Peter and I went up to the city today to see the Maharaja exhibit at the Asian Art Museum. I had never been to the Asian Art Museum and had no idea it was right across the street from City Hall. It’s really lovely. Totally by accident we ended up doing the whole thing backwards from floors 2-3) but they have some really lovely stuff there and it’s a gorgeous building.
Anyway, Maharaja: Oooh yes please. Except I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures. I love how beautiful everything is. The colours! The floral detailing! The expectation that the ruler would be pious and a patron of the arts as well as a strong and fair ruler meaning that everything had balance and grace and terribly terribly good craftsmanship! The men’s robes I would wear in a heartbeat! The saris notsomuch. Beautiful, obv, but the kind of thing that only looks the way it’s supposed to if one stands perfectly, perfectly still.
And of course the portraits of the men were fabulous but the ones of the women were either dancers and musicians or else “idealized” since the actual women no one ever saw because they were in purdah. There were several photos of post-British maharanis, and a painting or two of pre-British ones, but other than that, centuries of women came and went with zero (visual) historical record that they ever existed. Like dinosaurs. We have the basic anatomy down, but we can never be sure what they actually looked like.
I was going to say during the tour that it looked like they’d decamped most of the V&A for the exhibit, but then when I got home and looked up the webpage again I noticed the catalog of the exhibit (which I totally forgot to buy because they didn’t have them laid out very prominently at the giftshop, which was silly of them) has V&A stamped all over it, so now we know!