Hybridity, style and identity : the court art and architecture of Lucknow, 1770-1850
Lucknow, the capital city of present day Uttar Pradesh, and previously of the Kingdom of Oudh, was the site of an extraordinary cultural and artistic milieu in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Oudh was an semi-independent state within the declining mughal empire, and close contact with Europeans provoked an exchange of architectural ideas which developed into a hybrid of Indian and European prototypes. In addition, the publication of Indian scenes in England initiated a response to Indian architectural styles with some fascinating results. Adopting elements of neo-classical architecture. combined with the local late mughal style, the nawabs of Lucknow initiated an extraordinary program of palatial and religious building. Drawing extensively on local prototypes, and using neo-classical forms and motifs. a hybrid architectural milieu developed which functioned as a multivalent sign of the nawabs' aspirations and identity statements. The buildings provoked, and continue to provoke, comment and debate, and are examined here in terms of their use as signs of identity, gendered spaces, and ritual spaces, both social and religious. The converse; British uses of Indian architectural forms; is discussed as being equally significant as a demonstration of how exotic forms are adopted and assimilated into an existing style in the west. In late eighteenth and early nineteenth century England, this took place within a larger debate about styles and values, and a commitment to notions of primacy and purity in architecture. One result of this thinking is the denigration of hybridity and deviation from style which informed the art historical attitudes to Lucknavi architecture, and this is discussed with particular reference to the western art historical discourse. The use of the other in the formation of diverse identity statements is examined and developed in three specific cases: the little-known culture. architecture and rituals of the Lucknavi Shias, the employment of a European artist in the king of Lucknow's inner circle, and his influence on the courtly style, and the use of the first visual mass-medium, the Panorama, to display Lucknow to the British public. These significant examples are used to illustrate the essentially tripartite nature of the hybrid culture of Lucknow: Indian (mughal), European and Shia; and subverting the polarity that is usually assumed in the contacts between east and west.