Elephant Stories
Miniature Paintings from Mughal India

14.06.2019 to 11.08.2019

What do you do with 11,300 elephants?

That’s how many of these big, thick-skinned creatures Jahangir (1605–1627) had, one of the most important rulers of the Indo-Islamic Mughal Empire. Their appearance at festivities and processions was part of the extravagant way that the ruler presented himself to the world. Elephant fights were a popular form of court entertainment, and the ruler had the exclusive right to organise them. The ruler’s favourite elephants had their own servants, and were decked out with ornate fabrics and bridles.   

The significance of these elephants was also reflected in the miniature paintings that were commissioned by the Mughal rulers. The spectrum ranges from individual portraits of specific animals through to narrative depictions of famous elephant fights or elephant hunting.

A complex history of the relationships between humans and elephants

In other parts of the Islamic world, elephants were used in warfare, placed on display or studied in treatises on natural history. However first-hand knowledge about the animals was less widespread, and fantastical myths circulated about their magical abilities, such as the story about the unicorn that hunted elephants. Depictions of these mythic or symbolic aspects of popular conceptions of elephants can be found in architectural décor and on everyday objects. 

This exhibition illustrates various aspects of this complex history of the relationship between humans and elephants. In addition to sheets from albums from seventeenth-century Mughal India, the exhibition will also feature Iranian ceramic tiles and Egyptian lustreware. Brief excerpts from original texts provide background information about the pictures.

Sun 10:00 - 18:00
Mon 10:00 - 18:00
Tue 10:00 - 18:00
Wed 10:00 - 18:00
Thu 10:00 - 20:00
Fri 10:00 - 18:00
Sat 10:00 - 18:00

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