Art Services International Exhibitions

Imperial Mughal Albums premieres at the Sackler Gallery Washington, DC -- May 3

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Art Services International is pleased to announce Muraqqa': Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, an exhibition of 86 superb Mughal-dynasty album folios (pages) drawn from one of the finest and most respected collections of its kind in the world—the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland.  The albums made in the years 1600–1657 for the emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan, encompass some of the most remarkable of all historical depictions of individuals and the world around them.  The Mughal dynasty ruled India for more than three centuries, but the period of greatest artistic production for individual paintings was that of these two great emperors.  The albums of paintings and calligraphy (called muraqqa’ in Persian) that they assembled now serve as a window to understanding the history and culture of this pivotal period of Indian history.  The paintings in these albums include formal (often symbolic) portraits of the emperors themselves, depictions of members of the royal family in relaxed private settings, portraits of courtiers and of Sufi saints and mystics, genre scenes, and natural history subjects – a rich mélange of pictures that allows us to enter the world of these great rulers.  These 86 stunning, jewel-like works have been selected by the Library’s Curator of the Islamic Collections, Dr. Elaine Wright, and this will be the first major exhibition devoted to the Library’s Mughal-era Indian Collection to have taken place outside Dublin.  After the exhibition’s premiere in Washington, DC, it will travel to three more U.S. museums, through 2009.

One of the most characteristic features of art patronage under these “Great Mughals” was the compiling of single folios of painting and calligraphy with elaborate painted borders into albums. The Chester Beatty Library holds significant portions of a number of (now disbound) imperial albums made for the Indian emperors Jahangir (both before and after he acceded the throne in 1605) and Shah Jahan (ruled 1628–57).  The Library’s renowned folios from the Minto Album (compiled c. 1612–40) and the Late Shah Jahan Album (compiled c. 1650–57) form the core of this exceptional exhibition.  Folios from other imperial albums and other single folios and manuscripts, also included in the exhibition, will be considered in relation to these two great assemblies of images and calligraphy.  Through these rare albums and folios, the exhibition will explore the significant function and place of album-making within the imperial library and the world of the Mughals.  A major feature of the exhibition will be the display of several double-sided folios, showing images on one side and calligraphy on the other, as they would have been viewed in albums.

The exhibition will be arranged in ten sections, following an introduction that describes the historical and art historical background that led to the creation of these artworks: Iranian and Central Asian Manuscripts in the Mughal Library; Poetry and Other Non-Historical Manuscripts; Memoirs, Biographies, and Official Histories; The Salim Album; Salim’s Shikarnama; The Gulshan Album; The Minto Album; The Late Shah Jahan Album; The Nasir al-Din Shah Album; and Other Related Works: Single-Page Paintings and Drawings.

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, an American mining entrepreneur, began amassing his exquisite collection of Islamic, East Asian and Western art in the early years of the 20th century.  For many years he made his home in London and eventually received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to England during both World Wars and for his many peacetime acts of philanthropy.  In 1950 he moved his magnificent collection to Dublin, which became his primary place of residence until his death in 1968.  Ireland likewise benefited from his munificence in many and varied ways, but his single greatest act of generosity to the Irish people was the bequeathing of his Library to the Irish state.  The collections of the Chester Beatty Library are renowned for their overall exquisite quality – Chester Beatty’s discerning aesthetic sense and his constant insistence upon only the finest material available for his library are legend.  The Library was named European Museum of the Year in 2002.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an over 500-page, fully-illustrated color catalogue, with individual catalogue entries for each work in the show.  The catalogue will also contain introductory essays by Dr. Wright; Dr. Susan Stronge, Senior Curator, Asian Department, Victoria and Albert Museum; Prof. Wheeler M. Thackston, former Professor of the Practice of Persian and other Near Eastern Languages, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University; Dr. Steven Cohen, textile specialist and independent scholar and author; London; and, from the Chester Beatty Library, Charles Horton, Curator of Western Collections, and Rachael Smith in association with Jessica Baldwin, both Conservators.  The catalogue will be published by Art Services International.

The exhibition premieres at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (May 3 – August 3, 2008).  Subsequent venues include the Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan (August 23 – November 16, 2008); the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawai’i (December 17, 2008 – March 1, 2009); and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri (March 21 – June 14, 2009).

Credit Information

Please mention Art Services International in any articles or written references to the exhibition:

The exhibition is organized and circulated by Art Services International
Alexandria, Virginia.

His Excellency, Ambassador Thomas C. Foley, Ambassador of Ireland to the United States of America
is the Honorary Patron of the Exhibition.

Art Services International is most grateful for the generous support provided by
The Annenberg Foundation
Culture Ireland
The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation
and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Art Services International is a nonprofit educational institution that organizes art exhibitions of the highest quality. These exhibitions include paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, and decorative arts that range from the art of the ancient world to works of the Old Masters, and continue through to the contemporary period. ASI exhibitions are drawn from museums, galleries, and private collections in the United States and abroad, and are hosted by museums throughout the United States and Europe. ASI shares with the hosting museums a commitment to enhancing the appreciation of art. Fully-illustrated catalogues and additional educational materials are provided for each project.

For further information, publicity images, and catalogue orders, please contact Sara Rycroft, Manager, Publications and P.R., Art Services International, 1319 Powhatan Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Images courtesy of and used under license from the Chester Beatty Library unless another source is noted.

Traveling Exhibitions from Art Services International
Images courtesy of and used under license from the Lenders, unless another source is noted.
Art Services International Exhibitions