Cover image of the review
*JIVA Maharana Ari Singh II and Rapaji riding elephants 1767*, opaque watercolour and gold paint on paper, 48.2 x 39.2 cm (image) 53.5 x 42.3 cm (sheet).

Visions of Paradise: Indian Court Paintings

2 Mar 2019
7 Dec - 29 Apr 2019

Visions of Paradise is an unexpected delight. Bringing together nearly 200 works on paper from the NGV's 1980 Felton Bequest acquisitions of Indian painting, the exhibition offers up a feast of fine details, lavish lifestyles and sizzling colours. Even for the historically uninformed viewer like me, the offerings are an irresistible invitation to rekindle the joys of looking; they bountifully reward extended periods of fascinated goggling. at

Focussing primarily on works made between the 17th and 19th centuries, the show is primarily made up of paintings (most of them anonymous) from the feudal courts of Rajputana, the region of northern India (closely overlapping with today's Rajasthan) where Hindu warrior-kings resisted the Muslim rule of the Delhi Sultanate until its fall at the hands of the Mughals in 1526. Under the Mughal Empire, the Rajput courts often retained substantial independence. They achieved this mainly through negotiation and diplomacy, but in the case of the Mewar region (in the art of which the exhibition is particularly rich) peace with the Mughal Empire only came after 40 years of guerrilla war. When they eventually downed their weapons, the Mewar maharanas, like the rulers of other Rajput courts, devoted themselves to becoming connoisseurs of life's pleasures and enthusiastic patrons of high culture, including, importantly, painting, which they commissioned to reinforce their royal prestige, document their refined lifestyles and evince their religious devotion.

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