Discovering the Aga Khan Museum: Bellerive Room – Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection

Ismailimail presents its second thematic post in celebration of the opening of the Aga Khan Museum. We bring into focus Prince Sadruddin’s and Princess Catherine’s contributions.

I should like to give particular thanks to Princess Catherine Aga Khan, the widow of my late uncle, Prince Sadruddin. Not only has the collection that she and my uncle formed over the years constituted the nucleus of the Museum’s collections today, but she has allowed us to repeat, within the Museum, an entire room from their house in Geneva, which we call the Bellerive room, and which is a space I personally find as poetic as it is illuminating. I must also thank my brother and all those who have lent or given works of art to enlarge and expand our collections.

– Prince Amyn Aga Khan, Opening of the Aga Khan Museum
Toronto, Canada Friday, 12 September 2014

… Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, passed away, and his widow, Princess Catherine, invited me to become the owner of their remarkable Islamic art collection … I was able to join my late uncle’s collection with part of the collection that I had assembled for The Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, and with some of my personal objects. But where should this assembled collection then be situated? After numerous discussions with many thoughtful people, the decision was made to build a museum on the very site that had been selected originally for the Ismaili Centre.

– His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, Opening of the Ismaili Centre
Toronto, Canada Friday, 12 September 2014

“Prince Sadruddin’s art acquisitions parallel his good works … Prince Sadruddin’s pictures and objects are a splendid harvest, chosen with both his heart and mind … the choices all reflect developments in his own life.

Reminded all too often through his work of humanity’s suffering, Prince Sadruddin avoids buying works of art that evoke pain. Visitors to his house are struck by his penchant for the happy and the lyrical. Several of his paintings relate to gardens and flowers. … People, however remain the primary concern at Bellerive, and those paintings, like the guests at Bellerive, are memorable for their expressive originality, whether stately as Shah Jahan, charismatically powerful as Akbar, cleverly masterful as Shah ‘Abbas or positively comical.”

 – S.C. Welch, Preface
Published in Princes, Poets & Paladins by Sheila R. Canby, British Museum Press, London, 1998

An Aged Pilgrim
Signed by Nader al-­‐Zaman
India, ca. 1618
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper

“My first awareness of art from the Islamic world goes back to the library of the Villa Jane-Andrée at Cap d’Antibes, where my parents spent much time before and after the Second World War. It was a musty and dark place. The curtains were often drawn to prevent the Mediterranean sun from bleaching the huge 14th century Mamluk Qur’an which lay open on the rosewood stand, usually at the beginning of ‘Surat-ul-Nas,’ which my father never tired of quoting. I was fascinated by the power of its calligraphic counterpoint, the diacritics and illuminations. Though I could not decipher the text, the burnished pages and their dark corners where the thumb and forefinger had left their mark over the centuries exuded a special mystery which I never forgot. My grandmother, who was the granddaughter of Fath ‘Ali Shah Qajar, had left us a large library of Persian books, particularly in Bombay and Poona. The classics of Hafiz, Rumi, Firdausi, Baba Tahir, Omar Khayyam and astrological treatises filled the shelves beside Nasir-i Khusraw, mystical texts by Hallaj and assorted works on the Shiite Imams and Ismailism. Sadly, the Shahnama’s illustrations were mostly 19th century kitsch. Mustachioed faces of Nasiru’d Din Shah and Muzaffaru’d Din Shah peered out of golden lacquered bindings.

… Many years have passed and the world is a different place, but my love of Arab manuscripts and Persian and Indian paintings has never ceased. I am grateful to my wife for putting up with my occasional fits of ‘collector’s dementia,’ especially in the saleroom. It has been a fascinating journey during which the ‘Court of Gayumars’ from Shah Tahmasp’s Shahnama became its Holy Grail, like the flower to which the aged pilgrim is drawn in one of my favourite Mughal pictures by Abu’l Hasan, Emperor Jehangir’s ‘Nadir al-Zaman’ (‘Rarity of the age’).

It is my hope that Princes, Poets & Paladins will spread a timeless message, one befitting the halls of the British Museum.

H.H. Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan
Bellerive, Switzerland

Published in Princes, Poets & Paladins by Sheila R. Canby, British Museum Press, London, 1998

Read complete addresseses of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan and Prince Amyn Aga Khan at:

The Ismaili  or Aga Khan Development Network

Excerpts from Princes, Poets & Paladins via research done and shared by Nimira Dewji

All stories from Ismailimail reporting from the ground:

Happy Birthday Princess Zahra

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 10.51.02 AM

Noorani Family at Ismaili Centre, Toronto and Aga Khan Museum inauguration - Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prince Amyn, Prince Rahim with Princess Salwa, and Prince Hussain

IM Reporting from TO - Discovering Ismaili Centre, Toronto - An Architectural and Engineering Gem

Discovering the Aga Khan Park - Reflections – An Interplay of Nature with the Built Environment


Aga Khan Museum - Welcomes the World – Doors Open to the Public

Discovering the Aga Khan Museum - Performing Arts Venues – Auditorium, Courtyard, Hallways and the Park

Discovering the Aga Khan Museum - Masterpieces from the Collection

IM Reporting from TO - Discovering Aga Khan Museum - The Gift Shop

IM Reporting from TO - Humbled and Grateful - Ismailimail invited to momentous occasion

Be the First to Know – Join Ismailimail

Get breaking news related to the Ismaili Imamat, the Noorani Family, the world wide Ismaili Jamat and all their endeavors and successes.

Learn how to subscribe and join 14,000 + other amazing people – Subscribe now!

Accelerate your Awareness – Explore, Discover and Learn more about the Aga Khan Projects in Toronto

Ismaili Centres Series (Perspectives on matters of the Soul and Spirit)

Constellations - Ismaili Centres - Foundation Stone and Inauguration Ceremonies – Special Moments and Speeches of Mowlana Hazar Imam

Constellations - Ismaili Centres - Global Centres of Confluence

Constellations - Ismaili Centres - Architecture, Design and a Video Montage

DYK - Spiritual Perspective - Prayer Book

Aga Khan Museum Series (Perspectives on matters of the Intellect, Knowledge and Wisdom)

Constellations - Aga Khan Museum – Building a Knowledge Epicenter - His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan on the choice of Toronto

Constellations - Aga Khan Museum – Evoking Wisdom - Prince Amyn Aga Khan on Peace

Constellations - Aga Khan Museum – Triggering Intellectual Anxiety - Louis Monreal on the purpose of the Museum

Constellations - Aga Khan Museum – A Symphony of Light, Shadow and Geometry

DYK - Intellectual Perspective - Avicenna - Cannon of Medicine

Aga Khan Toronto Park (Perspectives on matters of Felicity, Humanity and Nature)

Constellations - Aga Khan Park, Toronto – Garden of Paradise - Peace and Felicity

Constellations - Aga Khan Park, Toronto – Echoes of Paradise - the Garden and Flora in Islamic Art

DYK - Nature Perspective - Ottoman Gold Leaf

Aga Khan Trust For Culture (Perspectives on matters of Creative Collaborations and Partnerships)

Constellations - Creative Collaborations - Masterpieces of the Aga Khan Museum European and Asian Exhibition Tours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.