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The Great Kings of India to Hold Court at the Art Gallery of Ontario
A 1927 Phantom 1 Rolls Royce is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The classic vehicle is part of the 'Maharaja The Splendour of India's Royal Courts' exhibition. EPA/ANDY RAIN.
TORONTO.- This fall the Art Gallery of Ontario opens its doors to the magnificent world of India’s great kings. Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, organized in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, will make its sole Canadian stop at the AGO, with a members-only preview starting November 17 and public viewing from November 20, 2010 to February 27, 2011. The exhibition features over 200 opulent objects, including paintings, tapestry, thrones, weapons, and jewels, most on view in North America for the first time.

Spanning the last 300 years of India’s culture - from the beginning of the 18th century, to the end of British rule in 1947, and concluding with a look at the legacy of the Maharajas today - the exhibition examines the social and historical role of these kings and their courts, bringing to light the ancient royal traditions that have permeated the lives of descendants worldwide.

The four galleries of the AGO’s Sam and Ayala Zacks Pavilion will be devoted to the exhibition, with works on loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum, Qatar Museums Authority, British Museum, National Gallery of Canada, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Asian Art Museum, Cartier, the National Portrait Gallery, and various private lenders.

Among the 200 objects on view are some of India’s greatest treasures, including the magnificent Patiala Necklace, part of the largest single commission that the French house of Cartier has ever executed. Completed in 1928 and restored in 2002, this piece of ceremonial jewellery contains 2,930 diamonds and weighs almost one thousand carats.

Other key works in the show include the famed throne once belonging to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a life-sized model elephant adorned with textiles and trappings and accompanied by a silver howdah from the early 19th century, a carriage entirely made of silver commissioned by the Maharaja of Bhavnagar, paintings of spectacular royal processions, royal costumes and traditional dress worn by great kings and queens, ceremonial weapons including daggers, swords and matchlock guns, and prized photographs by artists including Man Ray and Cecil Beaton.

“Many of the arts of India exist today as a result of the patronage of the Maharajas,” says Dr. Stephen Inglis, adjunct curator of the exhibition and curator emeritus from the Canadian Museum of Civilization. “Their support of artists resulted in splendid and beautiful objects symbolic of royal status, power and identity, as well as the survival of many forms of dance and music. Because of their support, these traditions lived on, and now allow us the opportunity to stage such an amazing display of art and artifacts.”

“Continuing to broaden the definition of art, the AGO is thrilled to provide the opportunity for people in Toronto and the GTA to experience this unforgettable history, and the social and political happenings of that time,” says Matthew Teitelbaum, AGO Director and CEO. “This is an exhibition of exploration and education. We look forward to sharing with the communities that are so directly in touch with this extraordinary culture.”


Toronto | Art Gallery of Ontario | "Maharaja" | Dr. Stephen Inglis |


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