'Treasures of the Mughals and the Maharajas. The Al Thani Collection’ at the Doge’s Palace

Five centuries of beauty, wonders and masterpieces of Indian goldsmith art

From 09 September 2017 to 03 January 2018

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After the exhibitions in New York, London, Paris and Kyoto, the renowned Al Thani Collection arrives at the Doge's Palace in Venice: exhibitions in 2017 can now boast another unmissable event after Bosch and Venice, which ended last June! Arranged in the splendid Sala delllo Scrutinio, the latest Palazzo Ducale Venezia exhibitions will be on display from 9th September, 2017 to 3rd January 2018.

An unprecedented collection that boasts over 270 pieces of precious stones, jewels, artefacts and Indian or of India-inspiration objects, covering a period of five centuries from the Mughals to the present day ...The Al Thani collection of jewels charts the history of an exceptional craftsmanship tradition that has always allured and fascinated the Western World with its refined and sophisticated artistic taste.

Curated by Amin Jaffer, Senior Curator of the Collection Al Thani at Palazzo Ducale in Venice, and Gian Carlo Calza, a scholar of the Far East art, under the scientific direction of Gabriella Belli, the exhibition 'Treasures of the Mughals and the Maharajas. The Al Thani Collection’ can be visited with the ticket St Mark’s Square Museums: buy now your online ticket and do not miss the new great exhibition of 2017 at Venice’s Doge's Palace!

Gems and jewels from the sixteenth to the twentieth century witness the extraordinary mastery of the goldsmith's art of the Indian subcontinent ... Precious stones, fabled artefacts and ancient objects of undisputable beauty display the glorious Indian tradition from the descendants of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane to the great Maharajas, who during the 20th century commissioned jewellery pieces of extreme modernity and unprecedented beauty from the greatest European makers.

In the splendid setting of the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, the Al Thani exhibition will offer the opportunity to admire the incredible collection assembled by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani, a member of Qatar’s royal family.

India has always been a land rich in precious stones of high quality that continues a goldsmith tradition of great value, developed also thanks to the culture of a country where gems and jewels are part of the daily lifestyle. Indeed, in India, gemstones and jewels have a meaning that goes far beyond simple ornaments: every gem has its meaning in the cosmic order or a definite propitiatory character, jewels instead portray the wearer, their caste, degree of wealth, origin area or civil status. Do not forget that precious metals and stones were also used in furnishings, ceremonies, and weapons.

Diamonds from Golconda, Badakhshan spinels (ruby-like stones), Kashmir sapphires, rubies from Ceylon and Burma as well as pearls from the Persian Gulf have made South Asia famous since antiquity ... In the 16th century Mughals rose to power, and their master jewellers elevated gold craftsmanship into a form of art spearheading a craft that has no equal in the world.

The Doge's Palace in Venice event begins with the Moghul court style (1526-1858), the Timurid dynasty founded following the conquest of much of Northern India at the hand of Babur, which in a short time spread throughout India . During the golden age, the kingdoms of the fourth and fifth Mughal emperor, Indian goldsmiths gave rise to masterpieces capable of blending the art and culture of the East and West.

By the middle of the eighteenth century, due to the decline of the kingdom, political instability and British colonialism, the patronage of prized jewellery changed and passed into the hands of the maharajas, nawabs or nizams that governed the states born from the ashes of the Mughal Empire. They were the first to start commissioning jewels from the big European makers, Cartier in the first place: from this new encounter between the East and West tastes a new style emerged and Indian jewellery experienced a period of new vitality and splendour.

The exhibition of Maharaja in Venice at theDoge's Palace in Venice in 2017 presents a spectacular setting designed to highlight the treasures displayed.

