The Paradox of Scale: Indian Master Paintings at the Met

Think of grandeur and it’s easy to imagine something on a large scale, but grandeur is the unexpected experience of the miniature Indian paintings on display at the Met.

The richness of color, the terrific presence of Gods and demonic animals, the complexity of scenes among tents and forests, lovers and armies all rendered in precise, intricate detail make it nearly impossible to absorb them quickly—and just as difficult to leave them again.

None of these paintings were made for display—intended for small private viewings in intimate settings, they were handed from one person to another in frames that allowed them to be held and turned, examined as closely as one wanted.

The result of this method of viewing is not small paintings, but more like very big painting made to fit in one’s hands. And the smaller they are, the more the sense of other-worldliness grows impressive.

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