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- Imperial Mughal Albums

© The Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin

An exhibition of 84 folios from albums produced in the Imperial Mughal atelier, opened at Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington DC on May 3, 2008. The folios, now a part of the Chester Beatty Library (CBL) in Dublin, display both paintings and calligraphy mounted on pages with beautifully decorated borders. Some of the paintings are the works of master artists such as Abu’l-Hasan, Balchand, Bichitr, Govardhan, Mansur and Payag. The exhibition focuses on six magnificent muraqqa‘, assembled for the Mughal emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan, that reveal not just the splendour of the courts, but also the personal lives and passions of the two emperors. The six albums that make up the core of the exhibition are now known as the Salim Album, Salim’s Shikarnama, the Gulshan Album, the Minto Album, the Nasir al-Din Shah Album, and the Late Shah Jahan Album.

These albums are no longer a collection of bound pages – they exist as loose folios scattered among private and public collections across the world. Nadir Shah, the ruler of Iran, invaded and plundered Delhi in 1739, taking much of the imperial Mughal library back with him. Once in Iran, though many folios remained intact, some were altered and remargined and used to form new albums. The folios that remained in India passed into the hands of new owners who also reconfigured them to compile their own albums, setting them within new borders.

Elaine Wright, curator of the Islamic Collections at the Chester Beatty Library, is the exhibition curator; and Debra Diamond, associate curator of south and southeast Asian art at the Freer and Sackler galleries, is the exhibition coordinator.

Accompanying the exhibition is a 528-page, fully-illustrated colour catalogue containing individual essays on each work presented in "MURAQQA‘." The ‘catalogue’ is an extensive study – a labour of love by Elaine Wright.


Read the entire story in the July - September 2008  print edition of

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