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Major Mughal era paintings on view at Asia Society

February 10
01:19 2012

NEW YORK: The Asia Society in New York is presenting the first ever major exhibition exploring the artwork from India’s late Mughal period. The exhibition, Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857 is on view Feb 7 through May 6.

The exhibition brings together 100 masterpieces created during an artistically rich period in India’s history. This major international loan exhibition provides a new look at an era of significant change during which the Mughal capital in Delhi shifted from being the heart of the late Mughal Empire to becoming the jewel in the crown of the British Raj.

The exhibition includes jewel-like portrait paintings, striking panoramas, and exquisite decorative arts crafted for Mughal emperors and European residents alike, as well as historical photographs.

The exhibition is curated by William Dalrymple and Yuthika Sharma. It is accompanied by a 264-page illustrated book with essays by William Dalrymple, Yuthika Sharma, Jean Marie Lafont, Malini Roy, Sunil Sharma, and J.P. Losty, published by Asia Society Museum in association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

“Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857 is a reappraisal of a transitional era in India that provided unprecedented impetus for artistic innovation and experimentation,” says Melissa Chiu, Asia Society Museum Director and Vice President for Global Art Programs. “We’re pleased to be taking a new approach to this magnificent and vibrant work with notable author William Dalrymple and art historian Yuthika Sharma as curators.”

The exhibition focuses on the reigns of the last four Mughal emperors: Muhammad Shah (reigned 1719-1748), Shah Alam II (reigned 1759-1806), Akbar Shah II (reigned 1806-1837) and Bahadur Shah II Zafar (reigned 1837-1857).

Having lost military, political and economic power to the newly arrived British in Calcutta, Delhi continued to maintain its extraordinary cultural, literary, and artistic patronage networks. Artists were supported by the Mughal court in Delhi and the city’s ascendant European residents, creating an environment of extraordinary interaction and influence between them and the new world of the British East India Company.

As the British took over the reign of a dispersed empire from the Mughals in 1803, they were enamored of its courtly elegance and sought to participate in its culture as patrons and enthusiasts. Company painting, involving artistic commissions undertaken by Indian artists for officers of the British East India Company, was practiced alongside Mughal court painting, with both patrons utilizing the services of a common group of artists.

The exhibition looks at recognized works by Delhi-based court artists Nidha Mal and Chitarman, and less familiar works by artists such as Ghulam Murtaza Khan, Ghulam Ali Khan, and Mazhar Ali Khan. In addition to Mughal miniatures produced under later emperors, this exhibition highlights a selection of so-called Company School paintings produced for Delhi-based personalities such as William Fraser, James Skinner, and Thomas Metcalfe. The exhibition also chronicles the rise in genre portraiture during this era, epitomized by character studies of urban and rural residents of Delhi.

India Post News Service

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