Seminar in the History of Collecting

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Seminar in the History of Collecting

Seminar in the History of Collecting

Date: Monday 25 January 2021
Times: 17.30 to 19.00 GMT
Title: Marvels in Lucknow: the aesthetics of ‘Ajab in the art collection of Asaf al-Dawla
Speaker: Arthur Bijl (Assistant Curator of Ottoman, Middle Eastern and Asian Arms and Armour, The Wallace Collection)

Registration and Location: This seminar will be hosted online through Zoom. Please click here to register. For more information about Zoom, including instructions on how to download and use the system, please visit

Abstract: By the end of the eighteenth century, the Mughal court had been completely eclipsed by the North Indian court of the nawabs of Awadh. While they formally owed allegiance to the Mughal emperor, they were virtually independent. Their court was synonymous with luxury and opulence, especially during the reign of Asaf al-Dawla (r. 1775–1797).

Asaf al-Dawla is portrayed by East India Company officials and later historians as a buffoonish personality. Only recently has Asaf al-Dawla been recognised as a capable ruler carefully navigating his court’s rise towards independence.

As an art collector, Asaf al-Dawla collected a huge number of local and foreign works in his ainakhaneh, a sort of private museum. Mocked by European commentators for his undiscerning eye, he acquired several thousand English prints, European clocks and mirrors, and a substantial collection of Chinese drawings and ornaments.

It has long been understood that the fascination for European objects was a consequence of the Awadh court’s exposure to European modes of collecting. The recent rehabilitation of Asaf al-Dawla’s reputation as a statesman challenges the idea that his ainakhaneh is merely a poorly executed “Kunstkammer” and should instead be understood in the context of Asaf al-Dawla’s broader ambition towards sovereign kingship along Perso-Islamic lines.

About the Series: This seminar series was established in 2006 as part of the Wallace Collection’s commitment to the research and study of the history of collections and collecting, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Paris and London.

The seminars, which are normally held on the last Monday of every month during the calendar year, excluding August and December, act as a forum for the presentation and discussion of new research into the history of collecting. Seminars are open to curators, academics, historians, archivists and all those with an interest in the subject. Papers are generally 45-60 minutes long.


Seminars in the History of Collecting 2021

Monday 25 January

Marvels in Lucknow: ‘Ajab and Asaf al-Dawla’s collection of curiosities

Arthur Bijl (Assistant Curator of Ottoman, Middle Eastern and Asian Arms and Armour, The Wallace Collection)


Monday 22 February

Descriptions of collections and their display at the Stuart Court in 1669 in a manuscript account of Prince George of Denmark's Grand Tour (1668–1670)

Dr Sara Ayres (Independent scholar, London)


Monday 29 March

The Gilded Age in Canada: reconstructing the life and afterlife of the Sir William Van Horne Collection

Janet M. Brooke (Independent scholar, Montreal, Canada)


Monday 26 April

The Dutch King Willem II (1792–1849) as collector and source of some important pictures in the Wallace Collection

Dr Ellinoor Bergvelt (Guest Researcher, University of Amsterdam / Research Fellow, Dulwich Picture Gallery)


Monday 24 May

The ‘Primo Costo’ inventory of Count Saverio Marchese (1757–1833): mapping the print market in Malta and its European connections

Krystle Attard Trevisan (PhD Candidate, Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London)


Monday 28 June

Inside the dragon’s lair: Henry VIII’s Kunstkammer at Whitehall Palace

Timothy Schroder (Trustee, The Wallace Collection)


Monday 26 July

A dactyliothec from Pietro Bracci in the Portuguese Royal family’s collections - a different look at art collecting

Dr Ana Mónica da Silva Rolo (Archaeologist, Archaeology Centre UNIARQ, Lisbon University, Portugal)

Dr Noé Conejo Delgado (Archaeologist, Numismatist, Archaeology Centre UNIARQ, Lisbon University, Portugal)


Monday 27 September

Collecting and displaying Rembrandt’s pictures in eighteenth–and nineteenth–century England: Charles Jennens of Gopsall Hall and the ‘Rembrandt Room’ at Stowe

Andrea Morgan (PhD Candidate, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada)


Monday 25 October

The Perth Literary and Antiquarian Society 1784–1914: Collecting Scotland, collecting the World

Dr Mark Hall (Collections Officer for Culture Perth & Kinross, Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Scotland)


Monday 29 November

‘A most distinguished collector and patron’ – Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Japanese Art, 1869–1900

Rachel Peat (Assistant Curator of Non-European Works of Art, Royal Collection Trust, London)

Date & Times

Date Start Time End Time
25/01/2021 17:30 19:00