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Some 70 years after the British left India it is timely to look back at how the kings and queens of the United Kingdom came to amass one of the largest private collections of South Asian art in the world. Two conjoined exhibitions currently showing at the Queen’s Gallery do just that.
In Room 145 of the Ceramics Galleries of the Victoria & Albert Museum, at the top of case 50, you can see an ‘architectural fragment’, which, according to its label, ‘once ornamented a palace in Yuanmingyuan or “garden of perfect clarity”’.
Somewhat late in the day, Tate Britain has got around to an exhibition about the British Empire and its legacies.
Although photography was introduced to India soon after its 1839 European invention, it was not until 1857 that the new technology proliferated in the subcontinent. In Zahid R. Chaudhary’s heavily illustrated study, focused on colonial photographic practices following the Sepoy Revolt by Indian recruits (1857–8), this proliferation is central.
This is a beautifully illustrated book of serious scholarship and the three editors and the other contributing authors are to be congratulated.