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The Deccani Splendour

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art will be holding an exhibition titled the ‘Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy’ from April 20 to July 26 this year. ADORN brings you a preview of some rare jewellery pieces from among the 165 fascinating objects, paintings and textiles that have a distinctive Indo-Islamic flavour collected from royal and private collections.

The population of the Deccan plateau by the 16th century included immigrants from Central Asia and Iran, African military slaves, native born Muslim nobles, and European missionaries, merchants, and mercenaries.

The Deccan plateau of south-central India was home to a succession of highly cultured Muslim kingdoms with a rich artistic heritage. Under their patronage in the 16th and 17th centuries, foreign influences — notably from Iran, Turkey, eastern Africa, and Europe — combined with ancient and prevailing Indian traditions to create a distinctive Indo-Islamic art and culture. Opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 20, the landmark exhibition ‘Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy’ will bring together some 165 of the finest works from major international, private, and royal collections. Featuring many remarkable loans from India, the exhibition — which is the most comprehensive museum presentation on this subject to date — will explore the unmistakable character of classical Deccani art in various media: poetic lyricism in painting; lively creations in metalwork; and a distinguished tradition of textile production.

The golden age of Bijapur under the rule of Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1580-1627) defines the spirit of Deccani art. Masterpieces in painting by the leading court artist Farrukh Husain will demonstrate the refined and lyrical style that influenced much of Deccani art. Ahmednagar’s African nobility included the legendary Abyssinian Malik Ambar (1548-1628), whose portraits will be included among other rare surviving works. Numerous examples of the celebrated bidri metalwork tradition from the kingdom of Bidar will also be shown. These feature a base composed of a blackened alloy of zinc and copper with thin sheets of silver inlay in striking designs.

Among the treasures from Golconda—whose diamond mines were the source of such diamonds as the legendary Kohinoor—will be a group of magnificent gems from international royal collections, including the “Idol’s Eye” and “Agra” diamonds. Also to be shown are spectacular large painted and printed textiles (kalamkaris), several over nine feet in height and all richly painted with motifs drawn from Indian, Islamic, and European art. These will be shown along with sumptuous royal objects made of inlaid and gilded metal, precious jewels, carved wood and stone architectural elements, many of which draw inspiration from the art of Safavid Persia and Ottoman Turkey.

Numerous examples of the celebrated bidri metalwork tradition from the kingdom of Bidar will also be shown.

The exhibition is made possible by the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund, the Placido Arango Fund, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue suitable for scholarly and general audiences. The catalogue will feature photography by Antonio Martinelli, veteran photographer of Indian art and architecture. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, the book will be available for purchase in the Museum’s bookshops. The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and the Doris Duke Fund for Publications.

The exhibition will also be featured on the Museum’s website:
www.metmuseum.org
EXHIBITION LOCATION: First-floor special exhibition galleries.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue suitable for scholarly and general audiences.

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