‘The Trumpeters’ – a masterpiece by Nainsukh of Guler, one of India’s greatest painters – will remain in the UK after its exportation had been deferred by government, with the British Museum since buying it. The license for the export of the work was blocked in 2018 by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to give a UK institution the chance to raise the £440,00 required to keep it in the UK.
Decisions to defer the export licence for a cultural work like ‘The Trumpeters’ are made following the recommendations of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, which is administered by the Arts Council. The Arts Council make recommendations on the basis of a work’s outstanding aesthetic importance and cultural pertinence to the UK.
In the case of ‘The Trumpeters’ – which Peter Barber, a member of the Committee, described as a ‘masterpiece unparalleled in North Indian art’ – the deferment was also recommended due to the work’s significant use in the study of Indian history.
The British Museum bought the piece with the support of Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund. It has gone on free display in the Museum’s Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia, coinciding with the second anniversary of the reopening of one of the museum’s major galleries.
It had been in a private collection owned by the prominent British artist Winnifred Nicholson (1893-1981). It had remained with her family for many years, but this is the first time it has entered a public collection.
According to Broadway World, “The painting, thought to have been created between 1735-40, depicts a traditional musical performance in Northern India. It shows seven musicians playing Pahari horns with long pipes known as turhi, 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.”