Indian maharajas' treasures come to Britain

10th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum sets out to shed light on the plush lifestyle of the maharajas until the end of British rule in 1947.

London -- The splendour of India's maharajas is to go on show in Britain from Saturday, with thrones, jewels, saris and even motorcars on display in London.

The exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, sets out to shed light on the plush lifestyle of the maharajas until the end of British rule in 1947.

"There has never been an exhibition like this before, showing the spectacular treasures of the courts of the maharajas," said museum director Mark Jones.

"Many of the objects have left India for the first time to come to the V and A," he said.

"This exhibition shows that India's rulers were significant patrons of the arts, in India and the West, and tells the fascinating story of the changing role of the maharaja from the early 18th century to the final days of the raj."

The exhibition, entitled Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts, comprises more than 250 objects including three thrones, a silver gilt howdah, gem-encrusted weapons, court paintings, photographs, and a Rolls-Royce luxury car.

It also includes the Patiala Necklace, part of jeweller Cartier's largest single commission. Completed in 1928, it originally contained 2,930 diamonds.

Many of the objects are on loan from royal collections in India, with items from Udaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Gwalior, Kapurthala and Baroda.

Split into sections, the exhibition starts with a recreation of an Indian royal procession, before exploring the political, religious and military leadership roles of a maharaja.

It then looks at the shifts of power and taste in the 18th and 19th centuries, including the disintegration of the Mughal empire and the expanding British influence.

The grand imperial durbars of the British Raj period, including pearls, rubies, emeralds and diamonds made for the maharaja of Baroda, are covered next.

The final section explores the role of "modern" maharajas and the increasing European influence on their lives and possessions.

The exhibition runs from Saturday until January 17. It is then due to transfer to Munich in southern Germany before touring North America.


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