Exhibition of Museum Artifacts on Christian Themes
An exhibition based on Lahore Museum’s artefacts representing Christian themes was inaugurated on Christman eve, 2012. The Right Reverend Dr. Alexander John Malik, Bishop Emeritus of Lahore and the Right Reverend Irfan Jamil, Bishop of Lahore were Guests of Honour.
The exhibition displayed four artefacts representing three different forms of art- illustrated manuscript, miniature painting and needlework (suzeni).The manuscript called Mirat ul Quds (Mirror of Holiness) is based on the life of Jesus Christ and is a prized possession of the Lahore Museum.
This manuscript was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor, Jalaluddin Akbar. It was his passion for learning and experiencing life in all its richness combined with his open mindedness and inclusiveness that marks his reign from 1556-1605 as the zenith of the Mughal era. He had a special building made at his new capital Fatehpur Sikri called the Ibadat Khana (Place of Worship) where he used to stay up all night every thursday discussing issues of religion and philosophy with representatives of various religions and religious sects, scholars and philosophers, who thronged his court from all over the world.Akbar also greatly admired various arts including painting. He had formed an imperial atelier with over hundred artists working under the guidance of great Persian artists and Akbar supervised this atelier himself.
The exhibition also displayed two 17th century miniature paintings based on Christian themes. One of these is titled “The Virgin Mary with an Angel” and the other, “A painting representing a Biblical Theme.” Both these miniatures are striking examples of fusion of Mughal miniature elements with those of European style of painting.
The fourth artefact on display was a rare Iranian suzeni or a piece of cloth with needlework in chain stitch. It belongs to the period between 16th and 17th centuries and has scenes from the birth of Jesus Christ embroidered on it.
The Exhibition also evoked the historical and cultural context of the time when these artefacts were produced. That was a time that saw growing relations with Europeans and increasing influence of European art, culture and scientific and technological knowledge.
Along with the artefacts, the exhibition also showed the process of manuscript making and the technique of miniature painting through related objects in the collection of the museum with supporting pictures and text.
The exhibition was placed in the Gandhara Gallery, due to space considerations-however, the Gandhara art objects visible in the pictures do not form part of the exhibition-though they lend a certain flavour to the whole aspect. The exhibition was curated by Ms. Uzma Usmani, Restoration and Exhibition Officer, Lahore Museum.