The AGO's Maharaja Online

Official teachers' resource for the Art Gallery of Ontario's Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts exhibition, which is up until April 3, 2011. Learn about some of the artifacts in the exhibition, and engage in a dialogue relating ancient artworks to contemporary life.

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The Star of India

Star of India 1934 Rolls Royce. 40/50 HP Phantom II All-Weather Cabriolet Chassis 188PY Engine ZN15 Private collection Courtesy of RM Auctions; Photo: Tom Wood

  • The history of this special car reflects the history of India during British imperialism. After over half a century abroad, this car will be returned to the family of the original owner after the exhibition ends at the AGO. Many works of art and artifacts in museums were taken, sometimes forcibly as trophies of war, from their original place of origin to another country.
  • Do you think such objects should be returned to their places of origin? Why?

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A Powerful Impression: The Carriage

Carriage Bombay (Mumbai), 1915 Iron, wood, silver, gilded silver, enamel, glass, silk Private Collection

  • In royal processions, which remained an important public display of power and status, while elephants were still used, European modes of transport such as this carriage, known as a landau, became more popular. Later, extremely valuable cars such as the Star of India would be used as well.
  • What kind of vehicle do you think makes a powerful impression?

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High School Cliques

How accurate is Hollywood’s portrayal of high school cliques? You be the judge.

YouTube video: “saved by the bell new girl part 1”

(Source: maharajaonline)

Paintings of Pastimes

A woman flying a kite. c. 1700-1800 opaque watercolour on paper Victoria & Albert Museum, London © V&A Images / Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Nazar paintings showed women spending time doing their favourite things.
  • If you were in one of these paintings, what types of activities would you be doing? What would these activities say to your loved ones about you? What symbols would you use to express your feelings?

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A Powerful Woman

Chand Bibi of Bijapur shooting with her ladies. c. 1750 opaque watercolour on paper. Victoria & Albert Museum, London © V&A Images / Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Chand Bibi was a rare case for women in the ruling classes at her time, and even rarer in the general population of India in the 16th century.
  • Hunting or playing sports, learning to play musical instruments, going shopping or even taking a walk on your own, going to school, even reading, were not considered appropriate pursuits for girls and women.
  • Imagine what it would be like to not have any power over what you do, what you wear, or even who or when you marry. What makes a woman powerful?

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Turban Ornament: the Bling of Maharajas

Sarpech (turban ornament). Probably Murshidabad, mid-18th century. Gold, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, a sapphire and a pearl. Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Sarpeches or turban ornaments were the ‘bling’ of their time. What is the bling of our time? How do you feel about these symbols of wealth and power?

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How is this artifact relevant in today’s world?

Elephant Ankus

Ankus. Jaipur, c. 1870 Gold, natural colourless sapphires, enamel. Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Elephants were used in hunts and processions of the Indian royal court similar to how horses were used by European royalty.
  • How do you feel about humans using animals for work?

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How does this artwork relate to today’s world?