Masterpieces from India's Late Mughal Period at the Asia Society Museum
New York City. Asia Society Museum presented an exhibition Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857, exploring artwork from India's late Mughal Period, from February 7 to May 6, 2012. The exhibition brings together approximately 100 masterpieces including works by Delhi-based court artists Nidha Mal and Chitarman, and less familiar works by artists such as Ghulam Murtaza Khan, Ghulam Ali Khan and Mazhar Ali Khan, all created during an artistically rich period in India's history. This major international exhibition displayed on loan provides a new look at an era of significant change during which the Mughal capital in Delhi shifted from being the heart of the late Mughal Empire to becoming the jewel in the crown of the British Raj.
Even after losing military, political and economic power to the newly arrived British in Calcutta, Delhi continued to maintain its remarkable cultural, literary, and artistic patronage networks. Artists were supported by the Mughal court in Delhi and the city's growing European residents, creating an environment of interaction and influence between them and the new world of the British East India Company.
As the British took over the reign of a dispersed empire from the Mughals in 1803, they were charmed by its courtly elegance and sought to participate in its culture as patrons and enthusiasts. Company painting, involving artistic commissions undertaken by Indian artists for officers of the British East India Company, was practiced alongside Mughal court painting, with both patrons utilizing the services of a common group of artists.
Curated by William Dalrymple and Yuthika Sharma, the exhibition focuses on the reigns of the last four Mughal emperors: Muhammad Shah (reigned 1719-1748), Shah Alam II (reigned 1759-1806), Akbar Shah II (reigned 1806-1837) and Bahadur Shah II Zafar (reigned 1837-1857).
Along with Mughal miniatures produced under later emperors – Muhammad Shah to Bahadur Shah Zafar – this exhibition also highlights a selection of Company School paintings produced for Delhi-based personalities such as William Fraser, James Skinner and Thomas Metcalfe. Select photography, drawings and decorative arts are also included. The exhibition includes portrait paintings, remarkable panoramas and exquisite decorative arts crafted for Mughal emperors and European residents alike, as well as historical photographs.