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Painting by master of Indian art saved from export & Eastern Encounters at Palace of Holyroodhouse

by Theresa Thompson, Art Correspondent

The Trumpeters by Nainshuk of Guler. (c) The Trustees of the British Museum

Tying in nicely with the exhibition on Indian art currently on at The Wallace Colleciton, a painting has been saved from export after being purchased by the British Museum. It celebrates another master of Indian art, Nainsukh of Guler. He was the most famous and highly regarded artist of the Pahari or ‘Hill’ style of painting, which developed in the Punjab Hills of north-west India.

The Trumpeters’, thought to have been created between 1735 and 1740, depicts a traditional musical performance in Northern India. It’s a superb miniature watercolour - and described as a work “unparalleled in North Indian art”. It is a dynamic work, incredibly ‘modern’ in style, showing seven musicians playing Pahari horns with long pipes known as turhi, their cheeks puffed out with the effort.And it is now on display at the British Museum in London.

Imma Ramos, curator at the British Museum, said: “Nainsukh, whose name translates as ‘Delight of the Eyes’ is one of India’s greatest courtly artists, and this outstanding painting showcases his gift for complex composition and precise observation. It was painted at the height of his career while he was working for the ruler of Jasrota, Raja Balwant Singh. Its jewel-like colour, intricate detail and poetic mood suggest it would have been seen up close and studied at leisure, enjoyed privately or among guests. We are delighted that it is now in a public collection for the first time, where it can be enjoyed by visitors for its beauty, and help further study of South Asian art.”

"Nainsukh, whose name translates as ‘Delight of the Eyes’ is one of India’s greatest courtly artists, and this outstanding painting showcases his gift for complex composition and precise observation"

For another perspective on Indian art, an exhibition at the Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh is called Eastern Encounters: Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent. Open from 3rd April until 13th September 2020, this exhibition of paintings, prints, drawings and photographs from the Royal Collection explores the 400-year shared history of the British monarchy and the rulers of South Asia.

The formation of the East India Company, sanctioned by Elizabeth I in 1600, and the establishment of trade routes to South Asia opened up the glories of the subcontinent to Britain. More aristocratic in essence, among the treasures on view in this show are intricate paintings and manuscripts presenting the splendours of the Mughal court, royal portraits, architectural studies, and vibrant illustrations of Hindu epics.

A Mughal lady (possibly Farzana Begum), c.1650 Royal Collection Trust/ (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

The 250-year long rise of the East India Company is reflected in the gifts of manuscripts given to successive British monarchs on behalf of the Company and by Company officers. For example, a Quran owned by Tipu Sultan of Mysore and presented to George III is one of the works on display; it is splendidly worked with illuminated frontispiece and gilt-stamped and painted bindings.

Splendour, magnificence, opulence... such artworks are a far cry from the simple elegance of the paintings on restrained backgrounds of soldiers, beggars, animals and so in the Wallace Collection’s show - but call it serendipity, call it karma, all are on view to the public over roughly the same time period - and all are glorious representations of Indian art at its best.

CLICK HERE for more information.


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