Ranjit Singh: Sikh, Warrior, King

10 April 2024 to 10 October 2024 The Wallace Collection

Maharaja Ranjit Singh (r.1799–1839) with his favourite, Raja Hira Singh (1816–1844). Hafiz Muhammad of Multan, The Golden Throne of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, around 1818. Suit of armour, c. 1830-1840 © Royal Armouries

Explore the remarkable life and legacy of Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) in a forthcoming major exhibiton.

In a period riven with anarchy following decades of Afghan invasions, Ranjit Singh emerged as the Punjab region’s undisputed Maharaja by the turn of the 19th century. Possessed with an indomitable sense of destiny, his meteoric rise to power brought about the hugely influential Sikh Empire – a kingdom which created seismic change in the region, impacting the fortunes of the Mughal and British Empires and shaping the future of the Indian subcontinent.

Co-curated by Wallace Collection Director, Dr Xavier Bray, and guest curator and scholar of Sikh art, Davinder Toor, Ranjit Singh: Sikh, Warrior, King (10 April – 20 October 2024) will present glittering weaponry, intricate miniature paintings and exquisite jewellery from the Sikh Empire, drawn from major public and private collections. Visitors will experience how this extraordinary individual brought about a golden age in which trade boomed, the arts flourished, and a formidable army was developed.

Featuring historic objects from Ranjit Singh’s court, courtiers and family members, including those personally owned by the Maharaja and the most famous of his wives, Maharani Jind Kaur, the exhibition will also display objects intimately connected with their son, Maharaja Duleep Singh – the deposed boy-king who was a favourite of Queen Victoria and the father of the prominent suffragette, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh.

The Wallace Collection is renowned as the home of one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the world, and the exhibition also affords an opportunity to showcase the Collection’s group of Sikh arms and armour, of which the star is a beautiful sword richly mounted in gold and gemstones, thought when acquired by the Marquess of Hertford, to have belonged to the Maharaja himself. For the first time in the museum’s history, the exhibition will place the Collection’s Sikh holdings in their historic and artistic context, showing them alongside other Sikh artworks.

Highlights of the works on show include an incredibly fine miniature painting of Ranjit Singh and his favourite, depicted in vibrant crimson, emerald and gold, on public display for the first time from the Toor Collection, and the dazzling throne made by Hafez Muhammad Multani for Ranjit Singh, a major loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum. Covered in thick beaten gold and lavishly ornamented, the Golden Throne epitomises the splendour of the Maharaja’s court.

Dr Xavier Bray says: ‘I have been working toward this exhibition ever since I started at the Wallace Collection and learned of our incredible Sikh holdings. These works of art deserve to be better known by the public, and I am thrilled that they will be in the spotlight as we tell the incredible story of Ranjit Singh. As well as his military prowess and political genius, the Lion of the Punjab was known for the diversity and tolerance he fostered in his Empire, and celebrating this has never been more important.’

Further Information: Ranjit Singh: Sikh, Warrior, King - The Wallace Collection