Qatar will share flask with V&A in London

LONDON. The Clive of India Flask, which was bought by Sheikh Saud al-Thani for Qatar, is expected to go on long-term loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). Four years ago the V&A tried to buy the flask for nearly £3m while an export licence was deferred, but the Sheikh withdrew the application.

Since then the greatest of the Clive of India treasures, which belonged to the soldier who was key to establishing British rule in India, has been in limbo. It could not be exported to Qatar, so it has remained in a UK art store. The jewelled jade wine flask, from the early 17th century, is a rare masterpiece of Mughal art. Robert Clive acquired it in India in 1759.

The Art Newspaper can reveal that the V&A and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha have now reached an understanding, which should lead to the display of the flask. Along with a silver hubble-bubble (huqqa) pipe, it is expected to get a temporary export licence to allow it to be sent to Qatar for the opening on 22 November of the new Islamic museum.

The two Clive treasures will be returned to the UK by next October, so that they can be shown in the V&A’s exhibition “Maharajas: the Splendour of India’s Royal Courts”. Last month the director of the Doha Museum of Islamic Art, Dr Oliver Watson, told us: “We have agreed to lend the flask and huqqa to the V&A for the Maharajas exhibition, and discussions are taking place about a longer-term loan.” It is believed that the V&A may well lend other Islamic objects to Qatar.

The Clive treasures were sold at Christie’s in April 2003 and bought by Sheikh Saud al-Thani. A year later, an export licence application was made for the flask, but it was withdrawn on 14 December 2004, just after the V&A decided to try to match the £2,973,000 price.

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