Detail of painting of Mughal Emperor Jahangir hands a small, ornamented book, to Sufi Shaikh. Borders, visible on the sides, are heavily illuminated.

Jahangir Preferring a Sufi Shaikh to Kings from the St. Petersburg Album, F1942.15a

Exploring Civilizations at the Freer

Jahangir Preferring a Sufi Shaikh to Kings from the St. Petersburg Album; Bichitr; India, Mughal Dynasty, 1615–18; F1942.15a
Jahangir Preferring a Sufi Shaikh to Kings from the St. Petersburg Album; Bichitr; India, Mughal Dynasty, 1615–18; F1942.15a

It wasn’t that long ago, September 2017, when I had the amazing opportunity to chat with the eminent historian (and brilliant storyteller) Simon Schama over Mughal paintings in the basement storage of the Freer Gallery. We had pulled out the great allegorical portraits of the emperor Jahangir—the ones that show him as a grand cosmopolitan ruler, including the one above—to explore how India was connected to Renaissance Italy and the world in the 1600s. PBS was there to shoot footage that made its way into Civilizations, a nine-part documentary about world art, which will begin airing on April 17.

Four months later, I got to meet up again with some of the PBS crew. PBS invited me to join in on the Civilizations press preview, which took place on January 17 in Pasadena. Producer Jane Root, writer David Ologusa, and I fielded questions from the press, ranging from “How is this series different from Sir Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation series of fifty years ago?” to “What happens when cultures meet?”

From left: Root, Diamond, and Ologusa in Pasadena
From left: Root, Diamond, and Ologusa in Pasadena

The episodes will not only tell the story of world art in a new, globally connected fashion, but they’ll do it with extraordinary footage of places we’ve either all seen or dreamed of. The drone shots of Mughal Lahore, for example, are extraordinary.

Tune in when the series debuts in April!

Debra Diamond

Debra Diamond is curator of South and Southeast Asian art at the Freer|Sackler.

See all posts by this author

2 Comments

Leave a Reply to piyush kumar Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *