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Rhythm and Colour
Foregrounding Music in Indian Album Paintings (16th-18th Centuries)

28.04.2023 to 25.06.2023

Showcasing a selection of painted miniatures, this focussed special exhibition in the Buchkunstkabinett of the Museum für Islamische offers a fascinating insight into the aural landscape of the Indian subcontinent.

The period from the 16th to the 18th century, from which the featured album sheets originate, was a time of musical innovation in India. Musicians from a vast geographical area were drawn to the courts, where they received support to develop their craft. They also played a major role in religious gatherings, whether it was in Hindu temples or Sufi monasteries. Music was seen as a means of reaching a state of spiritual ecstasy.

This widespread patronage led to a musical golden age, in which artists from various musical traditions from India, Iran and Central Asia experimented with the medium and created their own combinations of melodic modes, rhythmic structures, and new tones and timbres. In Indian miniatures, we can recognise this musical wealth of diversity through the instruments depicted: tamburs, rebabs, setars and dafs are instruments with Arabic roots which are native to the Persian and Turkish cultures of Central Asia and the Middle East. Then there are various instruments that originate in India, such as the rudra veena, the pakhavaj or the now extinct eka-tantrī vīṇā.

Live Performances and Sonic Interventions

The exhibition will also introduce audiences to the musical instruments depicted in the illustrations, with audio samples providing an impression of what the music might have sounded like. An accompanying musical programme, audioVisions: Sound Miniatures Between Painting and Music, will also incorporate the instruments into the exhibition by way of brief live performances and sonic interventions. In half-hour improvisations at 4:30 pm on 23 May, 15 June and 25 June 2023, talented soloists will create responses to the individual album sheets, translating their visual rhythms, their use of colour, their subject matter and motifs into contemporary soundscapes.


The exhibition is curated by Deniz Erduman-Çalış, Museum für Islamische Kunst, and Parul Singh, a 4A_Lab postdoctoral fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut, and by the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz. The accompanying programme is curated by Philip Geisler, a member of Trickster Orchestra and a fellow at the 4A_Laboratory: Art Histories, Archaeologies, Anthropologies, Aesthetics at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut, and by the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz

A special presentation by the Museum für Islamische Kunst – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Reconstructed Processional Way of Babylon
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Achim Kleuker

James-Simon-Galerie, Bodestraße
10178 Berlin

partially wheelchair accessible
Please note: Pergamonmuseum is exclusively entered through James-Simon-Galerie!
Site plan: Entrance to the Pergamonmuseum and Neues Museum (PDF)

All groups meet at the information desk at the upper foyer in James-Simon-Galerie, entering by using the big stairway.
Advice for group visits to the Pergamonmuseum an the Neues Museum (PDF)

Due to a technical issue, the lift is out of service until further notice, meaning the Museum für Islamische Kunst is not currently wheelchair accessible. The major architectural exhibits – such as the Processional Way, featuring the Ishtar Gate and the Market Gate of Miletus – are still accessible to people with mobility issues. 


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