Elephants were highly valued by the rulers of India, for their power in battle and their majestic dignity as ceremonial mounts. From around 1570 to 1750, many superb elephant portraits or studies of elephants in action were painted by the court artists of the Mughal emperors, the Deccani sultans or the Hindu Maharajas of Rajasthan. The court of Kota in south-east Rajasthan is famous above all for the verve and energy of its elephant paintings and drawings.

This group of paintings and brush-drawings, mostly of the Mughal and Kota schools, has been selected from the distinguished collection of the artist Howard Hodgkin. A passionate collector of Indian paintings since his schooldays, Hodgkin has long favoured elephant subjects as one of the main themes in his collecting. Throughout the ages Indian artists have indeed shown a strong affinity for this noble animal and an intuitive sympathy in depicting it. They have always known how to convey a sense of its massive volumes and its grace in motion, its wise intelligence and its playful charm.

View the online exhibition here