Attributed to Nevasi Lai (India, fl. c. 1760-75), Noblewomen playing chess, ca. 1780-1800, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 47 x 62 cm), Muséenational des Arts asiatiques – Guimet, Paris, MA 12112, Photo © Musée national des Arts asiatiques Guimet, Paris, France (MA12112)/Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris/Art Resource, NY (ART408511 by Thierry Olivier.

A Turkish sultana, circa 1810-20, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Opaque watercolor on paper, Page 44.3 x 34.1 cm; image 34.7 x 24 cm., The chester Beatty Library, ln 69.19, Photo © the trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin.

The Art of Lucknow, when Delhi was in the Shadow of Uttar Pradesh

Colonel Antoine-Louis Henri Polier watching a nautch, after a painting by Johann Zoffany, circa 1786-88, India, Uttar Pradesh, Faizabad or Lucknow, Opaque watercolor on paper, 25 x 32 cm), Bequest of Balthasar Reinhart, Museum Rietberg, Zurich, 2005.83, © Foto Rainer Wolfberger, courtesy Museum Tietberg, Zürich.

Hair ornament, circa mid-19th century, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Gold set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds, and with strings of pearls and red glass beads, Length of coiled pendants: 23 cm, Bictoria and Albert Museum IS.03209, Photo © V&A Images All Rights Reserved. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Betel Box in the Form of an Ogival Done, circa 1780, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Enameled silver 12.7 x 13.3, Purchsed with funds provided by Harry and Yvonne Lenart, AC 1993, 137.1.1-2, Photo © 2010 Museum Associates/LACMA.

Muhammad Azam (India, dates unknown), Nasar al-Din Haidar, circa 1830, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Oil on canvas, 92.1 x 72.1 cm, Collection Drs. Aziz and Deanna Khan, Photo courtesy the Collection Drs. Azia and Deanna Khan.

Tilly Kettle (England,1735-1786), Shuja al-Daula, Nawab of Awadh, holding a bow, 1772, India, Uttar Pradesh, Faizabad, Oil on canvas, 127.3 x 101.8 cm, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1976.7.48, Photo © Yale Center for British Art, USA.

The Gown of the 'Queen of Oudh,' mid-19th century,India, Uttar Pradesh, Awadh, Silk with metal ribbon ornaments, Peshwas – Length 106 cm; Kaliondar paijama – Length 106 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum 0645 IS (peshwaz, 1646 IS (kaliondar Paijama), Photo © V&A Images All Rights Reserved, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Base for a Water Pipe (huqqa), circa 1700-1750, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Clear glass with polychrome enamel and gilding, 18.1 x 15.9, from the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, Museum Associates Purchase, M.76.2.13, (Photo © 2010 Museum Associates/LACMA.


Los Angeles County
Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles
India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow
December 12, 2010-February 27, 2011

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow— the first major international exhibition devoted to the cosmopolitan culture of the northern Indian court of Lucknow, and the refined artistic production of the city’s multiethnic residents and artists. The exhibition includes almost 200 artworks: European oil paintings, watercolors, and prints; Indian opaque watercolor paintings generally made for albums, vintage photography, textiles, and garments, and a range of decorative art objects including metalwork, glassware, weaponry, and jewelry. The exhibition, organized by LACMA curator of South & Southeast Asian art and department head Stephen Markel and associate curator Tushara Bindu Gude, not only presents the unique artistic traditions of Lucknow, but also provides a framework for understanding the history of this extraordinary region and the nature of India’s colonial history and memory.

“Lucknow was the nexus point for one of the great dramas of history,” said Markel. “Not only were starkly diverse cultures competing with immense riches and political domination at stake, but the dynamic lead characters and brilliant aesthetic achievements all made for a deeply poignant era and vital artistic legacy.”

Lucknow was the capital of Awadh (a province in the Mughal Empire located in the present-day Indian state of Uttar Pradesh), and has become identified with the broader region and culture. From the mid-18nth century until the establishment of formal British rule in India in 1858, Lucknow overshadowed Delhi — the capital of the Mughal dynasty —to become the cultural center of northern India. Indian artists, poets, and courtiers flocked to Awadh seeking security and patronage, as Delhi suffered an extended period of unrest beginning in 1739. European artists, travelers and political agents were also soon lured to the region, seduced by tales of the wealth, opulence, and the generosity of Lucknow’s rulers (nawabs) and by the beauty of the city itself. The dynamic interaction between Indians and Europeans, the interplay between their respective tastes and traditions, and the hybrid lives led by many of Lucknow’s residents are explored in the exhibition and accompanying publication.

The Art of Courtly Lucknow examines this interaction against the broader narrative of India’s colonial history. Following the Indian Uprising of 1857 (also known as the Great Mutiny, Rebellion, or First Indian War of Independence) and the consolidation of British power in India, Lucknow’s prestige decreased dramatically. It continued, however, to be an important center for the production of luxury objects and a key destination for European and Indian visitors. British and Indian artworks of the late 19th century indicate the different ways in which the image and memory of Lucknow were deployed. Many works chart the loss of diversity and the fixing of national identities and aspirations, but some also recall Lucknow’s past glory. In the popular culture of modern-day India, Lucknow has an ambiguous history. It evokes nostalgia for a lost past but is also presented as a source of national and cultural pride.

The exhibition consists of 12 sections that are arranged in ten galleries. Sections are organized chronologically and thematically in order to convey both the narrative of Lucknow’s history and the development of its artistic traditions.

