Saturday, December 11, 2010

Maharaja, The Splendour of India's Royal Courts

When life is a frantic mix of holiday parties, Christmas shopping and family get-togethers, taking the time to refresh and restore my spirit is a top priority. What better place to do that than in an art gallery? Gazing at beauty is almost a meditative act, bringing a sense of calm to my soul.

At the Art Gallery of Ontario, Maharaja, The Splendour of India's Royal Courts, organized in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum, features over 200 objects, including paintings, tapestry, thrones, weapons, and jewels, most on view in North America for the first time. Maha means "great" and raja means "king" and the exhibition features on an array of extraordinarily beautiful objects created for the 600 kings that ruled India before 1947.

One of the most opulent pieces of jewelery on display is the magnificent Patiala Necklace (pictured above), which was part of the largest single commission that the French house of Cartier has ever executed.  Completed in 1928 and restored in 2002, this piece of ceremonial jewellery contains 2,930 diamonds and weighs almost one thousand carats. When I toured the exhibition with curator Dr. Stephen Inglis,  adjunct curator of the exhibition and curator emeritus from the Canadian Museum of Civilization, he told me the story of how a Cartier employee discovered the platinum skeleton of this necklace in a London antique shop, stripped of most of the diamonds. It was purchased by Cartier and took two years to restore. Most of the larger diamonds have been replaced with cubic zirconia but it still is breathtaking in its beauty! As I gazed at it with longing, I suggested that I might like to try it on and I was told I was too tiny to wear such a thing. But a girl can dream....

Also on display, but not mentioned on the AGO website or press materials, are a selection of the loveliest saris I've ever seen, including a wedding sari that is so laden with gold that it would be a burden to wear.

If you fancy opulent jewels, beautiful garments, and extraordinary accessories, or you just want to step away from the frantic holiday pace, visit the AGO's Maharaja exhibit. Your eyes will sparkle with delight!

Maharaja, The Splendour of India's Royal Courts
November 20, 2010 - April 3, 2011
Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West, Toronto