Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Maharaja at the V&A

Maharaja: The Opening Night from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

Recently, I went along to the opening night of the Maharaja exhibition at the V&A.

It is a showcase for the wealth of the Indian Royal Court - thrones, gem-encrusted weapons, a Rolls Royce...all very nice but not a patch on the riches of Homeward.

Take for example the Maharaja of Patiala, whom we see in a film of his birthday celebrations in 1940 wearing the Patiala necklace, re-set for his family between 1925 and 1928 by Cartier. The second largest commission ever filled by the Parisian jewellers, (the first being an item I designed for myself) it consists of five strands of huge diamonds, with the light yellow 234.61 caret De Beers diamond as its central pendant. The whole thing hangs over the birthday boy’s tunic like a glittering breast plate. The necklace is a wonder of natural beauty and supreme craftsmanship but not, somehow, an object for aesthetic contemplation.

Just so much bling, really. Thank God I’m not an elephant who looks vulgar in diamonds!

Needless to say they did not seem inclined to interview me for the above video - clearly they were very embarrassed about the life sized model of an elephant draped in silver necklaces in the first gallery.

To add insult to injury a, clearly, not very bright super model was interviewed and was surprised that a mere elephant would be wearing jewellery!

Only proving that elephantism still exists today.

The guests quaffed their champagne ignoring the 'elephant' in the room. For let it not been forgotten that the days of elephant slavery are, in reality, not long over.

Elephants were only allowed to wear jewellery to dazzle the populace, to bludgeon their senses and win their affections. Look at the enormous throne they were forced to carry!

I shed a tear looking at an image of my ancestors being forced to fight for the sport of humans.

Now I’m going to say something that’s going to get me in a lot of trouble.

Remarkable as all this is, it must be remembered that the best art was created for the Maharajas by elephants. Indian craftsman did not have the skills or imaginative vision of their Elephant counterparts.

The interviewer avoided me as he could see my mounting fury at the way my ancestors role had been portrayed!

I was about to storm out when the curator bounded up to me apologising profusely!

She begged me to allow them to put on an exhibition of the wealth of Homeward - her timing could not have been worse. I am always being asked to display the wonderful artifacts of my home and the exhibition had hardly put me in the mood to acquiesce to her desperate request. She remarked, however, on the fact that the Maharaja exhibition would pale in comparison to my own riches - which is of course true.

I have always had a place in my heart for the plucky poor people of Britain - and I felt at this time, when they are particularly poor, it might cheer them up to see some of the jewels in my crown.

So, I have agreed. Over the coming weeks I shall reveal to you some of the lovely paintings, photography, architecture, textiles and dress, jewellery, jewelled objects, metalwork and furniture that make up my home and that will be included in the exhibition.

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