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Collection Highlight: The Baroda Carpet

Researchers

The National Museum of Qatar’s collection features precious objects spanning thousands of years. A microcosm of Qatari heritage and society, these works reflect the way of life on the peninsula across the millennia and are intrinsically linked to the story of Qatar. Among the many highlights of the collection is the Baroda carpet, often described as the most luxurious carpet ever made.

An Embroidered Masterpiece

Commissioned by the 18th-century Indian Maharaja Gekwar Khand Rao, who was governor of Baroda State and an admirer of the Islamic religion and its teachings, the carpet was intended to be a cover for the tomb of the Prophet (PBUH) in Medina.

An embroidered floral shape made up of diamonds placed on a gold and silver ground.

The beautiful design of the Baroda Carpet is distinguished by its grains of coloured glass beads

The carpet is 2.64 meters long and 1.74 meters wide, woven from silk threads with a background of natural deer skin. It consists of more than 1.5 million pieces of natural marine pearls known as "Basra", originating from the coasts of Qatar and Bahrain. It is also decorated with rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds.

The legacy of the NMoQ collection reflects the rich narrative of Qatar's history and culture. The most famous pearl embroidery cover is the Baroda carpet.

Dr. Haya Ali Al Thani, Director of Curatorial Affairs

In the middle of the carpet are three circular floral shapes each made up of diamonds placed on a gold and silver ground. The decorations were further enhanced with rubies, emeralds and sapphires supported by metallic foil inlaid with gold. The carpet’s border features 32 small roses, all decorated with blue and red sapphires and emerald stones inlaid with gold. Among these roses, still smaller rosettes centered around one sapphire are scattered in the middle of eight others, all surrounded by strings of pearls.

The Baroda Carpet displayed at National Museum of Qatar

The embroidered Baroda Carpet (2.64 x 1.74), commissioned by the 18th-century Indian Maharaja Gekwar Khand Rao displayed at National Museum of Qatar

The carpet’s beautiful design is distinguished by its grains of coloured glass beads, and the edges are paved with inlaid gold, diamonds and precious stones. Made entirely by hand in a process that took nearly five years to complete, this unique piece of art is a stunning example of 18th-century Indian design.

Conserving What Is Precious

According to Narae Kim, Head of Conservation at NMOQ, the Baroda carpet has undergone alterations and conservation treatments throughout its life, which adds interesting layers to its story. There have been two conservation treatments carried out since the carpet was acquired by Qatar Museums in 2009 – first in 2010 for temporary exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art and again in 2016 in preparation for permanent display at NMoQ.

Part of the distinctive Baroda carpet is a circular rose embroidered with a diamond stone placed on a ground of gold and silver

The carpet’s edges are paved with inlaid gold, diamonds and precious stones

A team of experts restoring the Baroda Carpet

A team of experts at the National Museum of Qatar working on restoring the Baroda Carpet

In both cases, and in keeping with best practices, NMoQ’s conservators implemented thorough documentation of the carpet before, during and after the treatment, then carried out conservation treatment that was necessary and reversible, whilst trying to ensure that intangible values and integrity of the carpet were well preserved and respected.

NMoQ’s commitment to preserving the physical condition and value of the carpet includes custom-made storage, transportation unit, and a display case equipped with a built-in environmental control system.

The Baroda Carpet under conservation process

The beautiful Baroda Carpet undergoing alterations and conservation treatments

In addition, museum staff monitor environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, light and dust and carry out regular cleaning. Its display light is set at low level and limited for museum opening hours to protect its colour and physical strength.

One Highlight Among Many

The diverse collection at NMoQ features fossils, animal specimens, archaeological artifacts, ethnographic objects, architectural pieces, dress and jewellery and modern-day pieces. And it continues to grow, as noted by Dr. Haya Ali Al Thani, NMoQ’s Director of Curatorial Affairs. The incredibly luxurious 18th-century Baroda carpet is the centrepiece of the Pearls and Celebrations gallery at the National Museum of Qatar.

Loubna Zeidan is an Editorial Specialist in the Digital Experience Department.

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