The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) launched the ‘Anvar-i-Suhayli’ project on Wednesday to restore 231 illustrations from the Persian translation of the Panchatantra.
The ‘Anvar-i-Suhayli’ is a compilation of illustrated animal fables commissioned by Mughal emperor Akbar for his son, Jahangir in the 16th century. “King Akbar was a very liberal and culturally-enlightened leader. Despite being illiterate, he wanted his sons to read about morals and values,” said Sabyasachi Mukherjee, director of CSMVS.
“Over the past few centuries, the documents have turned into fragments of burnt paper with tears and creases. As the documents were retrieved from a major fire, a part of the collection has also been lost affecting the continuity of the stories,” he said.
The Rs50 lakh restoration project is being funded by the Bank of America. Vandana Prapanna, senior curator and Anupam Shah, head of art conservation, research and training at the museum, will spearhead the year-long project.
The illustrations, originally stored in a Pune library, were damaged in a major fire that broke out during a fight between the Marathas and the British in the 17th century, said Prapanna. The documents then reached London, where Alma Latifi, a collector of Indian miniature paintings, purchased them. In 1973, Latifi donated the illustrations to the Mumbai museum. “Though we have traced the journey of the paintings, we are still trying to unravel the stories created in emperor Akbar’s court,” said Prapanna.
The project will be carried out in two phases, which will include the reintegration of texts and illustrations, and the restoration of the documents. “We are also planning to collaborate with other technical institutes in the city to get rid of the discoloured pigments and other physical damages of the documents,” said Shah.
During the next 12 months, the education department of the museum will organise workshops and presentations for children to learn about the ‘Anvar-i-Suhayli’.