Portrait of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, 1895, Bert Harris, Jodhpur, oil on canvas, 59 7/8 × 48 3/8 in., Umaid Bhawan Palace, photo: Neil Greentree.
SEATTLE, WA.- The Seattle Art Museum presents Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India (October 18, 2018–January 21, 2019), showcasing five centuries of artistic creation from the kingdom of MarwarJodhpur in the northwestern state of Rajasthan. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in partnership with the Mehrangarh Museum Trust of Jodhpur, the exhibition features 250 objects from the 16th to the mid-20th century including intricate paintings, decorative arts, elaborate tents, canopies, textiles, jewelry, and weapons, presented with photos and videos that evoke the impressive setting of the Mehrangarh Museum.
Peacock in the Desert presents a vision of a cosmopolitan court culture that relies on art as an essential aspect of its rule. Established in the 15th century, the city of Jodhpur was ruled by the Rathores for over seven centuries. The objects on view, many of which have not been seen beyond palace walls or traveled to the United States, tell the story of this vast desert kingdom.
The exhibition traces the kingdom’s cultural landscape as it was continuously reshaped by cross-cultural encounters, notably by two successive empires who ruled India: the Mughals and the British. These encounters introduced objects, artists, languages, architectural styles, and systems of administration that influenced the complex royal identity of the Rathore dynasty.
His Highness Maharaja GajSingh II of Marwar-Jodhpur established the Mehrangarh Museum Trust in 1972 and has overseen its evolution from a historic fort to a popular destination for visitors to Jodhpur from around the world. Both he and his daughter, Baijilal Shivranjani Rajye of Marwar-Jodhpur, will visit Seattle to see the exhibition in October.
SAM previously collaborated with the Mehrangarh Museum Trust on the popular exhibition Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur (January 29– April 26, 2009) at the Asian Art Museum.
“Peacock in the Desert opens an evocative window on the kingdom of MarwarJodhpur,” says Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to present an experience of this multifaceted court culture to Seattle audiences.”
“The city of Jodhpur is not frozen in time, and royalty is not just about bling and splendor,” says Karni Singh Jasol, director of the Mehrangarh Museum Trust. “Ours is a museum of the 21st century, dedicated to promoting awareness of a vibrant and hard-working royal endeavor. With this exhibition, visitors have the opportunity to experience the colors, sights, and sounds of our unique culture, as well as our history of continual patronage throughout the centuries.”
Peacock in the Desert is organized into six thematic sections. For the first time since the museum’s expanded building opened in 2007, the special exhibition begins in a spacious gallery on the third floor before continuing in the fourth floor special exhibition galleries.
Tradition and Continuity: The Royal Wedding Procession
Visitors are welcomed to the exhibition with a dramatic recreation of a royal wedding procession on the museum’s third floor. This immersive setting introduces visitors to the crucial role that marital alliances played in the lives of the citizens of Marwar-Jodhpur and in the development of the region’s aesthetic traditions. Life-size horse and elephant mannequins fill the space, adorned with an elephant howdah (seat), wedding regalia, and royal insignia. Video projections feature preparations for a 21st-century wedding and an aerial view of the Mehrangarh fort which encloses palaces, temples, and courtyards.