Treasury of the World: The Jewelled Arts of India and the Mughals

At a recent visit to the Asian Civilisations Museum, I managed to catch their latest exhibition entitled Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals. It’s on until the end of June, and worth a visit if you’re in Singapore (that, and their Southeast Asian collections!)



I must confess that I did not know anything about the Mughals before this exhibition; the short version is that the Mughal
Empire ruled most of India between the 16th and 19th centuries, and oversaw a period of great wealth and prosperity. Case in point: the Taj Mahal, one of the most iconic symbols of India is an example of Mughal architecture; and the word ‘mogul’ which means a person of great power also has its roots from the word Mughal. And powerful rulers they had to be, because they were Islamic rulers overseeing an vastly Hindu population. So their jewelled arts were as much a symbol of power as they were of beauty.

The exhibition is laid out in different sections, each highlighting a particular technique, such as stone settings, enamelled pieces, and inscribed gemstones. The last one is a particular highlight, featuring gemstones such as emeralds and spinels inscribed with royal names.

Inscribed gemstones from the Treasury of the World

This dagger is an example of gemstones laid in a background of gold floral ground – set with rubies, diamonds, emeralds, ivory and agate.

Mughal jewelled dagger and scabbard, c. 1615-1620.
Gold enamelled archery ring, c. 1700

The name of the exhibition comes from a letter by the British Ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, who wrote in 1616 about the Mughal Court. It’s certainly worth a visit if you’re in Singapore – just another reason to visit the Asian Civilisations Museum.

Special thanks to Binjing @ ACM for the permission to take photographs at the exhibition. The Treasury of the World exhibition is on from now until 27 June 2010 at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. For more information, click here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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