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Published: Friday, 8/22/2003

New exhibit at museum features art of India

BY JUDY TARJANYI
BLADE SENIOR WRITER

Members of Toledo's Indian community will present the cultural program at 7:30 p.m. in conjunction with “Princely Pursuits: Indian Miniature Painting,” on view through Nov. 30 in the Hitchcock Gallery.

The focus of the exhibition is seven miniature paintings, four of which were acquired in 1926 by the museum's second director, George Stevens, but it also includes landscape photographs of India by the 19th-century British photographer Samuel Bourne, Indian jewelry from a private collection, and three Indian sculptures that belong to the museum.

Six of the seven miniature works were commissioned by the Mughals, a Muslim dynasty that reigned in northern India from 1526 to 1858 and had a great appreciation of art and music. The Mughal artistic style also was expressed in stone work, the best-known example of which is the Taj Mahal, built as a tomb garden for the wife of the monarch Shah Jahan, who reigned from 1628 to 1658.

Painted in watercolor and pigment on paper, the miniatures in the “Princely Pursuits” exhibit are small because they would have been created for use in albums and often illustrated stories or poetry. Visitors will be able to examine their fine detail more closely with magnifying glasses that will be available in the gallery.

The works were rarely signed, but one of the pieces in the exhibition, the most recent to be acquired by the museum, has been attributed by a scholar to the artist Manohar, whose work spans 1640 to 1660. The painting, Scenes from the Childhood of Krishna, depicts the Hindu god Krishna in various stages of his life and is done in the native Indian style, which differs from the Mughal style with its intricate detail.

Although the Mughals were Muslims, some of them, most notably the emperor Akbar, who was in power from 1556 to 1605, were very tolerant of other religions, said Carolyn Putney, the museum's associate curator of Asian art. Akbar, who respected all religions, had hoped to create a world religion that embraced diverse forms of belief. Such thinking came to an end with the reign of Aurangzeb (1658 to 1707), who forced Islam on the entire country and destroyed the temples of the Hindus. Under his rule, Putney said, painting suffered and came to a creative end.

The 27 works in the “Princely Pursuits” exhibition also include eight of Bourne's photographs of India, two of which are owned by the museum and six loaned by William Becker of Detroit.

Several pieces of Indian jewelry, including earrings, a bracelet, and a Mughal pendant from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Gary Hansen of St. Louis, are being shown with the miniature paintings along with the Indian sculptures and a manuscript of Buddhist scripture belonging to the museum.

During “Princely Pursuits,” Toledo's Indian artists will exhibit their work in painting, photography, glass, and textiles in the museum's Community Gallery in a show that will open Sept. 5 with a program of music, storytelling, and henna painting, and run through Sept. 29.

“Princely Pursuits: Indian Miniature Painting” can be viewed at the museum through Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The exhibit is free and open to the public.



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