Preserving objects from his heritage, encouraging study of their inspiration and creation techniques, and sharing that knowledge with historians, scholars and art lovers: those were the priority missions for Sheikh Nasser.
As a result, he generously funded research, scholarship and publications that allowed his collection to have a lasting influence, beyond exhibition space and geographical place.
From genre-specific Thames and Hudson publications to exhibition catalogues written by noted scholars and rich with contextual information, the books present a comprehensive and often groundbreaking look at the development of art from the Islamic world and beyond.
The ethos of Thames and Hudson (T&H) married well with that of Nasser. Internationally recognised as a prestigious publisher of high-quality books across all areas of visual creativity, T&H founders wanted to “create a ‘museum without walls’” and to give the reading public access to the world of art and the research of top scholars.
With eleven books published and another nine books in various stages of production, Nasser, The al-Sabah Collection (TaSC) and Thames and Hudson are doing just that.
Glass from Islamic Lands
In this publication Dr Carboni provided the first major study of the subject in over seventy years. Glass objects rarely bear inscriptions that provide vital information, and being so readily portable, they have, throughout history, been carried far from their place of origin.
This book is a catalogue of 500 objects and fragments, with hundreds of colour photos and drawings, revealing the splendour of Islamic glass. (English)
Ceramics from Islamic Lands
This book is a comprehensive history of ceramics from the Islamic world. With detailed descriptions of over 400 objects and 900 colour photos, Watson’s book shares a great private collection that tells the unfolding story of Islamic pottery over its fascinating thousand-year history. The book was awarded a Choice ‘Outstanding Academic Title’. (English)
Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals
The jewelled arts were more highly developed in the Indian Subcontinent than anywhere else in the world, reaching their peak in the period of the Mughals. This full-colour presentation of its fabulously varied achievements, with over 300 photographs accompanied the major exhibition of the same title, which opened at the British Museum, London in mid-2001, then toured 11 major museums in the USA, Europe, Russia and the Far East before returning to Kuwait in 2011. (Arabic, English, French, German, Russian, Spanish)
Carpets from Islamic Lands
This, Spuhler’s first book on The al-Sabah Collection, features more than forty of the finest classical carpets created in Egypt, Turkey, Persia, the Caucasus and India between 16th and 19th centuries, along with several important pre-Islamic carpet fragments. It describes this spectacular collection in the context of the history of Islamic art, recounting the fascinating stories behind individual carpets and celebrating their intricate designs and unparalleled craftsmanship. (English)
Splendors of the Ancient East: Antiquities from The al-Sabah Collection
Martha L. Carter, Sidney Goldstein, Prudence O. Harper, Trudy S. Kawami, Pieter Meyers
A departure from the genre-oriented books, this exhibition catalogue presents a selection of ancient artefacts from The al- Sabah Collection, most displayed and published for the first time in 2013 in the Amricani Cultural Centre in Kuwait. Splendors of the Ancient East presents some of the most beautiful objects in the Near East and beyond, including Central and South Asia. The book illustrates 100 of the most important ancient objects in the Collection, covering a time span of some 4,000 years, from the Bronze Age to the dawn of the Islamic era. (English)
Pre-Islamic Carpets and Textiles from Eastern Lands
This book features a unique collection of carpets and textile fragments from the pre-Islamic and early Islamic world. The Sasanian fragments presented fill a substantial gap in the early history of pile carpets, dating from the 2nd to the 8th centuries, and make a valuable contribution of the understanding of local artistic traditions. The second half of the book is devoted to post-Sasanian and Sogdian silks dating from the sixth to the tenth century. (English)
Arts of the Hellenized East: Precious Metalwork and Gems of the Pre-Islamic Era
The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait, houses one of the world’s most spectacular collections of ancient silver vessels and other objects made of precious metals. Dating from the centuries following Alexander the Great’s conquest of Iran and Bactria in the mid-4th century BCE to the advent of the Islamic era, the beautiful bowls, drinking vessels, platters and other objects in this catalogue suggest that some of the best Hellenistic silverwork was not made in the Greek heartland, but in this eastern outpost of the Seleucid empire. (English)
Persian Painting: The Arts of the Book and Portraiture
Adel T. Adamova and Manijeh Bayani
Persian miniature painting is among the most well-established and celebrated traditions of Islamic art, valued and treasured throughout the ages in the Eastern and Western worlds. This volume explores the holdings of The al-Sabah Collection, cataloguing more than forty extraordinary Persian illuminated manuscripts, miniature paintings and elaborately decorated bookbindings dating from the 11th century through to the early 20th century. (English)
Precious Indian Weapons and Other Princely Accoutrements
This book presents the spectacular collection of nearly 200 jewelled weapons and priceless accoutrements from the Indian subcontinent assembled by Sheikh Nasser over many decades. Produced for aristocratic patrons who valued the arts, these richly decorated edged weapons and other princely objects bear witness to the legendary opulence and refinement of the Indian courts during the 16th to the 19th centuries. Kaoukji’s work is a dazzling celebration of one of the world’s greatest collections of precious weapons. (English)
Chess and Other Games Pieces from Islamic Lands
Deborah Freeman Fahid
This book provides the definitive catalogue of this outstanding group of games pieces, with more than 300 striking new images. Specially commissioned scientific testing, reported in the book, has allowed many of these objects to be dated with precision for the first time. An additional section listing medieval chessmen from museums and private collections worldwide, some previously unpublished, adds a unique contextual dimension. (English)
Early Islamic Textiles from Along the Silk Road
The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait, holds a spectacular array of ancient textiles that were made in what is now the Islamic world and traded along the Silk Road. The majority range in date from the 9th to the 15th centuries and were reportedly found in a cave in the Samangan province in northern Afghanistan.The collection presented here presents some 400 garments and textile fragments of exceptional beauty and variety, reflecting the many strands of influence along the Silk Road: Iranian, Chinese, Central Asian, Syrian, Greek and Indian, among others.
