This book highlight 100 treasures of the Salar Jung Museum, showcasing the extraordinary personal collection of the Salar Jung family, presented under five themes.
The ‘Indian Art’ section focuses on ancient sculptures of the Andhra region and representative painting of the medieval period. ‘The Asian Art’ section includes a few exceptional pieces of ceramic and other arts from China and Japan. ‘The European Art’ segment includes various pieces of art for which the Museum is famous such as the ‘Veiled Rebecca’ and oil and watercolour paintings by English, French and Dutch artists, apart from several other rare European pieces. ‘In the Palace’ has furniture and household collection of glass and ceramics from around the world. ‘The Arms Collection’ of the Museum has treasured items including weapons belonging to Mughal emperors such as Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb.
The Salar Jung Museum was established in 1951 and the Salar Jung family is responsible for its collection of rare art objects all over the word. Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, popularly known as Sala Jung iii, passionate about arts, avidly collected paintings, sculpture, household glass items and furniture from all over the world. The collection was however never intended to take shape of a museum. But when he died as a bachelor on 2 March 1949, the entire collection was left behind without an inheritor. It was the family members of late Nawab who got together to gift the fabulous collection to the nation as there could not have been a better proposal.
The collection in the form of a museum was declared open on 16 December 1951 in the Dewan Deodi palace, the residential home of late Salar Jung, and opened to the public by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the them prime minister of India. Later, the Government of India and the family members took over the Museum formally through a compromise deed and the museum was administered by the Ministry of Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs, Government of India. Finally, In 1961, through an Act of Parliament the Salar Jung Museum along with its library was declared an ‘Institution of National Importance’.
The Museum was transferred to its present building in the year 1968 and the administration was transferred to as Autonomous Board, with the Governor of Andhra Pradesh as its Chairman.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SALAR JUNG FAMILY
Mir Turab Ali Khan-Salar Jung I was awarded the title of Salar Jung Bahadur at the age of 13. When he came of age he was appointed Prime Minister by the then Nizam, Nasir-ud-Daulah. He was an astute administrator, known for his reforms and also for being a connoisseur of art. He sied in the year 1882. Salar Jung I was inspired by commemorative mementos made for coronations and Special events of European royal families. On his visit to England in 1876, he ordered ceramic objects bearing his pottrait. He is also said to have broght the ‘Veiled Rebecca’ to India also with many other master pieces. Today this sculpture is one of the most prized treasures of the Museum.
He was survived by two sons Laiq Ali Khan and Sadath Ali Khsn and two daughters Noor Unnisa Begum and Sultan Bakht Begum. His eldest son, Mir Laiq Ali Khan was appointed first as Secretary to the Council of Regency and later as a member of the Council of State. He was appointed the Prime Minister in AD 1884 by the them Nizam of Hyderabad Nawab Mir Mehboob Ali Khan and was conferred a title of ‘Imad-Ud-Saltanat’. He spent most of his time in continuing the social reforms his father had begun and was known as a great administrator. When he was 26 years old he died at Poona, leaving behind a 24-day infant, Abul Qasim Mir Yousuf Ali Khan.
When Mir Yousuf Ali Khan was ten-years old, the then Nizam bestowed upon him the family title of ‘Salar Jung’ and restored his Mansab and other titles. Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan then came into possession of the most important assets and gradually built this extraordinary collection into an art treasure.
He became heir to enormous wealth when he inherited a huge estate of 450 villages spread over 1480 square miles of land, with annual revenue of Rs. 23 lakhs, a substantial income at the time. He was an aesthete, known for his refined taste and interest in the arts of India, Europe, the Middle East & Far Eastern countries. From an early age he inclination for collecting rere pieces of art objects from all over the world.
Salar Jung iii emulated the traditions of European royal families in commissioning famous manufacturing houses in Europe to specially design gold-crested cutlery and crockery. There are many household objects in the Museum today that stand testimony to this.
Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam appointed Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, Salar Jung iii, as his prime minister in Hyderabad. On health grounds, Salar Jung iii relinquished the post of prime minister in November 1914. Thereafter, he devoted his time to enrich his art collection.
The news of his passion for objects of fine skill and beauty and pieces of curiosity had spread to the corners of India and the off countries. His palace was where merchants came with their merchandise. He had agents abroad who sent him catalogues and lists from well-know antique dealers. Salar Jung iii did not limit his purchases only to these sources. Travelling extensively he bought much more himself, during his trips to Europe and to the Middle East.
The Salar Jung Museum has a collection of over 42,000 art objects, 9,000manuscripts and 60,000 printed books that form the collectin. A separate library houses the manuscripts and books. The art collection has been segregated broadly into Indian Art, Middle Eastern Art, Far Eastern Art, European Art and the Chilren’s Section. The exhibits on dislay are divided into more than 38 galleries.
The Museum also has a library of rare books and illuminated manuscripts of enormous value. There are autographed manuscripts with the seal and signatures of emperors like Aurangzeb and of Jahanara Begum (daughter of Shah Jahan). It is apparent from the library collection that Salar Jung was a great of literature.
The Museum offers a window to understand the arts of India and crafts of Andhra in paeticular, and gives Indians the opportunity to view different aspects of the art of other countries.
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