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Antique paintings fading into history

The life size portraits of Nawabs of Awadh adorning the hallway in the Hussainabad picture gallery are gradually falling prey to the ravages of time.

lucknow Updated: Aug 27, 2013 10:25 IST
Gulam Jeelani
Gulam Jeelani
Hindustan Times

‘All passes, art alone enduring stays to us; the bust outlasts the throne, the coin Tiberius;’ wrote Aaustin Dobson once. But in the state capital, rare art is on the verge of decay, solely due to neglect.

The life size portraits of Nawabs of Awadh adorning the hallway in the Hussainabad picture gallery are gradually falling prey to the ravages of time.

Surprisingly, the administration is silent over a detailed restoration proposal for these masterpieces, by a national heritage conservation agency.

Situated near the Chhota Imambara, the majestic building of the picture gallery-one of the most visited monuments in the state capital--houses 10 larger than life portraits of Nawabs of Awadh, chronicling the rule spanning more than a century. The gallery is housed in an Archeological Survey of India (ASI) protected building and maintained by Hussainabad and Allied Trust (HAT).

A visit to the gallery speaks volumes about how the portraits need a fresh lease of life.

All the antique pieces of art dating back to the nineteenth century, once a prime attraction for visitors, have been reduced to dusty, torn frames, thanks to utter neglect.

A major part of the portrait of Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haidarthe second king of Awadh, has chipped off, while the portrait of Nawab Mohammad Ali Shah (the third ruler of Awadh) is virtually fading. The background colour is more prominent that that of the Nawab.

The condition of small portraits and pictures hanging on the walls is no better.

“It was one of the most popular spots for visitors. If the administration does not wake up now, the portraits would fall down one day,” Mohammad Zeeshan, a resident said. Though the red building is an ASI protected monument, HAT-the custodian of Nawabi era monuments -maintains the gallery. Lucknow district magistrate is the chairman of HAT while additional district magistrate (ADM) West is the secretary.

Last year, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) a non-profit organisation working for heritage conservation, prepared a detailed report about conservation of the historical portraits. The report, which estimated a cost of Rs 10 lakh for the purpose, was submitted to district administration.

Since then, sources said, the proposal had not moved beyond papers.

“The DM wanted an external agency to fund the restoration project which did not happen. He then forwarded the request to the state culture department which is sitting over it,” an administration official said.

It is pertinent to mention here that HAT charges R10 per ticket for entry into the gallery, citing fund crunch as an excuse.

“The administration has set aside R5 lakh for the restoration of the portraits. The work will start soon,” Nasir Hussain Naqvi, OSD, HAT said.

First Published: Aug 27, 2013 10:16 IST