Watercolour: Badshahi Mosque by Jack Merriott

Badshahi Mosqu

2019 marks forty years since the founding of The South Asia Collection. In a week we are launching the exhibition Journey: 1979 to tell the story that first trip to South Asia by Philip and Jeannie Millward to Pakistan in 1979. Little did they know, that first trip would inspire a passion for the arts and crafts of South Asia, that has lasted a lifetime and resulted in a thriving, shop, museum and research centre.


In this Object of the Month we would like to share an image from the Lahore section of Journey: 1979. This watercolour of Badshahi Mosque was made by Jack Merriott (1901-1968). Merriott is better known for his paintings of British Railway posters and the English landscape.

The Badshahi Mosque was completed in 1673 for the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. It is built directly opposite the Lahore Fort and was a symbol of the military strength of Aurangzeb. Built of red sandstone with white marble inlay, the mosque took only two years to complete but the building costs drained the Mughal treasury.

The Badshahi Mosque is an iconic building in Pakistan. The minarets on each corner stand 60 metres high and the internal courtyard can accommodate 100,000 worshippers.

Philip and Jeannie visited Badshahi Mosque in March 1979, where they took this photograph. They were part way through a journey that began in Lahore and, over the course of several trips, finished in Karachi nine months later. During their time in Pakistan, Philip and Jeannie criss-crossed the regions of Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North West Frontier Province). As they travelled, they began to collect objects made my local craftspeople: carved woodwork in Swat, old copper and brass items sold by the kilo at the Lahore Bazaar and embroidered Sindhi shawls and phulkaris from the Punjab at the market in Karachi.

This journey was the start of a life-long passion for the arts and crafts of South Asia. Over the next forty years, they continued to make annual trips to Pakistan, India, Thailand, Java and Bali. In Journey: 1979 we use Philip and Jeannie Millward’s original photographs and journal entries from 1979, to tell the story of that first inspiring journey.