Lisbon, 17 March 2016 — Prince Amyn was at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Ancient Art) yesterday, to formalise a donation by the Aga Khan Foundation towards the museum’s acquisition of a national Portuguese cultural treasure.
The € 200,000 contribution supports a campaign to acquire the painting Adoration of the Magi (1828) by Domingos Sequeira, who is considered one of the best Portuguese artists of his time. Known by its slogan “Let’s put Sequeira in the Rightful Place”, the campaign is a national initiative — the like of which is unprecedented in Portugal — to acquire the privately-owned work for the museum’s permanent collection.
“I was informed of this initiative by a friend of mine and immediately discussed it with my brother, His Highness the Aga Khan,” said Prince Amyn in his remarks at the museum event, which was hosted by the Portuguese Minister of Culture, the Honourable João Soares and the Director of the Museum, Professor António Filipe Pimentel. “We decided that the Aga Khan Foundation should answer the call and should make a significant contribution.”
“We are honoured to be able to be part of the national effort to preserve this extraordinary piece of Portuguese cultural heritage for the enjoyment of not only the Portuguese people but also others who visit this beautiful city,” he added.
The donation is in keeping with the Aga Khan Development Network’s support for cultural heritage around the world, and the commitment made by the Ismaili Imamat to promote and participate in cultural initiatives in partnership with Portugal. AKF’s contribution has boosted the campaign, helping it to reach more than two-thirds of its € 600,000 fundraising goal.
“Culture is a dialogue between civilisations, between aesthetics, carried across the globe frequently by commerce, but even by conquest,” observed Prince Amyn. “It binds us together across time and place, reminding us that we all come from the same place, the heart.”
For the Aga Khan Foundation, assisting the museum complements the array of work it has been carrying out in Portugal since 1983 — from research and intervention in early childhood education, to addressing social exclusion and urban poverty. This includes an innovative programme established in partnership with the government and others in civil society to improve the quality of life of marginalised and disadvantaged populations, including immigrants and ethnic minorities.
“We believe that cultural pluralism, that education, and education in the arts, are essential factors in both economic and social development and in ensuring peaceful coexistence among peoples,” said Prince Amyn.
Born in Lisbon in 1768, Domingos António de Sequeira was appointed first court painter at the Royal Court of King John VI of Portugal in 1802. His Adoration of the Magi depicts the Christian tradition in which magi (wise men) of the East come to pay homage to the newborn baby Jesus — whom Muslims know as Hazrat Isa, a Prophet and Messenger of Allah — offering him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It was recognised early on as a masterpiece, and is described as a visionary work that bears the signature style of the artist.
Portugal’s National Museum of Ancient Art is home to the country’s most important public collection of paintings, sculpture and other art forms. Founded in 1884, it has a collection of over 40,000 items, which includes the largest number of state-designated “national treasures.” Through its collection and exhibitions, the museum preserves the cultural identity of the Portuguese people and invites visitors to discover the nation’s artistic heritage.