Rare Manuscripts, Gifts and Portraits from India on Display at Buckingham Palace

The works of art on display span a geographical expanse from Kashmir to Kerala and a period of more than 400 years.


Mughal manuscripts and vivid depictions of Hindu gods are among some of the rare and priceless items currently on display at an exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace.

The exhibition — Splendors of the Subcontinent — started on June 8 and will go on until Oct. 14, 2018. The works of art on display span a geographical expanse from Kashmir to Kerala, and a period of more than 400 years, the Royal Collection Trust said in a statement.

The Royal Collection’s group of South Asian paintings and manuscripts contain some of the most important and well-preserved examples in the world, the statement added. “For the first time, highlights from this superb collection will be brought together in an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery exploring the long-standing relationship between the British Crown and South Asia,” the statement said.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are the Padshahnama. A shamsa (image of the sun) was placed on the frontispiece of the manuscript made for a royal patron, according to the Royal Collection Trust, a charity caring for the royal collection and looking after visitors to Buckingham Palace, including the Queens Gallery.

It also took to the social media to announce the opening of the exhibition.

Some of the South Asian paintings and manuscripts in the collection were diplomatic gifts presented by Indian rulers to the British sovereign. “Others were presented by British officers stationed in the subcontinent, many of whom developed their own interests in South Asian culture in the service of the East India Company,” the statement said.

“Queen Victoria acquired many South Asian books and manuscripts, both in their original languages and in translation. Less well known are the paintings and manuscripts given to and bought by King George V and Queen Mary during their two tours of South Asia in the early twentieth century,” it added.

Some of the other exhibits on display are portraits of James I, King of England and Ireland, as well as Mughal emperor Jahangir, portraits of Sir Thomas Roe at the Mughal court, and portraits of Charles I and Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

The exhibition also includes manuscripts and books that reflect the transition from scribal to print culture and the development of a commercial book trade in South Asia in the 19th century.

“In 1875–76, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, toured India for four months. Queen Victoria was formally declared ‘Empress of India’ the following year. She wrote that ‘kind words from distant friends are the most precious of all gifts’ and received many autobiographies, histories and other books written about or dedicated to her in several South Asian languages including Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi and Tamil,” the statement said.

Among these are the Hindi translation of Queen Victoria’s published journals of the royal family’s trips to Balmoral by Ishwari Prasad Narayan Singh, the maharaja of Banaras. The king gave the book to the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, during his tour of India in 1876, to present to Queen Victoria on his return to England.

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