• Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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Wallace Collection in UK to unveil exhibition on Maharaja Ranjit Singh

French painters Alfred de Dreux’s portrait of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. (Photo credit: Wallace Collection)

By: Vivek Mishra

In an era marked by instability following Afghan invasions, Maharaja Ranjit Singh emerged as the undisputed Maharaja of Punjab by the turn of the 19th century. Driven by an unwavering sense of destiny, his rapid ascent to power heralded the birth of the influential Sikh Empire, profoundly shaping the destiny of the Indian subcontinent.

The Wallace Collection, a famous museum in London, is now preparing to unveil its highly anticipated exhibition titled “Ranjit Singh: Sikh, Warrior, King.” Running from 10th April to 20th October 2024, this exhibition will delve into the extraordinary life and legacy of Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), the visionary leader who founded the Sikh Empire (1799-1849).

Curated by Dr Xavier Bray, Director of the Wallace Collection, in collaboration with Sikh art scholar Davinder Toor, “Ranjit Singh: Sikh, Warrior, King” promises to offer visitors a captivating journey through history. The exhibition will showcase a splendid array of weaponry, intricate miniature paintings, and exquisite jewellery from the Sikh Empire, sourced from public and private collections.

At the heart of the exhibition lies the story of Ranjit Singh’s remarkable reign, characterised by flourishing trade, vibrant arts, and the development of a formidable military force. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore historic artefacts from Ranjit Singh’s court, including those belonging to his family members such as Maharani Jind Kaur and Maharaja Duleep Singh.

The Wallace Collection’s renowned collection of arms and armour will take centre stage, with the exhibition marking the first time the museum will display its group of Sikh arms and armour. Among the highlights is a magnificent sword believed to have once belonged to the Maharaja himself, adorned with gold and gemstones.

Artistic masterpieces in the exhibition include a stunning miniature painting of Ranjit Singh and his favourite, displayed publicly for the first time from the Toor Collection. Additionally, visitors will have the chance to see the Golden Throne crafted by Hafez Muhammad Multani for Ranjit Singh, symbolising the opulence of his court.

Ranjit Singh’s ascent to power amid the backdrop of revolutionary fervour in the late 18th-century Punjab region is a testament to his indomitable spirit. Overcoming adversities such as smallpox and sight loss, he consolidated his rule, expanding his territories from the Khyber Pass to the borders of Tibet.

While celebrated for his military prowess, Ranjit Singh also fostered political alliances and patronised the arts, ushering in an era of peace and prosperity characterised by religious tolerance and multiculturalism. His enduring legacy earned him the epithet “Sher-e-Punjab” (Lion of Punjab) from his subjects.

Despite tensions with the British East India Company, Ranjit Singh maintained cordial relations while modernising his army with European assistance. Revered by foreign admirers as the “Napoleon of the East,” he left an indelible mark on history.

Dr Xavier Bray expressed his enthusiasm for the exhibition, saying, “These works of art deserve to be better known by the public, and I am thrilled that they will be in the spotlight as we tell the incredible story of Ranjit Singh.”

Davinder Toor added, “This exhibition brings to light many works hitherto unseen, highlighting a shared heritage that holds an enduring power to inspire.”

For more information about the exhibition and ticket reservations, you can visit the Wallace Collection’s official website.

The Wallace Collection is filled with beautiful art and decorative items. The collection was given to the British people by Lady Wallace, whose husband was an art collector. You can see amazing paintings by famous artists like Rembrandt, along with fancy furniture and armour. The museum is housed in a grand building called Hertford House in Manchester Square.

The Wallace Collection is home to one of the most significant ensembles of fine and decorative arts in the world. The highlights of the museum include oil paintings from the 14th to the late 19th centuries and one of the finest collections of 18th-century French paintings and decorative arts.

 

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