British Museum has bought a masterpiece 'The Trumpeters' by one of India's greatest painters, Nainsukh of Guler, saved from export after being purchased. Described as a work "unparalleled in North Indian art" - had its licence for export blocked in 2018 by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in order to enable a UK institution to raise the £440,000 required to stop it from being sold overseas. It is believed to have been painted between 1735 and 1740.
With the support of Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the museum's Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund, it has now joined the collection of the British Museum and will remain in the UK. It has gone on free display in the Museum's Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia.
The painting, depicts a traditional musical performance in Northern India. It shows seven musicians playing Pahari horns with long pipes known as turhi, and their cheeks puffed out with the effort. It is a highly impressive and unusual example of the artist's work, combining aspects of Nainsukh's early work with some of his later achievements. It was purchased by the painter Winifred Nicholson during a tour of South Asia around 1920. After her death in 1981 it remained with her family and now enters a public collection for the first time.
Nainsukh is the most famous and highly regarded artist of the Pahari or 'Hill' style of painting, that developed in the hills of Punjab in north-west India. He is famous for his detailed observation and depiction of people and places, portrayed through highly original and dynamic compositions. Three other masterpieces by Nainsukh of Guler was donated in 1940s and are also in the collection of the British Museum.