VISUAL ARTS

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King of the World - The Padshahnama

The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London SW1 (0171-799 2331), to 27 Apr

It is 200 hundred years since The Padshahnama came to Britain: an anniversary which coincides neatly with this year's wider celebrations of 50 years of Indian Independence. The Padshahnama is a bound manuscript of 44 exquisitely illustrated pages, depicting scenes from the life and reign of Emperor Shah-Jahan, ruler of the Mughal dynasty from 1628 to 1658. It came here as a gift for George III from the Nawab of Lucknow in 1797, and has been in the Royal Collection ever since.

Emperor Shah-Jahan is best known as the ruler whose architectural patronage gave rise to the Taj Mahal and the great forts at Agra and Delhi, but he was also an extravagant patron of the other arts, not least of the sort of Persian-derived court painting of which the pages bound into The Padshahnama are such fabulous examples.

His plan was for a book such as this to be collated every 10 years, to record the power of his court and the sumptuous opulence of his life and reign. This is the first of those books, one of the great treasures of Mughal art and, sadly, the only one to have survived intact.

In the last 200 years, it has hardly ever been out of the library at Windsor, and on the very rare occasions that it has been publicly exhibited, only one open page has been visible. A recent conservation project has allowed the volume to be unbound for the first time in its 350-year history, and the current show is a once-only chance to see the complete illustrations in all their glorious splendour. EYE ON THE NEW If anything was ever designed to make you glad you don't live in Florida it has to be Duane Hanson's hideously life-like sculptures of fat Americans. At the Saatchi Gallery from 10 April. 98a Boundary Road, London NW8 (0171- 624 8299)

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