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South Asian paintings and manuscripts in the Royal Collection

The South Asian paintings and manuscripts in the Royal Collection have been acquired by several different means. This reflects the complex and changing relationship between Britain and the Indian subcontinent from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. During this time British ambitions in South Asia evolved from seeking trade to exercising political power.

Some of the finest South Asian paintings and manuscripts in the Collection were diplomatic gifts presented by Indian rulers to the British sovereign. Others were presented by British officers stationed in the subcontinent, many of whom developed their own interests in South Asian culture in the service of the East India Company. Two were acquired as trophies of military conquests.

Queen Victoria acquired many South Asian booksand manuscripts, both in their original languages and in translation. Less well known are the paintings and manuscripts given to and bought by King George Vand Queen Mary during their two tours of South Asiain the early twentieth century.

These works of art are part of a shared history between Britain and the Indian subcontinent which is explored throughout this exhibition.