Metalwork from the Arab World and the Mediterranean
This publication was in preparation when Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah died in December 20, 2020. The cover illustrates his last acquisition, it is a ewer made for Hishām ibn ʿAbd al-Malik, the tenth Umayyad caliph, who reigned during the final period of prosperity and glory of that dynasty. It bears the earliest known dated inscription on an Islamic vessel and was made in Ba’albak in 122 AH / 739-40 CE.
As previously mentioned, catalogues for exhibitions curated by The al-Sabah Collection provide extensive contextual information in addition to data related to specific objects. Two such catalogues, Splendors of the Ancient East: Antiquities from The al-Sabah Collection and Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals, were published by Thames and Hudson. The following is a list of the remaining exhibition publications:
Islamic Art in the Kuwait National Museum
Marilyn Jenkins-Madina, editor
This book, published in conjunction with the opening of The al-Sabah Collection exhibition in the new Kuwait National Museum in 1983, serves as an introduction to The al-Sabah Collection and art from the Islamic world. (Arabic, English)
Les Premieres Publications Europeennes sur la Civilisation Islamique et Arabe
Ibrahim Kamel Ahmad, editor
A catalogue developed on the occasion of the exhibition of the first European publications on the Arabic-Islamic civilisation in The al-Sabah Collection. The exhibition was held in 1989 at the Institut de Monde Arabe in Paris. (Arabic, English, French)
Variety in Unity
Ghada Hujjawi Qaddumi
Based on a special exhibition opened on the occasion of the Fifth Islamic Summit in Kuwait, January 1987. The artefacts included in the exhibition and shared in the catalogue are “precious to us all because they form part of our culture. Also they are a true living expression of the various stages of our shared history and everlasting unity, the authentic embodiment of God Almighty’s saying: ‘This nation of yours is one nation’.” (Arabic, English)
Carpets: Reflections of an Ideal World
Walter B. Denny
Catalogue for the historic exhibition of carpets in The al-Sabah Collection from the 15th to 19th centuries, from North Africa to India. The exhibition was organised and the catalogue published on the occasion of the opening of the new Islamic Arts Museum, Malaysia (IAMM), in 1999. The oversized catalogue features beautiful photos and informative text. (English)
Islamic Art & Patronage
This publication serves as a catalogue of an exhibition of more than 100 objects from The al-Sabah Collection as well as a group of essays tracing the evolution of Islamic art and patronage. This travelling exhibition opened at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg in 1990, travelled for almost 20 years to 23 museums throughout the world, before returning home to Kuwait in 2009. (Arabic, English, German, Italian)
al-Fann: Art from the Islamic Civilization
This volume illustrates 300 objects from among the most beautiful in The al-Sabah collection. For those exploring the Islamic world for the first time, it describes its culture and art on a chronological (from the early days to the great sixteenth-century empires) and thematic basis (calligraphy, repeating geometric patterns, arabesque and figurative art). Lastly, there are sections dedicated to coins and the jeweled arts, for which the collection is renowned worldwide. (Arabic, English)
Water-jug Filters in The al-Sabah Collection
Ahmad Abd’ al-Razaq Ahmad
A detailed look at largely ceramic water jug filters in the collection, this book is one of the first works to focus on these essential and often beautiful tools. Ahmad outlines the importance of the filters in daily living and identifies unique characteristics of many of the examples included in his study. (Arabic)
Tombstones in The al-Sabah Collection
Ahmed Bin Umar Al-Zayla’l
This study of Islamic tombstones held in The al-Sabah Collection provides extensive information about the documentative nature of such pieces. The book also looks at the historic significance, intrinsic beauty and the craftsmanship involved creating each tombstone. (Arabic, English)