Paris falls for jazz-age glamour of India's modernist maharajah - GulfToday

Paris falls for jazz-age glamour of India's modernist maharajah

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Visitors walk past an painting (1933-1934) showing Indian Maharani Sanyogita Devi of Indore in tradition dress.

They were India's golden couple of the 1920s and 1930s, two beautiful people who cut a wildly glamorous dash across the globe, being photographed by Man Ray and sipping cocktails with Hollywood stars.

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A carpet by Ivan Da Silva Bruhns (1930's) is displayed at the opening of "The Modern Maharajah" exhibition.

The extraordinary lives and impeccable taste of the Maharajah of Indore and his maharani, Sanyogita Devi, are celebrated in a spectacular new exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris.

With the clouds of World War II darkening over Europe, the pair created a gem of an avant-garde palace on the Malwa Plateau in the heart of India.

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A traditional outfit belonging to Indian Prince, Yeshwant Rao Holkar II and his wife Sanyogita Devi of Indore are displayed.

'A veritable Rudolph Valentino'

Together the two men combed the salesrooms and artist studios of Paris and Berlin with art advisor Henri-Pierre Roche -- author of the novel "Jules and Jim" -- to find the works to fill it.

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Some 500 pieces of Modern design from his Manik Bagh Palace in his hometown of Indore, are being exhibited.

Muthesius was also asked to kit out the 25-year-old maharajah's sleek new royal train, as well as a barge that was a "vertible floating modernist palace" and do the interiors of his private plane.

He designed, too, a hunting caravan so the prince -- who had come to the throne at 17 -- could stalk tigers in style.

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Maharaja owned important private collections of Modernist furniture and decorative arts from 1920's and 1930's in the world.

'Magnetic aura'

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Clearly deeply in love, the couple had "a magnetic aura".

In fact they charmed everyone wherever they went, whether filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille and actor Gary Cooper in Hollywood, or old world royals like themselves.

Vogue described the maharajah as like a "character from a Visconti film, the last member of a carefree aristocracy, living its final hours in the lap of idle luxury."

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And indeed, the couple did not have long to enjoy their idyll in their modernist home, the Manik Bagh, or "garden of rubies".

Air of mystery

After his wife's death, the maharajah went on to marry again twice but his inner life remains mysterious.

He died in 1961 as he was planning to write his autobiography, having burned all his private papers.

"They are both quite mysterious actually," said Gabet.

Agence France-Presse

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