Sangram Singh with children in the Dilkhush Mahal Rajasthan, Mewar Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, ca. 1720 16 1/16 in. x 26 25/32 in. (40.8 cm x 68 cm)
Made for the Muslim and Hindu rulers in the northern and western
parts of pre-modern India, paintings from the sixteenth through
the nineteenth century are replete with themes of earthly
and divine power and courtly and ethereal love. Power and
explores these two themes and the complex relationship
between them as seen in some of the finest Indian court paintings.
The exhibition includes three sections: Rule
- life of the court; Love
-earthly and divine love of mortals and gods;
and Divine Realm
of the gods. The three overarching themes are intended to
be porous, allowing viewers to engage with the subtle yet
dynamic layers of interaction among the three sections.
All of the paintings in Power and Desire
for Indian rulers or their families and courtiers. Originally
the paintings were gathered in unbound sets or incorporated
into sumptuous manuscripts or albums. They were kept wrapped,
stored in closets, and brought out on special occasions for
the viewing pleasures of the ruler or patrons. This practice
has allowed the pictures to remain vibrant over the centuries.
In addition to the thematic connections between courtly and
divine power and love, the exhibition also illuminates stylistic
interactions between The Royal Courts
of the subcontinent. Thus, the paintings range from delicate
realism of the court scenes of the Mughal emperors, who ruled
from Delhi and Agra, to brilliant color compositions of love
narratives of Krishna, made for tiny Hindu courts in the Punjab
hills. Together, these small paintings create a kaleidoscopic
view of the world that is at once rich in everyday details
and cosmic allusions .
The collection, more than 1,450 works of art, came to the
San Diego Museum of Art in 1990. The late Edwin Binney, heir
to the Crayola fortune, served on the board of the museum
from 1977 to 1979 and from 1983 to 1986. The collection ranges
in date from twelfth-century manuscripts to twentieth-century
paintings, from nearly every important court and period on
Power and Desire is organized by the San Diego Museum
of Art in collaboration with the Asia Society, New York.
The exhibition is co-curated by Vishakha N. Desai, Senior
Vice-President and Director of the Galleries, Asia Society;
Kavita Singh, Research Editor, Marg Publications; and Caron
Smith, Curator of Asian Art, San Diego Museum of Art.
The curators wish to thank B.N. Goswamy, Andrew Topsfield,
and Ellen Smart for generously sharing their understanding.
In New York, support for the exhibition and related programs
has been provided by Dr. and Mrs. Purnendu Chatterjee, Mr.
and Mrs. Rohit M. Desai, Laurence F. Whittemore, The Cynthia
Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Robert
M. Beningson, Arvind Raghunathan and Sribala Subramanian,
Tushar D. Kothari, Anand and Abha Kumar, Doris Wiener, J.
Watumull Fund, and Mary Wallach (list in formation).
Support for the Asia Society's Cultural Programs is provided
by the Friends of Asian Arts, Wallace - Reader's Digest Funds,
The Starr Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, The Armand
G. Erpf Fund, The Arthur Ross Foundation, and the Harold J.
and Ruth Newman Philanthropic Fund.
View the online exhibition here.