Last week I went to see Maharaja: the Splendor of India’s Royal Courts exhibition at the V&A in London. Its a beautifully curated and displayed exhibition, detailing the lives and loves (human and material) of various famous and infamous Indian Maharajs. Having visited many museums and palaces in Rajasthan, the objects created by Indian artisans were not as thrilling to see compared to the objects made by European luxury houses like Dior, Cartier and Rolls Royce. This is I feel more due to the fact that the outrageously wealthy and ostentatious Maharajahs often lacked certain refinement in taste and hence “the more the merrier” was the goal of the artisans who had to please the royal patron.
The pinnacle of the exhibition for me were the photographs of Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II and Maharani Sanyogita Devi of Indore created by Man Ray. Besides the intrinsic beauty of the handsome couple, the images were a rare glimpse into the private and playful world of the beautiful and the unapproachable. The images captured a certain moment in time and spirit when Europe was the center of creativity, and where the wealthy and beautifully played and mingled with artists of unparalleled talent and vision.
The historical context of many of the ruling dynasties that claimed various parts of India was clearly and interestingly laid out and for anyone planning to go to Rajasthan would benefit greatly from a visit to this exhibition. The exhibition ends on 17th of January, 2009.