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British Museum Elevate Funds To Keep Indian Watercolour In UK

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An 18th-century watercolour described as “unparalleled in north Indian art” will stay in Britain after the British Museum raised the necessary funds.

The Trumpeters by Nainsukh of Guler is believed to have been painted between 1735 and 1740. The government blocked its export licence in 2018 to allow time for a UK gallery to raise the £440,000 required to prevent it being sold overseas.

The British Museum said on Monday that the money had been successfully raised and the painting, a miniature, was now on display in its Sir Joseph Hotung gallery of China and South Asia.

Imma Ramos, a curator at the museum, said everyone involved was delighted. “Nainsukh, whose name translates as Delight of the Eyes, is one of India’s greatest courtly artists and this outstanding painting showcases his gift for complex composition and precise observation,” she said.

“It was painted at the height of his career while he was working for the ruler of Jasrota, Raja Balwant Singh. Its jewel-like colour, intricate detail and poetic mood suggest it would have been seen up close and studied at leisure, enjoyed privately or among guests.”

The work shows seven village musicians playing Pahari horns with long pipes known as turhi, their cheeks puffed out with the effort.

It was purchased by the painter Winifred Nicholson during a tour of South Asia around 1920. After her death in 1981 it remained with her family and now enters a public collection for the first time.

The money has come from the Art Fund, the lottery via the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and the museum’s Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund.

Sir Peter Luff, the chair of the NHMF, said it was a stunning example of Pahari art and trustees had agreed “it was imperative to save The Trumpeters for the nation and keep it on public display therefore that art enthusiasts and historians can enjoy and engage with the painting for generations to come”.

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