Bejewelled, Bedazzled and Bespoken…No More

Toronto, your Maharaja moment is almost up.

Patiala saab – everyone’s favourite royal mac daddy – is packing up his precious wares and leaving his residence of the past few months – the AGO.

Sir Bhupindra Singh, Maharaja of Patiala on
The mac daddy Maharaja. I’ll miss the large posters of his likeness amongst the Gehry curves. 
The Patiala Necklace on
The (in)famous Patiala necklace, made by Cartier in 1928, and worn by the above gentleman’s successor. Those Burmese rubies are like the glowing red eyes of a black panther.

If you haven’t managed to pop by his place for tea, then you really must visit. Where else can you find colossal carats and kaam-valla (embroidered) kurtas amongst Beaton and Man Ray masterpieces?

I walked through the exhibit again late last week, after attending the opening party back in the fall. I had forgotten the sublime hue of the Rolls, the perfect paisleys of my favourite necklace, the dull sheen of the silver thread in a true maharani’s sari.

Mangamalai for a woman 1700-1800 South India on exshoesme Photo by Jyotika Malhotra
A mangalmai – or mango shaped necklace for a woman, 1700-1800, South India. Mai mai, indeed.**
Saris worn by Molly of Pudukkottai on Photo by Jyotika Malhotra
I loved the metallic thread saris of the time – they were very simple but spoke volumes. These two are from the collection of Molly of Pudukkottai – an Aussie who married the Raj of the region, and later lived on couture (and croissants?) in the South of France once her hubby abdicated the throne and gained a fortune. **
Detail of Sari worn by Molly of Pudukkottai on Photo by Jyotika Malhotra
Net worth: a detail of a sari that would have been worn for a more formal occasion.**

I had forgotten art, and had gotten caught in the trap of everyday routine. And in a second or two, I was wrapped in lush velvet.

Close up of jacket worn by Sadiq Muhammad Abbai IV of Bahawalpur, around 1880 on Photo by Jyotika Malhotra.
Detail of an embroidered velvet jacket…**
Sadiq Muhammad Abbai IV of Bahawalpur, around 1880 on
…as worn by Sadiq Muhammad Abbai IV of Bahawalpur, around 1880.

I was lost in the misty photograph of Indira Devi by Dorothy Wilding.

Indira Devi of Cooch Behar by Dorothy Wilding 1928 on
The poetic portrait of Indira Devi of Cooch Behar taken in 1928 – one of my favourite images from the period.

I was admiring the tailoring of the tails that Maharaja Yeshwant Rao of Indore wore in his Western dress painted portrait (he had another done in traditional garb but that portrait didn’t make it overseas as part of this show).

Yeshwant Rao of Indore on
A man ahead of his time – a dandy-fied Yeshwant Rao – a true patron of the avant-garde in all its forms.

I was dreaming of sitting at that perfect Art Deco desk, listening to the jazz of another era. The era that created it.

Deco desk on Photo by Jyotika Malhotra.
Where the big thinking happened – Rao’s Deco desk**

I also attended a lecture that same evening, by one of the original curators of Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, which was first shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum (a building I could linger in for hours) before coming to Toronto. Dr. Amin Jaffer, Director of Asian Art at Christie’s in London, had some fascinating tales of the maharajas and their luxury habits and I’ll share some of those stories in future posts – because, now of course, I need to know more…

In the meantime, get thee to the AGO before April 3rd, get lost in luscious luxury for an afternoon, and be dazzled…

Gold ankle bracelets on Photo by Jyotika Malhotra.
Who needs shoes when you can prance around the palace with these ankle bracelets?**
Silver Carriage Detail on Photo by Jyotika Malhotra.
The Rolls was one mode of transportation. A silver carriage was another. As in solid silver.**

…before it rolls back into the various vaults and vistas beyond.

Silver Carriage of the maharajas on Photo by Jyotika Malhotra.
Silver carriage by the Fort Coach Factory Bombay (Mumbai), 1915.**

Images: All photos marked with ** are by moi. Bhupinder Singh image courtesy of AGO; Rao portrait image detail courtesy of thedogster; Indira Devi image via The National Portrait Gallery, London; all others courtesy of the V&A Museum, London.

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