship of Islamic art, having endowed in 1989, under the auspices of The Khalili Family Trust, the Nasser D. Khalili Chair of Islamic Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, the first chair devoted to the decorative arts of Islam to be founded at any university. He has also supported a research fellowship in Islamic Art at the University of Oxford — The Khalili Family Trust has made a significant endowment to the University of Oxford to establish and support The Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East that was officially opened in 2005. In recognition of his support of the University, Professor Khalili was appointed to the Chancellor's Court of Benefactors. Professor Khalili is a graduate, Associate Research Professor, and Member of the Governing Body at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the University of London and of Wolfson College, Oxford, and in 2005 was made an Honorary Doctor of the University of the Arts, London. He was appointed to the International Board of Overseers at Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, in 1997 and in 2003 received the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters from Boston University, to which he was a former member of the Board of Trustees.

Professor Khalili is a longstanding and committed believer in the vital contribution of inter-faith understanding to the creation of a cohesive society. He is the co-founder and chairman of the Maimonides Foundation, which promotes peace and understanding between Jews and Muslims. He was one of the founders of the Iran Heritage Foundation that was established in 1995 to promote and preserve the cultural heritage of Iran. In 1996 he was honoured with the title Trustee of the City of Jerusalem for his pursuit of culture and peace among nations and on 14 November 2003, was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Francis I at Westminster Cathedral in recognition of his inter-faith activities (KCFO). His Holiness Pope John Paul II granted him an audience at the Vatican in 2002, when he bestowed on him the Medaglia Pontificia, and in 2004 further honoured him by making him a Knight of the Equestrian Order of Pope St Sylvester (KSS). In February 2007 he was given a Citation of Honor by his alma mater Queens College, City University of New York, in recognition of his outstanding achievements in the promotion of Islam's cultural heritage and interfaith understanding. In 2007 he was given the High Sheriff of London award for his cultural contribution to the city of London.

In 2005, The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture by Professor Nasser D. Khalili was published in the UK by Worth Press. This major new work is being translated into ten languages and to date has been published in Arabic, French and Dutch. It provides a comprehensive overview of the arts of Islam for the general reader. Never before has there been a publication that brings every aspect of this vast subject together both geographically and chronologically. Through its ingenious format, The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture presents the magnificent sweep of the arts of Islam in an attractive and accessible way.

Muhammad leading Hamzah and the Muslims against the Banu Qaynuqa' from Jami' al-Tawarikh by Rashid al-Din, Iran, Tabriz, dated 714 AH (1314-15 AD), ink, transluscent and opaque watercolor, gold and silver on paper, 43.5 x 30 cm.

Single folios from an oblong-format Qur'an surah al-Baqarah (II, 'The cow'), verses 120-27, and surah Al-'Imran (III, 'The Family of Imran), verses 55-64, North Africa or Spain, 10th century AD, gold on vellum stained royal blue, 15 lines Kufic, 28.3 x 37.7 cm.