  1. An overview of Mughal treasures opens the exhibition: the visitor will admire an incredible assortment of dynastic gems including two world-famous diamonds from the legendary Golconda mines, the Idol's Eye, the world's largest cut diamond, and Arcot II, one of the two diamonds donated by Muhammad ‘Ali Wallajah, nawab of Arcot, to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III (1738-1820). These two treasures are displayed together with numerous emeralds and spinels that often have been engraved with the names and titles of the sovereigns that owned them.
    The first section of the exhibition at Palazzo Ducale focuses on Mughal's artistic taste and the connections with European culture, originated during the Renaissance thanks to a reciprocal exchange of styles and techniques. The deep bond between the East and West is particularly evidenced by enamelling, a technique inspired by the art of Renaissance courts, often used in Indian jewellery.
  1. In the second section, the exhibition continues with evocative specimens of jade and rock crystal, highly esteemed materials at the Mughal court. Islamic culture considered jade as a propitiating stone of victory, as well as an 'instrument' to reveal the presence of any poisons and to counteract their effects. In this section you will be able to admire:

- the Wine Cup of Emperor Jahangir, bearing a Persian inscription and the title of the monarch;

- the Shah Jahan' Dagger (1620-1625), a true masterpiece of the art of the Mughal court: the Emperor's titles are inscribed on the blade, while the jade hilt is shaped in the guise of a young man's head;

- an elegant cup dated to the late eighteenth century and featuring an engraved poem by Emperor Qianlong, a testimony that Indian jewels were also highly sought after in China.

  1. The third section presents to the visitor a selection of artefacts from various regions of the Indian subcontinent, made with polychrome enamel decorations or kundan technique, which makes it possible to combine gems and gold by simply wrapping the mount with pure gold plates forming a molecular bond around the stone. This section includes:

- a desk set with pen holder and inkwell (Deccan or Northern India, 1575-1600) made with solid gold-and encrusted with precious stones. Such artefacts are depicted in many paintings and were generally used by high-ranking officials to write imperial decrees;

- the tiger head-shaped ornament of Tipu Sultan’s throne , made when he rose to power. The throne, with gold and engraved gems, was dismantled after Tipu's killing and the conquest of Seringapatam by British forces in 1799. Some parts of the throne were added to the British Royal Family collection, while others, including this ornament, have only recently been found.

- an extraordinary collection of green enamel objects with encrusted gems, made by Hyderabad's workshops and dating back to the 18th century. These objects, a symbol of ancient Indian tradition, were used in rituals and ceremonies accompanying court hearings.

  1. The fourth section draws attention to the ornaments and symbols of power to show the visitor, through a selection of fascinating artefacts from the 17th to the 20th centuries, the demonstrations of power within the court, under Mughal influence and then of the East India Company and the British administration. Stunning diamond necklaces and objects such as the Sword of the Nizam of Hyderabad and the fabulous Canopy that was part of the Pearl Carpet of Baroda are among the most opulent testimonies. The canopy, in particular is decorated with silver, gold, coloured glass, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and about 950,000 pearls.
  1. In the fifth section, Europe is the protagonist: a rich selection of jewels commissioned by Indian princes from prestigious Western Maisons shows the outstanding results achieved through the reciprocal influences between East and West. Among the best specimens:

- the enamel peacock feather bought by the maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala and created by Mellerio, also known as Meller, in Paris in the early 1900s.

- Cartier’s creations for the maharajas, such as the ruby neck strap designed for one of the wives of the Maharaja Bhupinder of Patiala, the Tiger Eye - a gold-coloured diamond mounted as an ornament for a turban - and a beautiful déco-style necklace embellished by rubies made for the Maharaja Digvijaysinhji.

  1. The last section of the Al Thani Collection at the Doge's Palace in Venice pays tribute to contemporary goldsmith art by presenting some Indian and European jewels inspired by Indian tradition: the works of Viren Bhagat, who in Bombai combines modern materials and techniques with ancient forms and decorative motifs, are displayed alongside masterpieces by Cartier and JAR with ancient Indian gems.

Five centuries of beauty, between design and tradition ... A journey that captures symbols, rituals and beliefs of Indian culture, without neglecting the links with the Western World and the fruitful mutual exchanges. The Al Thani collection exhibition: from 9th September, 2017 to 3rd January, 2018, do not miss the opportunity to admire one of the largest and most fascinating collections of Indian goldsmith art ... A long and fascinating journey to discover a beauty acclaimed throughout the world.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff