East of India: Forgotten Trade with Australia

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart shares a note on an exhibition currently on view at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney

East of India: Forgotten Trade with Australia

East of India: Forgotten Trade with Australia. Image Credit: http://www.anmm.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=2116

London: The Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney is currently hosting the exhibition, “East of India: Forgotten Trade with Australia”.

Seringapatam Painting

Seringapatam Painting. Image Credit: Australian National Maritime Musem

The exhibition visually narrates past colonial links between Australia and India, the power of the English East India Company and its decline, as well as the modern ties between the two countries. Textiles, coins, ceramics, prints, movies and many other items bear witness to these long lasting links between the two countries, and form the bulk of the display.

"Star Pagoda" Coin, Gold, India, c.1790-1807

“Star Pagoda” Coin, Gold, India, c.1790-1807. Image Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum

A majority of the objects on display (over 300) have been borrowed both from Australian and international collections such as those of the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal Collection in the United Kingdom.

Death of Munro, Glazed Earthenware, Staffordshire, c.1830

Death of Munro, Glazed Earthenware, Staffordshire, c.1830. Image Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum

Below you can enjoy one of the videos from the exhibition’s section, “Contemporary Connections”, which discusses the issue of identity for Indian-Australians.

The exhibition will remain on view until August 18, and you can find more information about the show here.

Art Deco and India’s Royal Families

Nishad Avari of Saffronart on the status of Art Deco in India’s royal collections 

Mumbai: In the nineteenth century, first under the East India Company and then as part of the British Empire when Queen Victoria assumed the title of Empress of India, not only did the Indian princes find themselves “…increasingly having to accommodate and entertain Europeans on equal terms,” but they also started developing a taste for the Western luxury goods and standards of living they now had a chance to experience.

By the 1920s, “Within one generation of western education the lifestyle of India’s princes were transformed and they began to wear western clothes, engage in western games and eat western food…those princes who could afford it abandoned their traditional residences for new, substantial palaces principally designed by western architects…[and] were built to accommodate western-style living, with its specific rooms for dining, sleeping, socializing, sport and recreation. The western-style elevated furniture and domestic articles needed to outfit these new vast palaces were readily supplied by British firms such as Maple & Co. and Waring & Gillow, both of which had showrooms in India… For Western firms making luxury goods, be it F & C Osler, Baccarat, Cartier, Boucheron, Louis Vuitton, Holland & Holland or Rolls Royce, Indian princes proved to be substantial clients and at certain times, such as during the Great Depression, were the mainstay of business” (Amin Jaffar, Made for Maharajas, Lustre Press/Roli Books, Mumbai, 2007, p. 15. 18).

Many of the items created by these firms for Indian royals between the 1920s and 1940s were crafted in the Art Deco style that had taken Europe by storm at the time. As a result, members of India’s royal families came to be regarded as some of the greatest patrons of Art Deco architecture, interiors, jewelry and accessories were.

From entire palaces constructed in the style, most notably in Morvi, Jodhpur and Indore, to highly customised jewelry, furniture and accessories purchased from European firms like Cartier, Boucheron and Louis Vuitton, India’s maharajas were captivated by the glamour, elegance and modernity that Art Deco represented as these were all principles central to their lifestyles.

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To read more about the history of the Art Deco movement, click here.

Learn more about our Art Deco Auction auction.

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