Autumn Exhibition



  • Introduction

    It is our great pleasure to share our autumn exhibition with you in this online catalogue. A wide-ranging group of paintings & drawings, textiles, costume, and courtly objects, the works are united by their weaving together of distinct influences. Several have a unique provenance and singular, interesting histories behind them. Cat. 17, the portrait of a nobleman on a terrace (possibly the Afghan Aziz Khan Chagata), is from an album assembled by the Swiss patron Col. Antoine Louis Henri de Polier (1741-95), one of the earlier European collectors of Indian painting. An extraordinary monumental bidri ewer (cat. 16), standing at nearly a metre tall, was part of the collection of Queen Victoria, later gifted to the V&A. Possibly made as a showpiece for the Great Exhibition of 1851, its unusual form embodies a practice of Indian craftspeople working towards an imagined English taste. An early and rare ebony cabinet on stand (cat. 4), made in South India or Sri Lanka c. 1650-80 for a Dutch or English Company patron, is carved with Sinhalese protective motifs but structured in relation to European influence.  


    We are also presenting a group of courtly costume from Hyderabad and Rajasthan (cats. 23-31), from which pieces have been exhibited at the Grand Palais in Paris and the Miho Museum in Japan, including a fine bridal or coming-of-age ensemble, and a suite of furnishings for a royal throne or gaddi. Masulipatnam in South-east India was celebrated as a centre for outstanding chintz or kalamkari production for centuries. Cat. 22 is an important piece from c. 1800, an excellent example of the final flowering of Indian chintz of this region, its specific style tailored to the merchant patrons who had travelled to the area from Gujurat, and were devotees of the Pushti Marg.


    This is a particularly special exhibition for us because it will be the last one in our current gallery space, before changing location and evolving into a new stage of the business. We are so thankful for all of our clients, friends, colleagues and mentors who have passed through our gallery at 31 Dover Street over the last 16 years, and look forward to sharing more details of what's next in the coming months.


    I would like to pay tribute to Robert Skelton who died in August. Without his inspiration, influence, guidance and friendship I would not be dealing in Indian painting today. He was a colossus in his field, but more than that he was an enlightened scholar and a great teacher, a generous man who shared his great knowledge freely, and pointed you in a direction in such a way that made you feel you'd discovered something yourself. I will miss him.


  • A Monumental Bidri Ewer

    India, possibly Surat or Vadodara [formerly Baroda], c. 1850

    90 cm x 42 cm x 54 cm

    This monumental bidri ewer was given to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1854 by Her Majesty Queen Victoria. It is possible that this followed its appearance in the Great Exhibition in 1851, the era-defining international event within the purpose-built crystal palace in Hyde Park, which hosted millions of visitors and displayed thousands of objects from across the Empire and beyond. This likely setting could explain the impressive size of our ewer, which standing at nearly a metre tall, may have been made as a kind of showpiece for the exhibition. India as a source of rich potential, with opulent materials and craftsmanship, was the image the show’s display sought to project, and it offered many visitors the chance to appreciate the sophistication of the decorative traditions of the Subcontinent for the first time. The market for Bidri ware vastly increased following the international exhibitions of the mid- 19th century, which led to new centres of production springing up across India.