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Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy

50. Ewer with Dragon Heads-300

Ewer with Dragon Heads, Deccan, first half of 17th century Brass, with traces of gilding, H. 20? in. (51 cm), W. 7? in. (20 cm), D. 6¼ in. (16 cm) , The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Presented by Miss Eleanor Butler, in memory of her father Dr. A. J. Butler, 1976 Image: © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

A landmark exhibition Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy to be on show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from April 20 – July 26, 2015 reveals that its Deccan culture was marked by its ingenuity and industriousness.

The Deccan plateau begins where North and South India meet and encompasses most of the southern part of the country.

As Europe entered the enlightenment period the kingdom of Bijapur on the Deccan plateau was further enriched by an increased foreign demand for its precious gemstones.

India, just the name allows us to imagine exotic connotations of the land where the legendary Kohinoor diamond was found.

Visitors and invaders both were drawn to the material splendour the Sultans surrounded themselves with, charmed and captivated by their court’s visual sumptuousness.

The Met will bring together some 200 works, gleaned from major international, private and royal collections, including a dazzling display of diamonds, some of the largest yet found, originating in the great mines of the Deccan, including the ‘Idol’s Eye’ and “Agra” diamonds.

Given as diplomatic gifts or traded by merchants, India’s diamonds discovered during antiquity reached an appreciative audience among European royalty.

The Bedroom at Pencarrow at Cornwall

Examples of the Indiennes, or chintz, bedroom Pencarrow House and Gardens, Cornwell, United Kingdom

Spectacular painted and printed textiles (kalamkaris), richly painted with motifs will also be shown alongside sumptuous royal objects made of inlaid and gilded metal, carved wood, as well as stone architectural elements.

Many of the textiles known as ‘Indiennes’ were shipped around the world from India during the so-called ‘golden age’ of the Deccan Plateau where its people enjoyed a rich heritage in art and language.

The latter was developed as an independent spoken and literary language, which distinguished it from the language of Northern India.

The Deccan people during the 16th and 17th centuries were already astonishingly wealthy.

Under the rule of Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1580–1627) the spirit of Deccani art was refined as Indian and Persian artists worked side-by-side.

Cargo brought into the port of the Marseilles was shipped by the Compagnie des Indes Orientales. The dazzling patterns and striking colours of the textiles captured the imagination and their reputation for being colourfast made them appear miraculous sparking a whole new trade for France.

A young employee of the Compagnie des Indes Antoine de Beaulieu committed industrial espionage to learn the secret of the dyes and was able to report following some months observations on the processes required


Printing Madder on Cloth with Wooden Block, courtesy Souleiado

The cottons were painted in motifs gleaned from many exotic cultures including eastern Africa, Europe, Safavid Persia and Ottoman Turkey.

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Brisbane Baroque, 2015 – Under the Rotunda, City Hall Series


Brisbane City HallCity Hall at Brisbane in Queensland is a handsome building, an architectural icon constructed during the 1920’s.

Taking a decade to complete at the cost of nearly a million pounds, it was recognised in Australia at least in construction terms, as being second only to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Most Brisbane people met during my decade in that town (1999 – 2009) revealed they had a great affection for the building and significant memories of events they had attended inside, fiercely advocating its retention as a focus for city life and restoration (2010 – 2013).

Brisbane grew rapidly in the ten years prior to its separation from New South Wales on Saturday September 3, 1859.

Brisbane City HallThis took place at time when its growing maturity created a sense of civic consciousness, a foundation on which an official administration could be founded.

Its first elected Mayor John Petrie (1822 – 1892) was a man of practical experience and common sense animated by the ‘spirit of the age’.

He guided a community of free men in a city yet to be made, and by the first 20 years of the 20th century, his council’s vision of delivering Brisbane city as a vibrant, dynamic crucible for change had been exceeded many times.

City Hall’s ‘inter-war’ academic classical’ style ensures it is an impressive place, one whose piece de resistance would be its copper dome, the largest in Australia spanning 31 metres.

MasqueradeIt has earned the name ‘the rotunda’ as it punctuates the skyline above the renowned ‘two acre paddock, a splendid room regularly used for civic events, concerts and city council ceremonies.

Music in this domed auditorium is a special treat and will be an important venue for, and aspect of the first Brisbane Baroque Festival 2015, which will debut in Brisbane Friday April 10 – Saturday April 18, 2015.

The ‘mini’ opera Dido and Aeneas will be held Monday 13th April at 8pm followed by La Caccia, The Hunting Horn on Tuesday 14th April, Resplendent Brass on Wednesday 15th, Celestial Cantatas with Sara Macliver on Thursday 16th and Bach – Sacred and Secular on Friday 17th.

Artistic Director Leo Schofield AM was excited when he told me  …

“I’ve seen them all and no town hall in all Australia can match the splendour of Brisbane’s historic City Hall. It will house no fewer than fourteen performances for our festival, including free recitals on the mighty Willis organ and a further five performances at 5pm daily with an admission price of five dollars. That’s about the price of a packet of potato chips with sea salt and balsamic vinegar. Then in the evening there will be five major recitals including a concert performance of Purcell’s sublime Dido and Aeneas.” Schofield said.

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