Posted on January 24, 2013

Under the patronage of HE Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Al Thani, Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) Chairperson, QMA’s Orientalist Museum presents the “Heritage of Art Diplomacy: Memoirs of an Ambassador” exhibition at the fourth floor gallery of the Museum of Islamic Art from January 25 till March 18, 2013.

Curated by Orientalist Museum Director Dr Olga Nefedova, the exhibition introduces visitors to the museum world behind the scene – the work of the museum researchers and restorers. Four 17th century paintings commissioned by the Habsburg Ambassador Hans-Ludwig von Kuefstein after his diplomatic mission to Istanbul are currently part of the Orientalist Museum’s collection and have recently undergone major restoration work. These newly restored paintings will be shown to the public for the first time, together with an in-depth look into their restoration process. Twelve gouache works from a collection in Austria - the original inspiration for the paintings - will also be on display.

On the 9th of July 1628, the Grand Embassy of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, led by Hans-Ludwig 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 embassy of Kuefstein is remembered and known nowadays 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, and a series of gouaches executed in Istanbul, as well as a number of 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.

The restoration process is often a voyage of discovery, and the investigation and treatment of these four 17th century paintings was no exception, as the conservation and restoration of not one but a group of four very rare, large-scale paintings were both challenging and exciting. The restoration started in early 2010, and as the paintings were uncrated and unpacked, a unique voyage of discovery began. 

A comprehensive education programme will complement the exhibition including an international conference on March 7, 2013 during which distinguished scholars and specialists from art history, conservation science, and cultural studies will explore the subject of museum scientific activities in the fields of restoration and preservation.

A bilingual lavishly illustrated book is published by Skira to accompany the exhibition.