7 Artworks to See at the Lahore Museum

Connecting Ancient Greece to independent Pakistan

By Google Arts & Culture

Historical Building of Lahore MuseumLahore Museum

The Lahore Museum traces its history back to 1865. Today it's one of Pakistan's most-visited museums, and one of the major historical institutions in South Asia. It collection covers the civilisations of Asia from the ancient Indo-Greeks to the British Empire, and independence.

Terracotta Dice (Harappan Civilization) (-2600/-1900)Lahore Museum

This simple ceramic die connects four thousand years of history. The Harappan Civilization thrived in the Indus Valley of the Indian subcontinent between 2600-1900BCE. This simple, handmade gaming device shows that even then, people were looking for ways to test their luck.

Terracotta Bull Figurine (Harrapan Civilization) (-2600/-1900)Lahore Museum

Other artefacts from the same era, such as this expertly modelled muscular bull, may be toys or votive objects. Either way, they give a sense of what was valued by these early civilisation-builders.

Silver Medal of Agathokles (-0185) by AgathoklesLahore Museum

Following the conquests of Alexander the Great, the ancient Greek world extended far into central Asia. The prestige and power associated with Greek culture is seen in this silver medal commemorating Alexander, struck around 185BCE by Agathokles of Bactria.

Silver Medal of Agathokles (-0185) by AgathoklesLahore Museum

The Bactrian Kingdom spanned from modern-day Turkmenistan to Pakistan, but its rulers maintained their cultural connections to Greece. Little is known of Agathokles, beyond the coins he struck, so each small sliver of silver is a precious artefact of this historic king.

Fasting SiddharthaLahore Museum

This statue of the fasting Siddhārtha Gautama is regarded as one of the finest examples of Gandhara Art - a style that developed in north-west Pakistan in the 1st Century BCE. The skeletal form of Siddhārtha shocks, and focusses, the minds of its viewers.

The statue shows a range of artistic devices employed in Gandhara art: high relief carving, detailed modelling of veins and fabric, holes between the arms and torso, which allow light to stream through the sculpture, and calm serenity of meditation.

Mirat ul Quds (Mirror of Holiness) by Mehram KokaLahore Museum

The Mirat ul Quds (Mirror of Holiness) is a rare manuscript based on the life of Jesus Christ. It was written by the Jesuit priest Father Jerome Xavier on the request of the Mughal emperor Akbar, whose royal seal adorns the front page.

The miniature paintings of the Mirat ul Quds are of a Mughal style, though clearly influenced by European works. The name of the miniaturist is not given, however, it has been suggested that these may have been the work of Basavan.

The Vina Player (1938) by Amrita Shair GilLahore Museum

In 1938, the young artist Amrita Sher-Gil painted this picture of two rural girls, one playing a Vina. At the time, Sher-Gil was a rising star. Her work combined style borrowed from European modernism and subjects taken from life in colonial India.

Sadly, Sher-Gil's life was cut short - she died only a few years after painting this piece - though, she left a lasting legacy. Today, her pioneering work is recognised as some of the most significant Asian art of the 20th Century.

Sadequain Mural - Quest for Knowledge (1973) by Syed Sadequain Ahmed NaqviLahore Museum

One of the true treasures of the Lahore Museum: Syed Sadequain Ahmed Naqvi's The Evolution of Mankind. This enormous mural, made up of 44 panels measuring 6' square, was completed in 1973. It remains in place, on the ceiling of the museum's entrance hall, nearly 50 years later.

Sadequain was renowned across Pakistan for his skills in calligraphy, painting, and poetry, and his role in promoting the Hurufiyya art movement. His art sought a new, modern language grounded in traditional Islamic artforms, separate, yet responsive, to Western art.

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