The future Louvre Abu Dhabi will be a universal museum in the Arab world. Its very name is testament to what is an unprecedented alliance between the United Arab Emirates and France, through one of the highest level of cultural cooperation ever created between two sovereign countries.
This unprecedented gesture establishes a long and solid relationship between the Musée du Louvre, the greatest museums located in Paris, and Abu Dhabi, which is a dynamic force in the contemporary world.
Confirming its universal nature, the intergovernmental agreement signed by the United Arab Emirates and France in 2007 was the foundation of this collaboration. The museum will present major objects from the fields of archaeology, fine arts and decorative arts. It will also represent all regions, periods, including contemporary art and the narrative of art history.
Louvre Abu Dhabi, an innovative and ambitious project, is intended to be a place of discovery, exchange and education. It will also play an important social role in the United Arab Emirates. In this respect, it can be seen as a product of the 18th-century Enlightenment in Europe.
This movement gave birth to the principle of the encyclopaedic and universal museum housing diverse collections of artworks for the purposes of public display and scientific study.
The cultural collaboration between French museums (the Louvre, Versailles, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Musée Guimet, the Musée d’Orsay, the Centre Pompidou, the Réunion des musées nationaux and the Musée du Quai Branly) and the United Arab Emirates will create a new centre of gravity.
French museums will provide their savoir-faire in developing the national collection, loaning works for the permanent galleries and exhibitions during the first ten years. The universal approach suits Abu Dhabi well, reflecting the city’s position at the crossroads of east and west, and its vital ancient role in the days of the Silk Route, when the region linked Europe and the Indian Ocean, opening up exchanges between Asia and Africa.
The museum will reflect the region’s role as a crossroads for civilisations.
One facet of the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s vocation will be to form a shared universal memory. The dialogue between artworks, sculptures and objects will allow visitors to discover shared influences and mutual historical connections between different cultures around the globe, giving insight into the history of humankind since the beginning of time.
The aim is to avoid the isolation of cultures and disciplines in order to offer a comprehensive history of art, providing an alternative to the particular vision of the world that has long been proposed by museums.
Louvre Abu Dhabi will offer a global vision of the history of world art, one that will inevitably evolve over time. This evolution will be shaped by the different loans and the gradual enrichment of the collection, and, above all, by the acquisition of new knowledge and the adoption of fresh approaches
Collar of Golden Fleece
One of the main characteristics of the Renaissance was the application of artistic forms to functional objects among the European royal, aristocratic and bourgeois elites. In a society fashioned by the symbol, where art fully contributed to the expression of political and dynastic power, social status, and the enlightened support of Humanism, individual figures and artistic geniuses emerged.
Out of European court art, comes the Collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece that was founded in Bruges in January 1430 by Philip III, duke of Burgundy. Recruited knights were expected to show each other ‘love, mutual aid, and fraternity’ and were always at the beckon of their prince – they exclusively served ‘the order’ and had to refuse all other orders.
Furthermore, as a measure of their obedience and loyalty, they had to wear the collar issued at their initiation every day.
The collar Louvre Abu Dhabi has acquired is one of the rare surviving examples. Created entirely from engraved and enamelled gold, it is made up of 28 steels and 28 flints with irregular sparks joined together by rings, with their original attachment hooks still on the back.
The sparks of the flints are figured in opaque black and white enamel. The finely engraved ‘fleece’ (a ram), is suspended by the belly from a strap, itself suspended by a ring from one of the flints. It has been observed that collars of chivalric orders of the early modern period present genuine disparities, as they are not crafted in series, but often made by different goldsmiths, as is the case with the Golden Fleece, which operated all over the Empire. These factors confirm the date of the work and its provenance.