A royal treat

Of photographs of jewels designed by Parisian jewellery houses for Indian Maharajas opens on April 10

An exhibition of photographs of jewels designed by the prestigious Parisian jewellery houses for Indian maharajas and princes will be held at the Government Museum from April 10 to 27. These photographs include images of the jewellery, of royalty wearing them and also of conceptual sketches of the designs.

The display will be of photographs of jewellery designed primarily by three designer houses from France — Cartier, Mauboussin and Van Cleef and Arpels.

Wearing of jewellery has always been and is an intrinsic part of Indian life. The precious metals and stones do not just represent riches, or even the necessary adjunct of power and glory, but are also considered quasi divine and are believed to have astrological attributes and prophylactic properties. Precious stones have been believed to confer power and health on their owners, who wore them, in accordance with strict codes.

One can therefore imagine the Indian princes’ passion for jewels, and the importance of their relationships with the elite jewellers. But, though occasional contacts were made between the Maharajahs and European jewellers in the 19th Century — for instance with the English jeweller Hamilton in Calcutta, or a special order placed with the French jeweller Oscar Massin — it was not until 1910-1920 that some princes were sufficiently impressed by European creations.

This exhibition of photographs and the films that accompany the exhibition attempt to give the audience an insight into how the members of various royal families worked with different jewellery houses and a wonderful perspective of the magnificence of their jewellery.

For details contact the Alliance Francaise of Madras at (044) 28279803/1477.

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