The first exhibition to explore the extraordinarily rich visual culture of India’s last royal families, Maharaja: The Splendors of India’s Great Kings spans the period from the early 18th century to the mid-20th century, bringing together over 200 magnificent objects. It examines the changing role of the maharajas (“great kings”) within a social and historical context, and reveals how their patronage of the arts, both in India and Europe, resulted in splendid and beautiful objects symbolic of royal status, power and identity.
The power of an Indian king was expressed most spectacularly in the grand public processions that celebrated royal events and religious festivities. Riding a richly ornamented elephant or horse, the ruler was lavishly dressed and jeweled, and surrounded by attendants bearing symbolic attributes of kingship: a royal parasol, fans and staffs of authority. These traditional royal elements mingle with more modern riches, including spectacular commissions from Europe’s most elegant fashion houses, as the exhibition traces the fascinating history of the shifting power between India’s dynasties, the rise of British colonial supremacy, and the move toward Indian independence.
The exhibition is organized by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and is organized for VMFA by John Henry Rice, Associate Curator of South Asian and Islamic Art.
Maharaja: The Splendors of India’s Great Kings has traveled to select cities outside of London, including Munich, Toronto, and San Francisco. VMFA will be the only east-coast opportunity to view this stunning collection of jewels, armor, decorative arts, paintings and other luxurious royal possessions.
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Exhibition organized in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Additional support provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Fred T. and Roddy P. Tattersall, and an Anonymous Donor.
The Banner Exhibition Program at VMFA is made possible by the Julia Louise Reynolds Fund.
Youth education programs for Maharaja: The Splendors of India’s Great Kings are generously sponsored by MeadWestvaco Foundation.