Cultural Ties Set in Jewelled Stones
Qatar Museums have touched a new high with the latest offering to the 2019 Year of Culture Qatar-India through an exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art, Set in Stone: Gems and Jewels from the Royal Indian Courts, sourced from the in-house collection across Qatar Museums’, which includes amongst 140 objects, some jewellery that has never been exhibited before.
Set in Stone: Gems and Jewels from the Royal Indian Courts touched on one favourite topic for the entire population from the subcontinent, gold, jewels, and jewellery, and that perhaps could be one of the reasons why the collection is going to be loved by Qatar’s expatriate population. The other reason is the inclusive spirit that shines through the display of religious jewellery, sourced not just from the Mughal Empire but also from the treasury of the Rajput eras from South and North of India, which makes this exhibition, truly a one-of-a-kind. Another highlight of the exhibition is the curator Dr. Tara Desjardins, whose passion for the jewels and jewellery on display was evident through her detailed elucidations and her Indian-attire as she guided the press through the collection.
“Most of the strengths of the Museum of Islamic Arts South Asia collection are gems and jewelled objects. When we were looking to organise an exhibition to commemorate the 2019 Year of Culture Qatar-India, it made the most sense to celebrate the richness of our permanent collection. The exhibition is meant to highlight not only the economic, cultural and the religious importance of stones in India and the vast resources that India had for centuries but it also highlights the influence, both commercial and cultural, that India had on Qatar,” says Dr. Tara , curator of the exhibition.
HE Salah bin Ghanem Al Ali, the Minister of Culture and Sports, opened the Set in Stone: Gems and Jewels from Royal Indian Courts exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA). The exhibition presents a look at magnificent gems and jewellery from India. Drawing from MIA’s permanent collection, the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ), and QM’s Orientalist Collection, this exhibition brings together a splendid array of jewellery, jewelled objects, works on paper, and photography.
For over 5,000 years, minerals and metals were extracted from India’s rich earth and crafted into beautiful pieces to adorn the body or give as offerings. India’s reputation for abundantly rich natural deposits attracted travellers and traders for centuries; so prized were these stones that wars were waged to win the right to exploit mines and control trade routes. The wealth of any Indian court was directly tied to the size and value of its royal treasury, and nowhere was this clearer than in the Mughal Empire (1526-1858). Whether left in their natural state, carved, or set within gold, precious stones adorned a variety of objects that came to be associated with the wealthy elite, Emperors and Maharajas. Spectacularly opulent, these objects defined Indian luxury.
The exhibition is organised into four sections: “Precious Stones” reveals the cultural and economic importance of stones in India, tracing their history, sourcing, and trade in the early modern period. “Court & Ceremony” explores the role that gems, jewellery and jewelled objects played within a courtly context in the outward projection of wealth and status. “Beyond the Court” demonstrates the personal, private and devotional uses of crafted jewels. “Qatar Connection, Pearls for Gold” recounts the long cultural and commercial exchanges between India and Qatar, as seen through the traditions of pearls and gold, and explores how this lineage has influenced local Qatari jewellery fashion.
Dr. Julia Gonnella, Director of the Museum of Islamic Art, said: “We are delighted to celebrate the opening of this extraordinary exhibition, developed as part of the Qatar-India Year of Culture. Set In Stone: Gems And Jewels From Royal Indian Courts allow us to present examples of the most spectacular pieces in the Museum of Islamic Art, along with important artworks and objects from other Qatar Museums’ collections.”
Exhibition highlights include ‘Indian-Cut’ diamonds from the famed mines of Golconda, in the Deccan (southern India), which – until the discovery of new diamond deposits in the 18th century – were the main source of diamonds throughout the world. MIA’s jewelled falcon, which most likely adorned the top of a throne, is a masterpiece of 17th century Mughal craftsmanship and demonstrates the richness of the Mughal court. Another highlight is the magnificent necklace from Varanasi: composed of seventeen diamonds suspended with gold-collared emeralds surmounted by baroque pearls with its reverse side equally embellished in beautiful enamel work, this necklace showcases the continued opulence of 19th century Maharajas. The most impressive object on display is known as the ‘Clive flask’, a 17th century jewel-encrusted jade flask that once belonged to Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey (1725-1774). This object – remarkable for both its beauty and provenance – is displayed in Doha for the first time.
Other necklaces that garner interest is a rudraksh-beaded necklace that depicts Shiva, flanked by the Goddesses. The centre-piece contains a small rock crystal Shivalinga, a symbol of Shiva. This piece of jewellery was worn by Shiva devotes and believed to bring one closer to the Gods and imparted him or her with immense strength. But what it strikes one for is the workmanship and the value of this huge piece of jewellery of Hindu Gods which currently rests in an Islamic museum in Qatar; underlying the value of tolerance in the field of art.
The exhibition is open from the 23rd of October 2019 to the 18th of January 2020.