British Museum snaps up Indian masterpiece
The British Museum has managed to raise around £440,000 to buy a painting by one of India’s greatest painters which was earmarked to be exported abroad. It has been bought with support from the Art Fund, National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund.
The Trumpeters, by Nainsukh of Guler, depicts a traditional musical performance in northern India. Painted in around 1735 to 1740, it shows musicians playing Pahari horns, with long pipes known as Turhi, with their cheeks puffed out with the effort.
The delicate miniature, described by experts as of a ‘rarely found calibre’, shows seven village musicians on a terrace, striking differing poses and faces, while energetically blowing the exceptionally long Pahari horns called Turhi, in the hilly region of Northern India. It is a fine example of Nainsukh of Guler’s trademark gift of detailed observation and complex directional composition.
The artist is considered to be one of the most acclaimed of the Pahari (Hills) movement, which were a major and popular genre of Indian miniature painting during the period. Some of his other works are exhibited in public collections in the UK, including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum.
The miniature is an example of the colour and light of India which inspired its first owner, renowned artist Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981), whose works have been exhibited in world leading galleries including the Tate.
British Museum curator Imma Ramos said: “Nainsukh, whose name translates as ‘Delight of the Eyes’, is one of India’s greatest courtly artists, and this outstanding painting showcases his gift for complex composition and precise observation.
“It was painted at the height of his career while he was working for the ruler of Jasrota, Raja Balwant Singh. Its jewel-like colour, intricate detail and poetic mood suggest it would have been seen up close and studied at leisure, enjoyed privately or among guests.
“We are delighted that it is now in a public collection for the first time, where it can be enjoyed by visitors for its beauty, and help the further study of South Asian art.”
The painting, described as a work “unparalleled in north Indian art”, has gone on free display in the museum’s Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia.
Arts Minister Helen Whately said: “This beautiful work has enormous historical value and will be admired by visitors from around the world as it goes on display at the British Museum.
“Export bars are put in place to save masterpieces like this one for the nation, and I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone whose generous support made this acquisition possible.”