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An Indian Aristocrat
Louis Henri de Polier and His Collection Albums

05.03.2010 to 30.05.2010


The Museum für Islamische Kunst (Museum for Islamic Art) owns a series of Indo-Persian art albums, compiled by the Swiss Louis Henri de Polier (1741-1795). Polier was a Huguenot from Lausanne of French decent, who travelled to India as chief engineer for the English East India Company and once there soon entered into the service of the North Indian Prince Shuja-ud-Daula of Awadh.

Like many of his foreign counterparts in the latter half of the 18th century, Polier had a lasting interest in Indian culture and adapted himself to the style of living of the Indian aristocracy. He learned Sanskrit, Persian and Urdu, collected Indian manuscripts and book art. In a style akin to traditional Mughal rulers, he acquired older, first-class examples of Mughal court painting, as well as commissioning new pictures, thereby making a considerable contribution to the flourishing of Indian miniature painting in Awadh province. The most famous proponent of this style, Mihr Chand, created numerous artworks for Polier.

The exhibition presents a selection of miniatures from Polier’s albums and documents the most important themes that occupied him. Of particular interest is the influence of English painting on Indian book art that came about through the contact with such painters as Johan Zoffany (1734-1810) and Tilly Kettle (1735-1786), whose works were not only commissioned by the English residing in India in the second half of the 18th century, but also by Indian rulers themselves, among them Shuja-ud-Daula.