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Art collectors are a passionate miniscule minority who go to extreme lengths to add to their collection and Dr. Horst Metzger was a dedicated German scientist who was smitten by the beauty of the Pahadi miniatures. The delicate and red colours and the intricate beauty of the detailed work kept him enthralled during his lifetime and his quest to find more pieces took him to many art auctions and private collections across the world.
When he passed away, following a long illness, he very generously bequeathed his priceless collection of 250 paintings, created by Indian masters who worked in the sub-Himalayan region, to the Museum of Reitberg in Zurich. Hardly surprising considering the great Indophile Dr Eberhard Fischer was its director and Metzger would have felt confident that the painstakingly collected works would find a deserving home. The Reitberg museum prides itself on an important collection of Indian sculptures as well.
Dr Metzger was a PhD in chemistry with profound linguistic knowledge of Greek and Latin, and approached these works with the seriousness and excitement of a scholar, going to great lengths to identify the artists and also expand his collection. On his selection, he would simply say: “The picture must speak to me”.
It is not often that major collections of Indian miniatures are accessible in the public domain—not surprising considering their fragility. In this background, one of our finest scholars, Prof B.N. Goswamy, along with Dr Fischer has featured 60 works in this publication. Their enthusiasm and scholarship opens a world of reflection and light, which is replete with detailed narratives to help understand the captivating exquisiteness of these Rajput paintings from the hill states of India.
In a way, it is like the collector who was keen on sharing the collection with the public and didn’t want the artwork to remain a secret to be enjoyed only by him. Reitberg has often shown parts of the collection as part of other shows. With this publication, the collector and his collection live on, in accordance with his wish, in Indian art history.
Niyogi Books deserves kudos for the well put together and competently printed publication.
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