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Case study

Conserving Indian Manuscripts in the Royal Collection

Painstaking conservation work was needed to allow them to feature in the exhibition

The Royal Library at Windsor Castle houses an exquisite collection of South Asian paintings and manuscripts.  These artworks are full of beautiful, intricate detail but become inherently fragile as they age.  This short film shows the conservation that enabled them to be safely handled and exhibited in Eastern Encounters: four centuries of paintings and manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent at the Queen’s Gallery, Edinburgh. 

Initial examination in the paper conservation studio revealed hidden underdrawings and insights into the creative process, as well as exploring the artists' original materials and their stability.  This guided subsequent treatments, including painstaking re-securing of lifting paint flakes under the microscope and different types of repair to the delicate papers.

Watch the film to learn more:

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Related exhibition
Eastern Encounters

The long relationship between the Crown and South Asia

Learn more about the works featured in this case study:

RCIN 1005047

Recto: Similar to La'l's painting on 1005039, this is one of several related works attributed to the artist which depict a Mughal majlis (gathering) with the essential components of poetry, wine, music and conversation.  Top and bottom: Verse by Rumi written on marbled paper decorated with gold illumination. مجلس خوشست و ما حریفان همه...

RCIN 1005043

Verso: Ladies in European Classical dress by La'l The second of three works by La'l found in these album folios, this painting of ladies in European classical dress demonstrates a contrasting component of the artist's oeuvre comprising Occidentalist-style works. Both figures wear long, high waisted Classical dresses. The lady on the right sits on a...

RCIN 1005032

An illuminated manuscript copy of the Khamsah of Navai written in Herat (modern Afghanistan) by the calligrapher Sultan Ali Mashhadi and later illustrated with six Mughal paintings. Nizam al-Din Ali Shir (1441-1501), also known by his penname Navai meaning 'melody maker', is considered the Chaucer of the Turks. Navai was a close advisor to the Timurid...

RCIN 1005114

A series of paintings from Rajasthan reproducing verses from the Sanskrit devotional poem Gita Govinda (‘Song of the Cowherd’) by Jayadeva. Jayadeva’s protagonists are the Hindu god Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, and his lover, the mortal cowherdess (gopi) Radha. This is thought to be the first literary references to Radha...