Indian and South Asian Miniatures

Although Pierpont Morgan's first illuminated manuscript acquisition was a Rajput Ragamala with a complete cycle of thirty-six miniatures (MS M.211), no other Rajput miniatures were added to the collection during his lifetime. In 1911, however, Belle Da Costa Greene acquired fifty-seven leaves, now known as the Read albums after their former owner Charles Hercules Read. Consisting primarily of Persian paintings and calligraphy, the Read albums also contain several outstanding examples of Mughal and Deccan miniatures, now largely grouped together under the shelf-mark MS M.458. Another major turning point in the history of this aspect of the collection was a 1978 exhibition at the Morgan, devoted to Rajput miniatures ("The Classical Tradition in Rajput Painting from the Paul F. Walter Collection"). In conjunction with this exhibition, Paul Walter unexpectedly donated ten miniatures to the library (M.990–999). These provided a small survey of Rajput painting, which he and his family would greatly expand with additional gifts over the years. Altogether, the Morgan currently holds some 125 miniature paintings from India and South Asia—excluding the bound illuminated manuscripts.

Elephant Dalbādal chasing his trainer. Rajasthan, India, ca. 1750. Credit: Gift of Paul F. Walter, 1979. MS M.1006.