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Maharaja: the Splendour of India's Royal Courts

Exhibition preview

AN EXHIBITION entitled Maharaja: the Splendour of India’s Royal Courts will be on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum from October 10, 2009 to January 17, 2010.

The word ‘maharaja’ (literally ‘great king’) conjures up images of fantasy and spectacle. The heyday of the maharajas began in earnest after the collapse of the Mughal empire in the early 18th century.

The exhibition will open with this period of chaos and adventure and will close at the end of British rule in 1947, when Indian princes acceded their territories into the modern states of India and Pakistan.

The show will explore the extraordinary culture of princely India, showcasing rich and varied objects that reflect different aspects of royal life. The exhibits will include both Indian and Western works, featuring paintings, photography, textiles and dress, jewellery, jewelled objects, metalwork and furniture.

These sensational works will be explored within a broader historical context of princely life and ideals, patronage, court culture and alliances.

More than 250 stunning objects are being shown, reflecting different aspects of the royal life. Many are on loan from India’s royal collections and have never been seen before in the UK.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

• A golden throne.
• The recreation of an Indian royal procession.
• A silver howdah carried atop a life-sized model elephant.
• Jewelled weapons.
• Photographs and portraits by Man Ray and Cecil Beaton.
• A carpet of pearls, rubies, emeralds and diamonds.

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Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL