Indepth Arts News: |
"Silver and Shawls: India, Europe, and the Colonial Art Market"
2005-08-28 until 2005-01-29
Harvard University, Arthur M. Sackler Museum
USA United States of America
Kashmir shawls and silver tableware produced in India during the Colonial period (18th and 19th centuries) will be on display at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum August 27, 2005 through January 29, 2006. Silver and Shawls: India, Europe, and the Colonial Art Market will feature some 30 pieces of silver and 11 shawls, most loaned by private collectors. The objects, which illustrate the influence of colonial patrons and the international market on the design and form of Indian decorative arts, were created at a time when foreign demand for Indian textiles and luxury goods was at its peak.
“This exhibition is a refreshing change for us with its focus on decorative arts—an area we would like to devote more interest to,” said Thomas W. Lentz, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard University Art Museums. “Visitors will see why Kashmir shawls were the most sought-after textiles in 19th-century Europe, and how brilliant Indian silversmiths incorporated ‘exotic’ elements into the restrained Georgian-style designs favored by the British.”
“The exhibition hinges on two opposing stylistic developments,” said Kimberly Masteller, assistant curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art, who co-organized the show with guest curator Jeffrey B. Spurr. “The shawls become closer to European taste, whereas the silver takes on more exotic, Indian design elements.” Spurr is Islamic and Middle East Specialist in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard’s Fine Arts Library.
The silver tableware on display in Silver and Shawls chronicles the dynamic changes in form that took place in Indian metalwork during the Colonial period. As early as 1720, jewelers and goldsmiths from Britain were working in Madras, and shortly after in Bombay, Calcutta, and elsewhere in India. By the late 1700s, they expanded their production to silver tableware based on European forms but redesigned to accommodate local styles of cooking and serving. Specialized containers and utensils were developed to warm and serve curries and roasted meat, to filter milk and claret, and to cover drinking water.
In the 19th century, many expatriate gold- and silversmiths began to employ Indian craftsmen who had been trained in indigenous styles. During the mid- to late-1800s, these smiths began to embellish European-style objects with local designs. This hybrid style became popular after it was displayed in the Indian section of the Great Exhibition of London in 1851.
One famous workshop represented in the exhibition was that of Peter Orr & Sons, founded in Madras in 1851 by Peter Nicholas Orr, a watchmaker from London. One of the largest and most successful silver manufacturers in India, the Orr workshop produced tableware and gold, gilt, and silver “swami” jewelry populated with Indian deities and exotic scenes.
Mirza Abu’l Hasan Khan, 1810
Oil on canvas,
88.9 x 69.22 cm.
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums,
Bequest of William M. Chadbourne, 1964.100.
Photo: Photographic Services, HUAM, © President and Fellows of Harvard College.