Indian Encounters explored the changing relationships between Great Britain and India during the 18th and 19th centuries through the lives of two men with very different experiences of British imperial rule: Captain Archibald Swinton and Maharaja Duleep Singh.
This exhibition showcased intricate miniature paintings from the 18th century collected by Captain Swinton, and the beautifully crafted 19th century jewellery once owned by Maharaja Duleep Singh, alongside a newly commissioned painting by renowned British artists The Singh Twins.
The Scot Archibald Swinton (1731-1804) served in the East India Company’s army at the beginning of its military expansion in India. The Mughal rulers and court officials with whom he came into contact are documented through the exquisite miniature paintings acquired in Bengal.
Highly decorative jewellery from the Sikh court in Lahore was displayed, once belonging to Maharaja Duleep Singh (1838-1893). Duleep Singh became the first resident Sikh in Britain after he, at the age of 10, had to surrender the Sikh Punjab and all his treasures to the East India Company.
The exhibition also explored how complex histories can be reassessed today. In Casualty of War, a contemporary work completed in the miniature painting tradition, artists The Singh Twins reflect on their personal view of Duleep Singh’s life and on their own Sikh heritage in Britain today.
Bottle of gold, decorated with Jaipur enamel in transparent green, brilliant ruby-red and dark blue: Northern India, Rajasthan, 1800-1850, formerly in the possession of Maharaja Duleep Singh.
Necklace of rock crystal with a green glass bead and silk threads: Northern India, probably Punjab, 19th century.
Front and rear view of armlet composed of a central rock crystal and ten smaller stones set in silver, the back decorated with Jaipur enamel on gold: Northern India, 1800-1850.
Painted photograph of Sir John Login, oil paint over albumen print, by John Jabez Edwin Mayall, London, 1862.
Gold pendant with rubies and emeralds; in the centre a depiction of the Hindu goddess Devi seated on a lion and preceded by the god Hanuman: Northern India, probably Rajasthan, 1800-1850, formerly in the possession of Maharaja Duleep Singh.
One of a pair of makara-headed bracelets, gold with Jaipur enamel, set with emeralds, diamonds and rubies: Northern India, Rajasthan, late 18th/early 19th century, formerly in the possession of Maharaja Duleep Singh.
Miniature painting: Nawab Siraj al-Daula on horseback in a private procession with the state retinue depicted in the background, by a Murshidabad artist, circa 1756-57. Photography by John McKenzie for Lyon & Turnbull Fine Art Valuers.
Ear ornaments: Gold, rock crystal, enamel, pearls, green glass: Northern India, probably Delhi, formerly in the possession of Maharaja Duleep Singh.
Miniature painting: Shahamat Jang with his nephew and adopted son Ikram al-Daula on a terrace with an official, by a Murshidabad artist, circa 1750-55. Photography by John McKenzie for Lyon & Turnbull Fine Art Valuers.
Pendant of gold with rubies and glass stones; in the centre the depiction of deity under a rock crystal: Northern India, probably Punjab, 19th century, formerly in the possession of Maharaja Duleep Singh
Casualty of War: A Portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh © The Singh Twins.
As well as exploring the personal stories of Archibald Swinton, Duleep Singh and others, the exhibition examined the cultural significance and meaning of objects collected, and took a behind-the-scenes look at National Museums Scotland’s own conservation and analytical research activities.
Header image: Miniature painting of the court of the Nawab of Bengal, Alivardi Khan, by a Murshidabad artist, ca. 1750. Photography by John McKenzie for Lyon & Turnbull Fine Art Valuers.