When the Mughals went Dutch
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
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
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
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.
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