Exhibition: The Opulence of the World – Masterpieces of Indian Painting from the Metzger Donation (Museum Rietberg)

Date of event:   21/09/2023 − 24/01/2024

Title: The Opulence of the World: Masterpieces of Indian Painting from the Metzger Donation
Duration: 21 September 2023 to 21 January 2024
Location: Museum Rietberg, Zurich, Switzerland

In 2001, Horst Metzger bequeathed to the Museum Rietberg his magnificent collection of 250 Indian paintings from the 15th to the early 19th century, 62 of which are now on display. These paintings were produced by courtly painters and workshops mainly for royal or other distinguished patrons in Rajasthan, Pahari region and other erstwhile Indian kingdoms. Most of their themes are based on courtly activities, classical poems and epics. They are among the most beautiful works of art produced in South Asia during these centuries.

The pictures were executed on handmade paper with very fine brushes made of soft squirrel and sable hair. The colors were made from mineral, organic or chemically produced pigments mixed with water and a binder, usually gum arabic. They were applied in several thin layers and then polished with a smooth agate stone. In addition, the painters applied powdered or leaf gold or silver foil on the painted surface.

Other than the portraits and courtly subjects, series or sets of paintings often illustrated poetic or religious texts. Preserved in princely libraries and in special painting storerooms within the palaces, these paintings were viewed by the royal families and guests in their leisure hours or during festivals or other special occasions.

The exhibition The Opulence of the World presents a selection of masterpieces from the Metzger Collection. With their narrative charm, richness of detailed depictions, they invite you to take a magnifying glass in your hand to embark on a journey of exploring many worlds in these pictorial worlds. This exhibition is also a celebration of some of the known while some not yet identified master painters from India.