Gallery I. Introduction;
Gallery II. The Emergence of a Sovereign State;
Gallery III. The Rulers of Awadh: Patrons and Kings;
Gallery IV. The Allure of Faizabad and Lucknow;
Gallery V. Religious Architecture at Lucknow;
Gallery VI. Courtly Opulence;
Gallery VII. Part 1: Major General Claude Martin and the Cosmopolitan Culture of Lucknow;
Gallery VII. Part 2: European Collectors of Indian Painting: Antoine Polier and Richard Johnson;
Gallery VIII. European Collectors and the Emerging Colonial State;
Gallery IX. The Great Uprising of 1857-58: European Memories of Lucknow;
Gallery X. Part I: Artistic Production in Lucknow after the Great Uprising;
Gallery X. Part II: Courtesans and Courtly Culture: Indian Memories of Lucknow.

The exhibition begins with several key images in the introductory gallery which suggest the multiple perspectives that informed Lucknow’s history, culture, and legacy. The two sections that follow introduce the court of Awadh through Mughal paintings, portraits, photographs by European and Indian artists, and decorative arts bearing heraldic imagery. Gallery II: The Emergence of a Sovereign State locates the historical origins of the Lucknow court within the structure of the Mughal Empire and describes the Lucknow rulers’ adoption of Mughal royal prerogatives even as they asserted their own political independence. •Gallery III: The Rulers of
Awadh•: Patrons and Kings consists primarily of portraits which introduce the major rulers of Awadh and highlight their patronage of European artists, many of whom flocked to India in the late 18nth century in the wake of significant political gains made by the English East India Company.

Gallery IV: The Allure of Faizabad and Lucknow explores the appeal of Lucknow, particularly its palatial architecture and romantic landscape, through the eyes of British and Indian artists. The beauty of the city’s architecture is also evident in the paintings and photographs in Gallery V which focuses on the Shia Muslim religious monuments built by Lucknow’s ruling elites. Gallery VI: Courtly Opulence showcases the refined cosmopolitan culture of Lucknow through its sumptuous decorative arts. These early sections of the exhibition focus on the fashioning of self-identity by Lucknow’s rulers and also indicate visually the basis for Lucknow’s legendary fame. In addition, the artworks selected for Galleries II through VI articulate the stylistic development of early Lucknow painting and the aesthetic that informed the region’s architectural and decorative art traditions.

The remaining sections of the exhibition examine the mature phase of Lucknow’s history, from the late 18th century through the Uprising, and its important cultural legacy. Gallery VII explores the interaction of Indians and Europeans at Lucknow, focusing particularly on the hybrid lifestyles, identities, and patronage of the latter. The artworks comprising the section Major General Claude Martin and the Cosmopolitan Culture of Lucknow highlight the aesthetic pursuits of one of Lucknow’s most significant European residents. The section European Collectors of Indian Painting: Antoine Polier and Richard Johnson focuses on the Indian painting traditions that developed in Awadh, which are described entirely through works collected by two important European connoisseurs. Lucknow’s painting traditions are also highlighted in Gallery VIII: European Collectors and the Emerging Colonial State where the broader social and political world that connected various collectors is explored. Sections VII and VIII permit reflection upon the fashioning of elite European identity in India.

Section IX: The Great Uprising of 1857-58: European Memories of Lucknow presents the shift in European attitudes to Lucknow as a result of The Uprising. European paintings and photographs suggest the multiple ways in which the events of the Uprising were imagined by and for a largely British viewing public. The first part of Section X: Artistic Production in Lucknow after the Great Uprising showcases luxury wares that were produced at Lucknow in the late-19th century. Absent royal patronage, these goods were largely consumed by an emerging class of powerful landowners and European visitors. In the Section: Courtesans and Courtly Culture: Indian Memories of Lucknow, which concludes the exhibition, 18th-century Indian and European artworks, 19th-century Indian photographs, and Indian films are brought together in order to examine the impact of Lucknow’s refined and highly romanticized courtesan culture upon the city’s legacy.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated volume of historical and media-based essays by leading international scholars on a broad range of Lucknow’s distinctive humanities, including its renowned literature and music. The publication, together with the exhibition’s thematic and chronological emphases, offers an unparalleled multilayered interpretative approach to Lucknow’s rich corpus of aesthetic achievement.

Wine decanter, circa 1880, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Bidri-ware, Height 23.5, Diameter 13 cm, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrhalaya (formerly Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai, 28.5533, Photo © Trustees, Chhatapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Mumbai.

Mir Kalan Khan (India, fl. c. 1734-1770), Lovers in a landscape, circa 1760-70, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Opaque watercolor on paper, Page 22.2x 15.2 cm, The David Collection, Copenhagen, 10/1981, Photo © Pernille Klemp 2010, courte4sy The David Collection, Copenhagen.

Mir Kalan Khan (India, fl. c. 1734-1770), A Drowning man saved from marine monsters by a princely boat, circa 1750-60, India, Uttar Pradesh, Fizabad or Lucknow, Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, Page 27.2 x 18.8 cm, Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt.

Tilly Kettle (entland, 1735-1786), An Indian dancing Girl with a hookah, 1772, India, Uttar Pradesh, Faizabad, Oil on canvas, 193 x 119 cm, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon collection, B1981.25.385, Photo © Yale Center for British Art, USA, The Bridgeman Art Library (YBA 145615).

Thomas Jones Barker, The Relief fo Lucknow, 1857, 1859, England Oil on canvas 105.4 x 181.3 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London, 5851, Photo © National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 5851).

John Edward Saché (probably Prussian, 1824-1882), Husainabad Bazaar gateway, circa 1867, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Albumen print, 22.9 x 30.5 cm, Catherine Benkaim and Barbara Timmer Collection, Photo courtesy of Catherine Benkaim and Barbara Timmer Collection.