It was in 1846 that artist Mazhar Ali Khan, having slaved for more than two years, painted his masterpiece Panorama of Delhi from the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort—deftly capturing on canvas the spectacular 5m-long panorama from the top of Red Fort’s Lahore Gate, traversing the Jama Masjid, the Ridge greens in the far distance, and the myriad galis of Chandni Chowk. Khan was known to have collaborated with Sir Thomas Metcalfe on various projects.
This 66x490cm painting in watercolour is part of a forthcoming exhibition of works meant to commemorate 100 years of Delhi being the Capital. The exhibition at the India Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) is curated by Pramod Kapoor, publisher of Roli Books. It’s based on Delhi: Red Fort to Raisina, a book edited by J.P. Losty, Union minister Salman Khurshid, conservation architect Ratish Nanda and publisher of Seminar Malvika Singh. The book is being launched on 12 December at Vivanta by Taj—Ambassador, New Delhi.
On display: Delhi Durbar (1877).
“The book traces the journey of Delhi from the making of Red Fort to the making of New Delhi at Raisina Hill. We try to capture not so much the years but the milestones of the city, and most of the works in the exhibition try to capture different styles of paintings and photographers, from the late-Mughal miniatures to the post-Mughal company-style images,” says Kapoor. Most of the material in the book has come from the British Library in London (where Losty was formerly the curator-in-charge of the Indian visual collections), and Bibliothèque nationale de France. “Two or three paintings are from the Red Fort museum,” says Kapoor. Painter Sita Ram’s work—Map of Shahjahanabad by a Delhi Cartographer—features a painted cartographer’s map of Delhi in 1846, so precise that it looks like a satellite image. It is one of the few surviving images that document what the city looked like before the mutiny of 1857. “He must have walked along every lane to document it with such fine detailing. It’s quite an extraordinary image,” says Kapoor. There are also some works from the collection of the maharaja of Kota (a large miniature commissioned by Ram Singh of Kota in the 1600s) and a ground plan of Red Fort which came from the maharaja of Jaipur.
The exhibition will run from 15-24 December, 10am-6pm. Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. 1, CV Mess, Janpath, New Delhi (23388341).