Monday, June 20, 2016

DIVINE PLEASURES: Paintings from India's Rajput Courts: Review by Polly Guerin

Like a mirror into society the art of painting known as Mughal Miniatures, is "a thing of beauty, a joy forever." The lasting beauty of these exquisitely executed miniature paintings, developed in the sixteenth and early nineteenth century for the royal courts of rajasthan and the Punjab Hills in northern India, the artists supported by Mughal Emperors and Rajput Kings.
     The delightful summer exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, DIVINE PLEASURES; PAINTING FROM INDIA'S RAJPUT COURTS, THE KRONOS COLLECTIONS, are meant to move the soul and delight the eye.  Compelling episodes the epic and poetic literature of the Indian subcontinent dominate the nearly 100 masterful paintings---most a 2015 promised gift by Steven M. Kossak from his family's Kronos Collections The exhibition through September 12, 2016  is shown in Galleries 691-693.
The collection was assembled over nearly four decades by Mr. Kossak, formerly a curator in The Met's Department of Asian Art.
      In many ways, the subjects and objects painted in these miniatures are narrative and show how people of India lived in those golden days.  Take full use of the provided magnifying glass because on a close look, you can see the style of living and the types of costumes and ornaments these people were wearing in the medieval and post-medieval era.  These remarkable paintings provide powerful imagery of the myths and epics of the past.  Taken as a meditative experience, the Indian paintings expressed a new way of seeking the divine through Bhakti, or personal devotion. 

      The exhibition is organized into three major sections---Early Rajput and Rajasthan, early Pahari (Pujab Hills), and late Pahari.  Within each room the paintings are shown in relation to the literary traditions of Indian Hinduism. For instance, these miniature paintings with exquisite detail and intact colors were not only the silent spectator to hunting, battles, love and marriages, court intrigue, pageantry, but bear witness to the social and cultural development of medieval India. Pictured Left: The poet,Abul Fazi Presenting Akbarnama to the Emperor.
      Of course, the people shown in the miniature paintings came from the upper class and princely families, but the detail of perfection, the ornaments, like necklaces, bracelets and rings are rendered with such incredible preciseness as well as the textiles, even sheer overlay skirts were a marvel of execution. Under the patronage of their Rajput rulers, many of the principalities of north India developed and nurtured a distinctive painting style.
     Compelling examples include Early Rajput Style; the later schools of Bikaner, Bundi, Kishangarh, Kota and Mewar as well as many of the small courts of he Punjab Hills; Bahu, Bahsoli, Bislalpur, Chamba, Guler, Kangra, Mandi, Mankot, and Nurpur.
The colors used by the artists Mughal era, for example, came from materials like minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, and conch shells, yet the intensity of artistic rendering is as intact as if painted yesterday. The painters sponsored by an emperor used gold and silver to decor the paintings, as such luxury was limited to court painters only. Pictured Left: Persian miniature handmade illuminated Islamic manuscript leaf art Mughal painting.  
      Accompanying this exhibit is another smaller but equally enchanting: POETRY and DEVOTION in INDIAN PAINTING: TWO DECADES OF COLLECTING on the third floor, Gallery 251, the Florence and Herbert Irving Asian Wing. Breathtaking in scope, curator Kurt Behrendt has assembled a treasure trove of miniature paintings, including A Lady Playing the Tampura, Reja Bahwant Singh Revering Krishna and Radha and Krishna Revels with the Gopis, a page from a Dispersed Gita Govinda (Song of the Cowherds).  A magnificent silver threaded tapestry adorns one wall in this smaller exhibit; is another enchanting experience.
      Ta ta Darlings!!! I'm awestruck by the  miniature paintings that provide a glimpse into the cultural and every day life activities of the royal and socially elite the bygone golden days of India. I would love to hear from you. Fan mail welcome: Visit Polly's other Blogs at www.pollytal,com and in the left-hand column click on the link to Blogs including fashion, visionary men, women determined to succeed and poetry.

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