Gods, Kings, and Lovers: Paintings from Courtly India

On view February 14 – July 5, 2015

Gods Kings and Lovers

Drawn entirely from the Mead’s permanent collection, this exhibition explores the essential role of painting in the lives of India’s elites, looking especially at the convergence of human and divine in nine exquisite works created for Muslim and Hindu patrons between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.

In early modern India, every ruler of note commissioned and collected “miniature” paintings. These delicately rendered watercolor compositions on paper delighted the senses and glorified the sitter. Portraits represent royalty as unblemished, all-powerful, and semidivine. Kings and even queens bear golden auras—an evocation of their supposedly celestial status. Illustrations for sacred texts also blurred earthly and heavenly realms. 

The portraits and narrative illustrations on display exemplify the refined tastes cultivated by courtly connoisseurs across the subcontinent. Such paintings circulated freely among India’s royalty. They also traveled as gifts from one ruler to another, while painters themselves moved from court to court to carry out commissioned work. The resulting confluence of artistic styles speaks to the complex, intertwined nature of these royal networks. 

Organized by Yael Rice, Visiting Assistant Professor and Robert E. Keiter '57 Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Art and the History of Art, with assistance from Chen Jiang, Class of 2015, this exhibition is made possible with generous support from the David W. Mesker and Hall & Kate Peterson Funds.

Annotated and Illustrated Exhibition Checklist

Related Event

On Thursday, April 2, at 6:30 p.m., join Yael Rice, visiting assistant professor of art and the history of art, and Chen Jiang, Class of 2015, for the gallery talk “Gods, Kings, and Lovers: Paintings from Courtly India.” Refreshments served.