• Inspired by books Islamic Design

    Inspired by books Islamic Design


Blue Monkey

Iran, Kashan
Saljuq or Khwarazmid period, 6th – 7th century AH / 12th - 13th century CE
Turquoise glazed fritware
27.1 x 16.5 x 16.4 cm

Ceramic figurines and figural ewers are not uncommon in the mediaeval period in Iran, particularly from the fritwares produced in 12th - 13th century Kashan, Iran. A wide variety of subjects are known, ranging from soldiers on horseback to breastfeeding women to animals.

MIA has a lustreware example in the form of a sphinx (MIA.PO.592). A relatively rare subgroup - known from less than a handful of extant examples, one of which is seen here - portray a monkey. With its even turquoise-glaze over a fritware body, the figurine is consistent with the fine ceramic wares produced in central Iran - particularly the city of Kashan - in the 12th and 13th centuries. Seated on his haunches with his hands on his knees and wearing a pointed cap and a slightly mournful expression, the monkey has clear anthropomorphic qualities which endear him to his audience. This probably would have been the case for the actual monkeys which entertained the people of medieval Iran, who might have performed tricks in the streets or been central characters in puppetry performances.

Monkeys were thought to bring good fortune. A number of seated monkey figurines - although much smaller in size, and unglazed - are known from the 12th - 13th century in Iran and now feature in museums worldwide. A turquoise-glazed, monkey-shaped ewer, used for the pouring of liquids, is housed in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. 

The Doha Hind

Falcon Finial

India, probably Jaipur
Modern period, 14th century AH / 20th century CE
Gold, enameled and set with rubies, emeralds, diamonds, sapphire and onyx
33 × 8 cm

With feathers of rubies, breast of enamel and beak of emeralds, this extravagantly encrusted bird is a tour-de-force of Indian gem-setting.

Although previously connected with Shah Jahan on the basis of the inscription scratched into the gold under the perch on which the bird balances – which includes the weight and name ‘Ruzbihan’ (possibly a courtier of the Mughal emperor) – recent studies into gold working and stone setting traditions confirm a later dating for this spectacular piece. Falcons have always been a symbol of royalty in both Hindu and Muslim contexts. Similar jeweled birds stood guard atop a throne: paintings depicting the famed ‘Peacock Throne’ of Shah Jahan, once adorned with effigies of jeweled and enameled birds; and the bird finial of the throne of Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore (r. 1196-1214 AH/r. 1782-1799) – now in the Royal Collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II (RCIN 48482) – confirm the enduring popularity of this figure.


The Doha Hind

In this official portrait Fath 'Ali Shah, second ruler of the Qajar dynasty, is depicted wearing a heavily bejewelled parure and a feathered crown encrusted with precious stones and pearls. This painting has been attributed to the court painter Mihr 'Ali, one of the most prominent painters of his time and a favourite by Fath 'Ali Shah. His royal portraits capture not only the grandeur and the majesty of the shah and his court; they were also instrumental in conveying precise messages to their onlookers and so used as political tools.


Portrait of Fath 'Ali Shah Qajar attributed to Mihr 'Ali, Iran, Qajar period, dated 1231 AH/1816 CE, PA.18.2010

Search over 400 objects from the MIA collection

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There is much more to MIA’s collection than is on display in the museum.  Only about 10% of the collection can be seen in the ‘permanent galleries’ on floors 2 and 3. Behind the scenes, we care for a diverse collection of objects from across the Islamic world.

We carefully document our collections using modern computer systems, so that we have the most up-to-date information about each object. That includes moving and tracking objects around the building, labelling objects with their unique accession number, maintaining the object in the permanent exhibition galleries, as well as research, conservation and photography projects. 

For each special exhibition held at MIA, we bring in objects from around the world to complement our collections. We also lend our objects nationally and internationally to support Islamic art exhibitions.  

Our staff are highly skilled in conservation, documentation and object handling, to ensure that our collections are preserved for future generations.

We share our knowledge, experience and expertise through publications, lectures and workshops, and opportunities to collaborate on research and conservation projects with other institutions.


MIA has one of the most advanced conservation laboratories in Qatar where our team of specialist conservators works with curators, registrars, exhibitions and gallery teams to understand, document, explain and present MIA’s collections.

We work with a wide variety of objects including manuscripts and books, ceramics and glass, metals and jewellery, wood and stone, and textiles collections. Our conservation activities follow recognised international standards and professional codes of ethics.

We care for each object in the MIA collection, whether it is on display, in storage or during transportation.  We also monitor environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, light and check for possible pest activity. We will examine an object’s component materials, the technology that created it and any causes of deterioration, then decide if an object should receive remedial treatment, and if so, what kind. That way the MIA collections are safely preserved, can be used for research and displayed to the public.