Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum
As part of its India Festival (a series of exhibitions, activities and events in Autumn 2015 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Nehru Gallery of Indian Art), the Victoria and Albert Museum has put together an exhibition of over 100 jewellery related objects drawn from the Collection of Al Thani, supplemented by three important loans from the Royal Collection, generously lent by Her Majesty The Queen.
This exhibition presents around 100 pieces from the dazzling private collection of Indian jewellery built by Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani, and shows the development of the Indian jewellery style and its influence on Western jewellery (and the corresponding Western influence on the Indian jewels) over a period spanning 400 years from the precious ornaments of 17th Century Mughal emperors through to the exquisite contemporary works by Viren Bhaghat and JAR of Paris. The result is a spectacular history of a continent through gemstones, objects and jewels.
India is known as a superb gemmological resource, being the first known locality for diamonds at the Golconda mines (still the gold standard for Type IIa diamonds today), not to mention the production of superior sapphires from the fabled Kashmir mines. Even the Romans considered India to be the repository of all wealth.
As every image tells a story, so does every gemstone or jewel. The collection of Al Thani is remarkable in not just the quality and quantity of superb items, but also in the stories collected about them. The fabulous peacock by Mellerio dits Meller was purchased by the Maharaja of Kaputhala in Paris in 1906 as he travelled to a royal wedding in Madrid. During his stay, he met and fell in love with a 16 year old dancer called Anita Delgado. She agreed to become his fifth wife, and back in India a year or so later, spotted an unusually shaped emerald on one of the royal elephants. Desiring this crescent-shaped gem, she spoke to her husband who told her that if she learnt to speak Urdu, she might have it. She did as requested, and on her 19th birthday, the Maharaja gave her the precious stone with the words "Now you can have the moon, my capricious little one."
While most of us can only dream of being given the moon in a glowing green stone, this exhibition offers us the opportunity to be as close as we might ever come to some of the rarest, most exquisite and unimaginably expensive pieces of jewellery, gemstones and objects the world has ever seen.
The exhibition runs until 28th March 2016 and is sponsored by Wartski as part of their 150 anniversary celebration
Admission: £10 full, concessions available. Free entry for V&A Members.
Advance booking is recommended.
The accompanying hardback publication Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection by the curator Susan Stronge is available from the shop at £25.
- WilliamPet Wednesday, 01 June 2016 04:42 Comment Link
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