The splendour, luxury, and legacy of India's greatest kings is being experienced by visitors to the Art Gallery of Ontario
with Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts. The Canadian exclusive, organized by London's Victoria and Albert Museum, features over 200 works spanning three centuries of history and will be on view at the AGO until April 3, 2011.
"We are deeply excited to welcome our visitors to this extraordinary exhibition," says Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO's Michael and Sonja Koerner director and CEO. "The AGO aims not only to tell compelling stories and display dazzling artwork, but also to present programming that reflects our community. With more than half of Canada's South Asian population residing in Toronto-the world's most diverse city-our hope is that this exhibition will entice visitors both new and familiar to the AGO to visit the Gallery and experience the wonder of India's legendary Maharajas."
The exhibition has received more support from the corporate community than any exhibition in the Gallery's 110-year history, resulting in the unprecedented offer of FREE admission to visitors 25 and under for the run of the exhibition (excluding the period December 26, 2010 to January 2, 2011). The "FREE for 25 and Under" offer is generously supported by the Patrons of the Exhibition: Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., The Globe and Mail, Rogers Communications Inc., and Scotiabank Group.
Among the 200 objects on view is the saffron-coloured 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II, custom-built for His Highness Thakore Sahib Dharmendrasinhji Lakhajiraj of Rajkot, on loan from his great-grandson His Excellency Y.S. Mandhatasinhji of Rajkot. Also on view is the stunning Patiala necklace, the largest single commission in the House of Cartier's history. Completed in 1928 and restored in 2002, this piece of ceremonial jewellery originally contained 2,930 diamonds and weighed nearly 1,000 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 silver carriage 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 a matchlock gun; and prized photographs by celebrated artists such as 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 at 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."
The four galleries of the AGO's Sam and Ayala Zacks Pavilion are devoted to the exhibition, with works on loan from the Victoria and 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.
Anna Jackson, deputy keeper of the V&A's Asian department curated Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts with consultant curator Amin Jaffer, international director of Asian art at Christies, and research curator Deepika Ahlawat. Stephen Inglis is the AGO's adjunct curator for the exhibition. The exhibition was organized by the V&A Museum, London in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario.