Yesterday I visited my favorite NYC haunt, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with two friends to catch a new exhibition that is getting rave reviews: Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India, 1100-1900.
We began our adventure at Mughlai, an Indian restaurant on the Upper West Side. I ordered a vegetarian thali, which gives you a little bit of everything, while my friends ordered a non-veg thali and a bhindi masala. Good food, though the decor was not exactly authentic (some Indian art on the walls, but combined with hanging Christmas lights and a menora on the bar).
We then walked across Central Park to the Met, where we headed straight for the exhibition (after making a quick stop at Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine). It was simply breathtaking.
One of the trademarks of this exhibition is that art historians have finally been able to identify the artists who have created the masterpieces. According to the NY Times review, “Their motive has been to dispel the long-held view, especially in the West, that these often small, transcendent works were made by unlauded artisans toiling away in monasteries and imperial workshops.”
Nearly 200 works in six galleries explore the elaborate style wars between the raw vigor and flat color blocks of the indigenous Rajput (Hindu) court manner and the finely calibrated naturalism and delicate patterns imported by the conquering Mughals of Central Asia. Repeatedly fusing, breaking apart and fusing again, these styles percolated throughout northern and central India as the Mughals expanded their dominance over Rajput courts, especially in the late 16th and 17th centuries.
While most exhibitions of Indian paintings include only a few examples whose creators are known by name, this one concentrates almost exclusively on works that are known or thought to be by some 40 individuals. […]
We encounter families of artists, some of whom worked for successive generations of emperors, most notably the brilliantly cosmopolitan Akbar the Great, who took over the first Mughal court at Delhi in 1556, and his son Jahangir and grandson Shah Jahan, all passionate patrons of painting. Toward the end of the show, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the Mughal courts were in disarray, we see the emergence of Rajput family workshops that catered to multiple patrons, both Indian and European.
If you are in New York at any time before January 8, you must go see it.