When the Mughals went Dutch

Updated: Oct 18, 2019, 08:04 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

Without having come to India, one of the greatest painters in the world created works inspired by Mughal miniatures. Now, an exhibition by CSMVS and Rijksmuseum focusses on this cultural exchange

Rembrandt was an avid collector and thus, collected Mughal miniatures and eventually copied some and rendered it in his own style or used it as inspiration for his work. The exhibition features two etchings, including (left) A Scholar in his Office (c. 1650-1654 AD), made by the prolific artist. "If we understand Rembrandt only as a painter, then it is not enough. He was also deeply religious. He was expecting the end of time, and this links him to the Mughal India because of the idea of the millennium that comes to a close," Gommans says; (right) The artwork Portrait of a Lady (c. 1935-1945 AD) features an elongated posture or the mukula - details like these fascinated him
Rembrandt was an avid collector and thus, collected Mughal miniatures and eventually copied some and rendered it in his own style or used it as inspiration for his work. The exhibition features two etchings, including (left) A Scholar in his Office (c. 1650-1654 AD), made by the prolific artist. "If we understand Rembrandt only as a painter, then it is not enough. He was also deeply religious. He was expecting the end of time, and this links him to the Mughal India because of the idea of the millennium that comes to a close," Gommans says; (right) The artwork Portrait of a Lady (c. 1935-1945 AD) features an elongated posture or the mukula - details like these fascinated him

We do know about the relationship between Britain and India, but not much about the one between the Netherlands and India," professor Jos Gommans remarks, as we stand outside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya's (CSMVS) Special Exhibition Gallery. Gommans, chair of colonial and global history at Leiden University, has co-curated an exhibition with Vandana Prapanna, the senior curator of the Indian Miniature Paintings section at the city museum — it's both fascinating and the first of its kind.

"The miniature artist Kesu Das worked under both emperor Akbar and Jahangir.The atmosphere painted in Elephant and rider (c. 1580-1590 AD), shows that Das was experimenting with and deriving from European art," Prapanna explains. (Right) Jahangir distributing Alms at the Dargah of Ajmer (c. 1620 AD) from the Muraqqa of Nana Phadnis depicts how Mughal painters drew from the perspective and distant landscape that was typical to European art, which according to Prapanna, Jahangir encouraged. Pics/Suresh Karkera
"The miniature artist Kesu Das worked under both emperor Akbar and Jahangir.The atmosphere painted in Elephant and rider (c. 1580-1590 AD), shows that Das was experimenting with and deriving from European art," Prapanna explains. (Right) Jahangir distributing Alms at the Dargah of Ajmer (c. 1620 AD) from the Muraqqa of Nana Phadnis depicts how Mughal painters drew from the perspective and distant landscape that was typical to European art, which according to Prapanna, Jahangir encouraged. Pics/Suresh Karkera

Titled India & the Netherlands in the Age of Rembrandt, a collaboration between CSMVS and the Rijksmuseum and supported by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Mumbai, it explores the cultural exchange that flourished in and around the seventeenth century — the workings of the Dutch East India Company and the impact of the two countries on each others' art. And although the highlight is Rembrandt van Rijn's original art, the exhibition is a fitting reply to one single question: how did a Dutch painter who never set sail to India end up being inspired by the Mughals?

Jos Gommans and Vandana Prapanna
Jos Gommans and Vandana Prapanna

The exhibition celebrates 400 years of cultural exchange as well as the 350th death anniversary of Rembrandt. This connection of art trading and collecting was fostered through the channels of the Dutch East India Company with its factories in Coromandel, Gujarat, Bengal and the Malabar Coast; so, Indian miniatures reached the Netherlands and Dutch prints arrived in India through Jesuit missionaries, and album or muraqqa' was maintained.

Till December 16, 10.15 am to 6 pm
At CSMVS, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort.
Call 22844519
Free

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