Calouste Gulbenkian's prolific art collecting obsession is housed within the Founders Collection building and consists of over six thousand pieces. With exhibits ranging from the ancient past right up to the early 20th century and sourced from all over the world. Within the fascinating small Egyptian room, one encounters artefacts from various periods of Ancient Egypt such as the Head of Sestrostris III who reigned from 1836 to 1818 BCE and bronze feline statuettes and a gilded silver funerary mask all dating from 664 to 525 BCE. Classical antiquity here is represented by Roman statues, silver, glass and intricate gold jewellery, along with a collection of Hellenic coins. From Mesopotamia, there are two cylinder seals that pre-date 2500 BCE.
Two impressive rooms containing historical treasures from the Near East including Islamic calligraphy, tapestries and carpets, as well as ornate tile and glassware from 16th and 17th Century Persia, Turkey, Syria and India. From the far east one can encounter marvellous examples of ceramics, porcelain, jade, paintings from China and beautiful prints and lacquer-work from Japan.
Also to be found are fine examples of European art such as medieval manuscripts, ivory and wood diptychs, tapestries from the Italian Renaissance as well as French furniture and silverware from the 18th Century. Great pieces of art adorn the walls from such prestigious artists such as Rogier van der Weyden, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Frans Hals, Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, Thomas Gainsborough, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Hubert Robert, Édouard Manet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Edgar Degas, and many others. Many of these works were bought from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg during the Soviet era. The final room houses a fine Art Nouveau collection with 169 pieces of jewellery, glass and metalwork by René Lalique.