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Thursday, October 20, 2011

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By Emma KrasovThe great kings of India, their large and small kingdoms, and their traces in history are now presented at the Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
Princess Asha Raje Gaekwad graced the exhibition opening yesterday with her attendance, greeted by the Museum director, Jay Xu, the show curator, Qamar Adamjee, the many media representatives and Museum staff.
Coming from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the show explores the many art forms associated with Indian royal courts through 250 years from the 1700s to the 1900s – the time of local political changes and prevailing influences, and the British rule of 1868-1947.The maharajas of Mughal, Bhavnagar, Mewar, Kota, and many other kingdoms and empires on the subcontinent of India throughout history followed the same rajadharma (the king’s way) which prescribed that any ruler must support religion – the very foundation of his power; protect his subjects with military strength and diplomacy; conduct state affairs with an assembly of nobles; keep law and order in place, marry polygamously and for political reasons, and patronize arts and crafts.Elaborately decorated weaponry and household items, silver-encrusted carriages, plush gilded thrones, intricate paintings and lavish outfits made of labor-intensive textiles are on display at the exhibition, with enormous sparkling jewels in various forms of adornments tucked away in glass cases in every gallery. Among them, a surprising amount of Cartier pieces, including the largest ever platinum and diamond necklace commissioned by maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala during his visit to Paris in 1928.Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts runs through April 8, 2012 at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. Additional information: 415-581-3500 or:
Images courtesy Asian Art Museum:
1. Jade pen case, 1700-1800. White Jade, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, steel. © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
2. The court of Ranjit Singh, about 1850. By Bisham Singh. Opaque watercolor on paper. Toor Collection.
3. Throne chair, about 1820. Probably designed by Robert Home. © V&A Images/Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
4. Bhupinder Singh of Patiala (modern photographic print from original negative), 1911. Lent by National Portrait Gallery, London. © National Portrait Gallery, London.


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