Poetry in Stone: Carved Screens from Sultanate and Mughal India

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart on ‘Red Stone’, a two-gallery exhibition of ancient Indian carvings in London

London: The Francesca Galloway and Sam Fogg galleries in London recently concluded a joint exhibition of exquisite Mughal perforated stone screens or ‘jalis’ titled ‘Red Stone: Indian stone carving from Sultante and Mughal India’.

Jalis were a very popular feature in Mughal buildings between the 16th and 18th centuries, mainly used to glorify imperial architecture, and were mostly produced in the Agra and Delhi areas of Northern India.  Jalis had the purpose of separating spaces within buildings to provide privacy, especially for the women of the court, as well as allowing the wind to circulate and dividing ‘divine spaces’ from ‘worldly’ ones.

A note accompanying the exhibition, which coincided with the celebration ‘Asian Art in London’, states, “According to Mughal political thought, a ruler was best represented by his buildings which became memorials to his fame. During the high period of Mughal art the imaginative designs of sandstone and marble jalis achieved a degree of sophistication and refinement not seen elsewhere. Jalis have a contemporary aesthetic which appeals to younger collectors, and have been used in museum installations at The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, The National Gallery of Australia, and the new Islamic Arts wing of the Louvre.”

The perforated stone screens on display in this joint exhibition most probably came from buildings in Agra and Delhi and were earlier part of a private English collection, housed in a country estate in Somerset. The collection includes jalis bearing highly detailed geometric, floral and vase patterns, as well as few frieze fragments from the late 12th and early 13th centuries inscribed with surahs and emblematic sentences from the Koran. All the pieces are carved in the distinctive red sandstone of Northern India.

More information on the exhibition can be found on a New York Times article and the Francesca Galloway and Sam Fogg websites.

Below you can enjoy a selection of the jalis from the exhibition.

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