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Sermons and saints

Nearly 200 objects featuring the life of Christ are on show at the Salarjung Museum


THE ROYALS of India were an extraordinary breed whose extravagant lives witnessed a series of consuming pastimes that were indulged upon with rare devotion. While hunting, cars and sports consumed some thankfully for Hyderabad the prime ministers of the erstwhile Nizams collected a veritable treasure trove of world art in staggering profusion.

The Salar Jung Museum is hosting a special exhibition on `Christianity in Art' till January 14 at the Nawab Mir Turab Ali Khan Bhavan in the museum premises. Says Dr. A.K.V.S. Reddy, Director, "We hold periodic exhibitions on festivals. This exhibition is to commemorate the twelve days of Christmas from Christmas Day to the feast of Epiphany. There is no extra charge and the response has been tremendous."


Nearly 200 objects featuring the life of Christ, the saints of the church and crucifixes from different media like ivory, clay, porcelain, bronze, oil paintings, paintings on ivory, miniature paintings lithographs and rare manuscripts including copies of the Bible and other literature on the religion are on display. Gathered from across the world, the artefacts are from places as far apart as the Holy Land, Russia, Hungary, Germany and India and span nearly six centuries.

Set deep in gild edged frames the oil paintings are striking. The common theme is mostly of mother and child with the Mother Mary and Jesus with a fair, curly haired baby Jesus, the Visitation where a youthful Mary's face contrasts with that of an older cousin Elizabeth, the Birth of Christ in a manger and the Madonna and Child with a young John the Baptist. There is also a fine display of the same theme in Mughal miniature from the late 17th and 18th Centuries. A fine specimen of the Byzantine school of art is the painting on wood of Mary and Jesus. Lithographs include some of the finest works of Daniell.

In glass cabinets stand figurines of the saints of the Catholic Church. St. Anthony of Padua is seen in profusion in as many as four clay statues while St. Teresa of Avila and St. Teresa of Lisieux find mention in ivory. A bronze cast of Moses rubs shoulders with the Pieta, along with the Good Shepherd, St. Sebastian and Mary Help of All People. Equally striking are mother-of-pearl crucifixes, an ivory etching of the Coronation of Mary and a bronze cast of St. Paul's Cathedral.


But it's the collection of books, some of the editions over two centuries old, that are wide ranging. Hymn Book for the Indian Church is in Arabic, so also Sources of Christianity by Imam Kwaja Kamaluddin. An illustrated copy of the Mountains of the Bible, the Journal of John Wesley and prints of the parables are also on display.

This priceless collection would have reached its audience better if the exhibition had been more suitably catalogued. For both spiritual and temporal reasons the exhibition is well worth a visit.

DEEPA ALEXANDER

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