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Deccan Sultans: Vibrant Inspirations from India

For two centuries the Deccan region of India was home to a succession of highly cultured Muslim kingdoms with a rich artistic heritage.

Masterworks from India’s south-central Deccan plateau will be on view at The Met in Sultans of Deccan India, 1500—1700: Opulence and Fantasy from April 20 through July 26, 2015. Our exclusive product collection celebrates the unique character of Deccani art.

Art of the Deccan kingdoms subtly blended elements from Iran, West Asia, and even Europe, resulting in captivating art styles of otherworldly charm. Arguably the greatest Deccani tradition was that of painting.

“A Bejeweled Maiden with a Parakeet,” (ca. 1670-1700)

“A Bejeweled Maiden with a Parakeet,” (ca. 1670-1700)

Ornate patterns feature in “House of Bijapur,” an illustrated album leaf (ca. 1680)

Ornate patterns feature in “House of Bijapur,” an illustrated album leaf (ca. 1680)

Panel of a tent lining from Burhanpur (Deccan, 1700-1740)

Panel of a tent lining from Burhanpur (Deccan, 1700-1740)

 

The first painting (above) shows a young beauty draped in layered jewels and sumptuous textiles. She holds the bird on henna-reddened fingers, each one adorned with a diamond ring.

The Deccan sultanates also supported a distinguished tradition of textile production, such as this hand-printed kalamkari (right) from Burhanpur in the northern Deccan, a center for the production of dyed textiles in the eighteenth century.

Graphic geometric patterns, interlaced foliate motifs, and fluid calligraphy are the essential decorative elements found in an infinite range of expression in Islamic art. Graced with such timeless designs, our lush scarves, shawls, ties, and pocket squares evoke this magnificent heritage.

Sultan's Court Oblong Scarf

Sultan’s Court Oblong Scarf in three vivid color combinations

Elephants were among the prized possessions of the Indian courts, treasured for their strength and power and used for hunting, military campaigns, and sport. The Deccan sultans often rode elephants instead of horses.

A seventeenth-century contemporary described the great animals given as tribute from the Deccan kingdom of Bijapur to the Mughal emperor as “splendid elephants that looked like moving mountains.”

These royal elephants were often the subjects of meticulously painted portraits that showed them draped in textiles and jewels, such as this masterpiece in the exhibition.

“Sultan Muhammad ‘Adil Shah and Ikhlas Khan Riding an Elephant” (1645), Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford, Lent by Howard Hodgkin (LI118.54)

“Sultan Muhammad ‘Adil Shah and Ikhlas Khan Riding an Elephant” (1645), Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford, Lent by Howard Hodgkin (LI118.54)

Echoing the fanciful motifs and brilliant hues from paintings and precious objects in the exhibition, our full range of related items can be found here.

Whimsical royal elephants parade across our exclusive tie collection

Whimsical royal elephants parade across our exclusive tie collection

Deccan Sun-Ray Necklace and Courtly Opulence Shawl

Deccan Sun-Ray Necklace and Courtly Opulence Shawl

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