The Splendors of India’s Royal Courts Displaying In The Forbidden City.

Emily Jane Cushing suggests ‘The Splendors of India’s Royal Courts’, an exhibition curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum for the Palace Museum, Beijing.

Detail of Religious procession. A scroll showing, About 1825-1830. Image Credit; http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/m/maharaja-the-splendour-of-indias-royal-courts/

Detail of Religious procession. A scroll showing, About 1825-1830. Image Credit; http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/m/maharaja-the-splendour-of-indias-royal-courts/

London: For the first time the arts of Royal India are coming to China.

The exhibition will take place in the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City until 31st July 2013. This setting results in a collision of two of the greatest and richest civilizations in one place.

The 113 especially selected works are from London’s V&A collection, the range of objects is vast, including paintings, textiles, jewelry, thrones and arms and armor as well as instruments; all spanning from the 18th-19th century.

Stringed instrument, North India, 1800-1880, Image Credit,http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2013-06/14/content_16618619.htm

Stringed instrument, North India, 1800-1880; Image Credit, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2013-06/14/content_16618619.htm

The works are symbolic of the wealth, power and influence of the Maharajah of the period. The magnificent works were intended to enhance status and royal identity and also reflect the shifts of power within the Royal kingdom.

The diverse exhibition is separated into four parts; the Darbar, Palace Life, Beyond the Palace and The Influence of the West.

The Darbar, meaning Royal court, is the area in which private rituals would take place which were attended by only courtiers and nobles. Formal events such as the King’s birthday however, were celebrated in public view. During these events the public would see their ruler drenched in the finest textiles and jewelry and surrounded by ceremonial weapons and royal regalia, all of which signified his wealth and power and examples of such on display here.

Turban Ornament, Mughal Court, 1700-1750; Image Credit; http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2013-06/14/content_16618619.htm

Turban Ornament, Mughal Court, 1700-1750; Image Credit; http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2013-06/14/content_16618619.htm

This turban ornament is a small example of the ornate decoration used on objects for ceremonial use that are displayed in this exhibition. The craftsmanship is evident here with the hand cut emerald, rubies and jade delicately placed. Interestingly, these objects of finery were often made by the private courts makers, intended for the sole use of the royal family and made only from the finest materials.

The second section of the exhibition, Palace Life, explores the private lives of the rulers and their consorts; there are examples of instruments, board games and costumes which were used as past-times and for pleasure.

The below work of a woman holding a kite is from this part of the exhibition, the kite symbolizing a distant lover; interesting to note is the figures and images in these works are not factual and are always imaginary scenes with symbolic value, usually evoking romantic notions.

Lady Flying a Kite, Bikaner or Jodhpur, 1730-1750; Image Credit, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2013-06/14/content_16618619.htm

Lady Flying a Kite, Bikaner or Jodhpur, 1730-1750; Image Credit, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2013-06/14/content_16618619.htm

The third section of the exhibition, Beyond the Palace, shows the life of the King outside of the royal palace. These images of a richly adorned king joined by his horses and elephants are believed to show the kings ability to protect his country from threats.

Painting of procession on Ram Singh II of Kota, India, Circa 1850; Image Credit, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/m/maharaja-the-splendour-of-indias-royal-courts/

Painting of procession on Ram Singh II of Kota, India, Circa 1850; Image Credit, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/m/maharaja-the-splendour-of-indias-royal-courts/

The final section, The Influence of the West, examines the impact of Western culture on the Indian Royal courts and includes portraiture by British artist Tilly Kettle and others. These works exhibit western painting techniques such as chiaroscuro and perspective.

I hope you like the look of this exhibition; I do! This diverse and exciting collection is showing until 31st July at the Palace Museum, Beijing.

Further information can be found here.

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