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The Making of a Collection: Islamic Art at the Metropolitan

November 1, 2011–February 5, 2012

Hagop Kevorkian (1872–1962)

Hagop Kevorkian was an Armenian archaeologist, connoisseur of art, and collector. Originally from Kayseri, Turkey, he graduated from the renowned American-founded Robert College in Istanbul and settled in New York in the late nineteenth century. Very quickly Hagop became a key tastemaker for Islamic art and an intermediary between Middle Eastern governments, clients, and museums. He was one of the early archaeologists and directed several excavations, among them such important ones as those of Sultanabad and Rayy in Iran. Hence he introduced to the markets objects imported from Turkey, Iran, and other countries. In 1951, he created The Kevorkian Foundation, which became one of the most important supporters for Middle Eastern studies in New York. His foundation established the Kevorkian Chair of Iranian Studies at Columbia University, several professorships, and the Hagop Kevorkian Center of Near Eastern Studies at New York University.

Hagop Kevorkian was mainly interested in antique and Islamic art of the Near East. He collected art not only for his clients such as J. P. Morgan, Cora Timken Burnett, and others but also for himself and the Met, of which he was an important supporter. Hagop was particularly drawn to painting, and at the time of his death, "the Kevorkian Collection" was the last comprehensive collection of first-class Islamic painting to come on the market.

From the time of his arrival in New York, Kevorkian formed a close relationship with the Met, exhibiting objects at the Museum and making regular gifts. The Kevorkian Foundation became an important source of support for the Department of Islamic Art. Thanks to the Kevorkian Foundation, fellowships, employees, publications, and acquisitions have all been generously funded; room installations such as the Damascus Room (1976) were made possible; and the current gallery for special exhibitions (Gallery 458) was founded.

Among the treasures associated with Hagop Kevorkian, given to the Museum are forty-one leaves of the Mughal "Emperor's Album," made for Jahangir and Shah Jahan. It is one of the world's great assemblages of Mughal calligraphy and painting, which Kevorkian acquired at auction in 1929. The rosette (shamsa) bears the name and titles of Emperor Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707), showing that it was a later addition to the album assemblage.