So Many Beautiful Things

On Tuesday 18th June we welcomed Susan Stronge to lecture at the Society. She is Senior Curator in the Asian Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum. As you might expect her lecture included many beautiful things. She chose to talk on “The Lapidary Arts of the Mughal Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries”. We learnt lots about the material and techniques employed, the types of objects produced and the patrons of the craftsmen. It was a delightful chance to see images of many wonderful artifacts.

Susan Stronge lecturing at the Royal Asiatic Society

Our lecture programme continued on Thursday 27 June with a Guest Lecture by Dr Ravinder Reddy when we were treated to another array of beautiful things but in a completely different context. Dr Reddy lectured on the “Numinous Imagery on Arms and Armour of the Indian Subcontinent” and therefore showed some exquisite decoration upon the weapons. The decoration of weapons he related to our desire to beautify, show prestige and to sanctify. In this latter desire he showed how the use of images of gods in decoration can be seen as an act of sacralization of the weapon and therefore a call on the god to be a source of protection.

Dr Ravinder Reddy

And tonight (Friday 28 June) our events programme continues with the joint book launch of From Stone to Paper: Architecture as History in the Late Mughal Empire and Ottoman Baroque: The Architectural Refashioning of Eighteenth-Century Istanbul when their authors, Chanchal B. Dadlani and Ünver Rüstem will be in discussion with Dr. Sussan Babaie. I expect, considering the titles of these publications, that we will again be treated to more beautiful images.

Beuatiful things, of course need looking after. Our Director, Alison Ohta was recently at the symposium at Camberwell School of Arts. She writes:

On Monday 17th June, the 2nd year  MA in Conservation (Books and Archival Material; Works of Art on Paper), Camberwell College of Arts, held its final symposium and ‘end of year show’, sadly closing its doors to students after 50 years because of budget reviews by the University. The course under the direction of Jocelyn Cuming with  Eleni Katsiani attracted students from all over the world and today these graduates are employed in numerous  important cultural heritage institutions.  Many tears were shed by the moving tributes to Jocelyn and Eleni  by Cheryl Porter and former students expressing deep regret at its closure and the hope that this very specialised course, first of its type in the UK and one of the first internationally, might rise again from the ashes and find a home in another institution.

Cheryl Porter, Jocelyn Cuming and Professor Nicholas Pickwoad

For several years students from the course chose to work on items in the collections of the RAS as part of their end of year project and  their contribution to the conservation of items in the RAS collection will be sorely missed. This year Rebekah Habord stabilised two loose manuscript leaves with miniature paintings and two genealogical trees from the Tod collection.  Here is her work:

Head Cat. 058.001 (recto) – Layla in a garden


Head Cat. 058.001 (verso) – Three birds


Head Cat. 058.002 (recto) – Majnun in a landscape


Head Cat. 058.002 (verso) – A prince on a piebald horse


Head Cat.037.177 – genealogical tree of the Chandravansa race


Head Cat.037.178 – genealogical tree showing the descent from Swayambhava to Brij