Exhibition showcases Indo-French ties of 18th century

NEW DELHI, Nov 16:
A new Indo-French exhibition here opens a historical window into the lives of 12 Indian rulers and their French-speaking officers from 1750-1850.
Drawing from the archives of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the National Museum here, the collaborative exhibition, “Rajas, Nawabs and Firangees, Treasures from the French and the Indian archives (1750-1850),”opened on Friday.
The exhibition has put on showcase unseen manuscripts, paintings and artefacts that offer glimpses of the Indian court life, through the eyes of French-speaking officers – few of which acquired high military positions and were endowed with jagirs.
Organised by Alliance française de Delhi, the United Service Institution of India, and the National Museum, the exhibits, curated by Samuel Berthet, are contextualized within the rise of British East India Company over the subcontinent, and the successive defeats of the army of the French East India Company at its hands.
Portraits of 12 duos of French officers and their Indian rulers from erstwhile courts in present day Kerala, Punjab, Bengal, Awadh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Poona, Hyderabad and Madurai mark the first section of the exhibition.
The second part shows a selection of the wide collection of Indian sacred texts preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale, the French National Library.
Apart from various aspects of Hinduism, the collection holds manuscripts related to Islam, Buddhism, Tantrism, Jainism and also the ancient religion of the Parsis.
The exhibition’s third section explores the rich and complex theme of Firangee paintings in the light of the French experience, and answers how foreigners projected themselves during their sojourn in the East, and how were they represented by indigenous miniature artists.
Also on view at the exhibition is the early dual representation of French speaking travellers such as François Malherbe, Manucci, Bernier or Tavernier.
“This exhibition brings a new perspective to Indo-French ties as it highlights hitherto unseen archives and documents on Indo-French encounters in the 18th and 19th centuries.
“This exhibition also shows that the roots of the strategic partnership between our two countries can be traced back to this rich past and that, just like today, strategic relations in earlier days were also cultural relations,” French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain said.
The show also displays European themes in Indian court paintings, books on on India in French illustrated by Indian artists, with exquisite skills on vegetal on wide canvas to comics like miniatures.
Also on display are Indian paintings representing Indian divinities and communities commissioned by French administrators to Indian painters of the Tanjore tradition.
“The exhibition is the result of an amazing collaboration. It is not usual for a cultural institution to collaborate with an institution belonging to the military field. That the cultural institution concerned is a Franco-Indian institution adds to the originality of this unique partnership,” Jean François Ramon, Director, Alliance Française de Delhi, said.
The exhibition will remain open to public till December 7. (PTI)