Honolulu has just two weeks left to experience
Muraqqa’, a rare collection of what experts at the Academy
of Arts call some of the finest Indian painting in the world.
On view through March 1, “The exhibition comes from Chester
Beatty’s private collection in Dublin,” said Shawn
Eichman, Curator of Asian Art. “[Beatty] started off working
in the mines in Colorado and made a significant fortune in the
late 19th century,” continued Eichman, explaining that
Beatty built his collection—now the Chester Beatty Library—while
living in London and then Dublin, Ireland.
I think it’s a really fascinating story,” Eichman
added, “that someone who started working as a low-level
miner could end up forming one of the world’s great private
The Honolulu exhibition includes 86 works of art, most from the
early 17th century, according to Eichman:. “The earliest
is from the 15th century, and it’s not from India. It’s
Persian, from Central Asia.”
Muraqqa’ is the Persian word for “patchwork” or
patched “garment.” It was applied to the Indian albums
of paintings from the Mughal period because of their patchwork
construction. Each page consists of numerous ornately decorated
pieces of paper, miniature paintings, pasted together to form
a single sheet.
The small paintings were commissioned by the Mughal emperors
Jahangir (ruled 1605-1627) and his son Shah Jahan (ruled 1627-1658)
who commissioned the Taj Mahal. India’s greatest artistic
production of individual paintings was during the reigns of these
The Academy’s display includes formal portraits of the
Mughal emperors in different stages of their lives, depictions
of members of the royal family in relaxed, private settings,
portraits of courtiers, Sufi saints and mystics, genre scenes,
and natural history subjects.
The paintings are portraits,” said Eichman. “Everyone
is identifiable.” He added that “The use of gold
in these paintings is quite remarkable.” Real gold was
ground into a powder, he explained. “They used gold powder
and mixed it with glue.” Then they “took a pin and
pricked the gold, or used a dull knife. It creates a brighter
Two of the albums exhibited were part of the emperors’ private
library and were passed down to their successors. They are part
of the historical record of each emperor’s reign, and some
even contain editorial contents in an emperor’s own handwriting.
It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Eichman,
who added: “This is the first time since Chester Beatty
bought these paintings that they’ve ever traveled together.
It will probably be another 100 years before they travel again.”