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Mehrangarh Museum Trust

‘Treasures of a Desert Kingdom: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India’

“Between the beginning of the collapse of the Mughal Empire at the death of the Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707 and the final victory of the East India Company and its nationalization in the mid-nineteenth century, the decline and disruption of the Mughal heartlands around Delhi were matched by astonishing growth, prosperity, and rebirth in the peripheries,” writes William Dalrymple.

“In the center of India, the city of Pune and the Maratha hills, flush with loot, entered their golden age. For Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and the other great Rajput courts, this was an age of resurgence as they regained their independence and began building many of their most magnificent forts and palaces. To the east, in Awadh, the baroque towers of Lucknow rose to rival those built by the Nizam in Hyderabad to the south. The Rohilla Afghans, the Sikhs of the Punjab, and the Jats of Deeg all began to carve independent states out of the cadaver of the Mughal Empire. In Tanjore in the far south, Carnatic music received enlightened and transformative patronage from the Maratha court, which had just seized control of that ancient center of Tamil culture.

Most unexpectedly of all, at the other end of the subcontinent, the remote Punjab hill states of the Himalayan foothills entered a period of astonishing creativity. Mountain fortresses suddenly blossomed with artists, many of whom had been trained in the now-defunct Mughal ateliers, each family of painters competing with and inspiring one another in a manner comparable to the rival city-states of Renaissance Italy: small but wealthy centers of courtly civilization ruled by discriminating aristocrats and intellectuals with an unusual interest in the arts extended lavish patronage to a select group of utterly exceptional artists. Some of them painted images that were not only of extraordinary beauty but also explored mystical and philosophical concepts that have rarely been expressed in painting before or since.”

“The earliest painting that survives from Jodhpur shows the unmistakable stamp of Mughal realism and artistic refinement. This only intensified during the period of Mughal collapse, as the courts offered generous patronage to painters left unemployed at the Mughal court, in several cases luring artists from Delhi: artists working in a Mughal style were often paid more for their painting than local painters. In 1719, after the death of his patron, the emperor Farrukh Siyyar, the imperial artist Bhavanidas shifted from Delhi to the Rajasthani court of Kishangarh, just beyond Jaipur; but under Rajput patronage, the painting of Bhavanidas and his family underwent a profound change, as they took Mughal traditions of portrait realism and used them to illustrate Hindu devotional subjects in a palette supercharged with the brilliant pigments of Rajasthan.”


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Category: Exhibition
Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen's Park,
Toronto, Ontario