Sikh Art from the Kapany Collection


Through this richly illustrated book, fifteen leading scholars of
Sikhism and art examine the full range of Sikh artistic expression.
They assess and interpret the Kapany Collection – a remarkable art resource,
using it to introduce Sikh art, ethos, religion, culture and history to a broad audience.

97 in stock


Title: Sikh Art from the Kapany Collection
Editors: Paul Michael Taylor, Sonia Dhami
Published by: The Sikh Foundation & Smithsonian’s “Asian Cultural History Program”
ISBN: 978-0-9700363-4-6

297 images in full color
320 pages of glossy art paper

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Contributing Essays by:

Kiran Kaur Kapany, Dr. Gurinder S. Mann, Dr. Gurnam S. Brard, Dr. Pashaura Singh, Dr. Nirvikar Singh, Dr. Nikky-G. K. -Singh, Dr. Mohinder Singh, Dr. J.M. Lafont, Peter Bance, Navtej Sarna, Jyoti M. Rai, Dr. Henry J. Walker, Dr. Cristin McKnight Sethi, Dr. Mary-A. M. -Lutzker, Dr. Paul M. Taylor


The essays are grouped into three sections. Those in the first section “The Collectors and their Vision” seem inseparable from an understanding of the collection. They describe the passion and vision of Narinder and Satinder Kapany, explore Narinder’s own artistic works, and place the couple’s collection within the context of their legacy.

The second section “The Kapany Collection: A Survey of Sikh History and Ethos” sets the stage for Sikh art historical studies and traces the development of the Sikh community from the period of the Sikh Gurus. An examination of the portraits of the Sikh Gurus in the collection notes the historic and stylistic changes from the Mughal-inspired portraits of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to contemporary portraits. A richly detailed study of the unbound set of forty-one Janamsakhi illustrations, donated to San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, interprets the visual vocabulary and language of these paintings recounting the story of Guru Nanak’s life. A beautiful selection of artwork showing the Harimandir Sahib, colloquially known as the “Golden Temple,” ties in a discussion of this architectural wonder’s history and its spiritual significance.

Furthermore a wide range of Sikh arms and armor illustrate the transformation of a pacific faith into a martial tradition and the establishment of the Khalsa. The formation of the Punjab kingdom and the Sikh States around the nineteenth century, and their relationship to contemporaneous political entities is closely examined. Critical evaluation of this period’s artworks including miniature ivory portraiture and manuscripts advocate a renewed interest in the “Lahori School of Art” and a greater recognition of its significance within the history of Indian art.

The biography of Maharaja Duleep Singh, who was removed from the Punjab following its annexation to the British Empire in 1849, and his relocation and life in England is sympathetically portrayed and illustrated with magnificent artworks from the collection.

In section three “Further Studies in the Kapany Collection” an examination of specific Sikh artworks is undertaken. The numismatic legacy of the Sikh kingdoms is illustrated with silver rupees and copper paisa from the Lahore, Amritsar, and Kashmir mints, alongside “temple tokens” and coins from various historical periods of Sikh rule. The collections Sikh-themed postage stamps from around the world are presented in context to the historical backgrounds at the time of their release. Discussions of phulkari, rumal and other textiles provide meaningful contributions to our understanding of Sikh cultural life and also promote a more inclusive attitude.

Art of contemporary Sikh artists, including Arpana Caur, Devender Singh and Sukhpreet Singh is viewed through the lens of “devotion, work and play” emphasizing the importance of considering their art to be expressions of a deeply personal Sikh faith. Relating the core Sikh value of sewa (service) to the efforts of the Sikh community to preserve and collect Sikh heritage, an examination of the ways in which Sikh art is “transformed” by being exhibited within museums provides a different kind of “further study” and a conclusion to this volume.