Kids Corner


Kings of The Punjab ... at the ROM



A unique collaboration between The Spinning Wheel Film Festival and The Royal Ontario Museum brings this much-anticipated exhibit to Canada's most prestigious museum.


The Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Toronto, Canada, plays host to a special temporary display of two life-size portraits of historical kings of Punjab.

From Saturday, November 28, 2009 to Sunday, March 28, 2010, the oil-on-canvas paintings by renowned portrait artist Manu Kaur Saluja will be showcased in the "Home & the World" section of the Ondaatje Gallery, located on Level 3 of the ROM's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

The two portraits are significant for both their quality and for being contemporary imaginings of significant historical figures. One, depicting Maharaja Duleep Singh (1838 -1893), is a copy of a celebrated painting housed in the Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Artist Manu Kaur was accorded special access to produce her 2005 painting, currently in a private Ontario collection.

The other painting, completed in summer 2009, is an original composition still in the artist's collection. Depicting the most famous of the Punjab kings, Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 -1839), Manu's work is unlike most historical portraits that depict the king as an old man. The artist's re-imagining portrays him as a young man full of the strength and power that led to his nickname, "The Lion of Punjab". To create this work, Manu was given special access to the original jewellery, armour and throne that once belonged to this king. These possessions are now in various public and private collections throughout the United Kingdom.

Dr. Deepali Dewan, the ROM's curator of South Asian Art, states: "Manu Kaur Saluja's portraits are contemporary creations that connect with historical arts in South Asia as much as with works in the modern world. These two paintings will be displayed in the ROM's Ondaatje Gallery alongside artifacts from the Punjab that are in the Museum's permanent collection, including an important manuscript from Maharaja Ranjit Singh's court and a model of the Golden Temple, Amritsar. This gives a sense of the historical and cultural context of the courts ruled by the kings depicted in the paintings. For me, the paintings are not only beautiful to look at. They also offer an intervention into colonial narratives about Sikh history."

The display of these two paintings is a collaboration of the ROM and The Spinning Wheel Film Festival.


About the Artist

Manu Kaur Saluja's oil portraits hang in prominent institutions and in the homes of influential families throughout North America. Saluja trained with John Frederick Murray at the School of Visual Arts in New York, graduating with honours, and as a registered copyist at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She also graduated magna cum laude from Barnard College with a BA in psychology. She is a 2003 recipient of the Centennial Award for artistic achievement from the Centennial Foundation of Canada. In 1999 she was a finalist in the nation's largest portrait competition sponsored by The Artist Magazine. Her paintings have been featured in Nishaan Magazine (IV/2002), House Magazine (Sept/Oct 2001), and the Graphis New Talent Annual (1998). She has presented her work at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. and at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Manu Kaur Saluja is a member of The Portrait Society of America. She currently resides in New York City. For more information on the artist, visit:


About The Spinning Wheel Film Festival

Founded in 2003 in Toronto, The Spinning Wheel Film Festival is a celebration of films produced by, for or about Sikhs. These films address issues of interest or concern to Sikhs around the globe, present the Sikh world-view, and encourage the production of high-quality films to achieve these goals. For more information on the festival, visit


About the ROM

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Opened in 1914, Canada's largest museum combining both natural history and world cultures holds six million objects in its collections and presents public galleries showcasing art, archaeology and natural science. Renaissance ROM is an ambitious expansion and heritage renovation project that reasserts the Royal Ontario Museum as one of North America's great museums and a leading cultural attraction for the city, province and country. Renaissance ROM continues until 2010 with several new and renovated galleries to be created at the Museum. For 24-hour information in English and French, please call 416.586.8000 or visit the ROM's web site at

ROM tickets now available online:


November 14, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: E.K. (California, U.S.A.), November 19, 2009, 10:48 PM.

The painting is very well done and intriguing, but one of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's most identifiable characteristics was that he was blind in one eye as a result of being afflicted with small pox when he was a child. This characteristic doesn't seem to be depicted in this portrait. [Editor: It is.]

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