Adventure. Battles. Romance. Epic Tales from Ancient India will feature more than 90 works of art from the Museum’s world-renowned Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Indian paintings. Introducing viewers to paintings of India and its subcontinent, these works will be seen through larger-than-life narratives based on classical literature of the region.

Indian paintings are usually admired as individual works of art, but viewing them this way reveals only part of their story.  Since most of these paintings come from books and were intended to accompany a text, this exhibition will be arranged by narrative, thus placing the paintings back in their original context.

Spanning the 16th through 19th centuries, the stories include the Bhagavata Purana, ancient tales of Lord Vishnu and his various incarnations; the Ramayana, recounting the adventures and battles of Hindu god, Rama; the Ragamala, stories entailing music, love, and seasons; and works of Persian literature, including the Shahnama, an epic tale illuminating the cultural and geographic breadth of Iran, and its heroic rulers.

The San Diego Museum of Art’s Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Indian paintings was assembled by Edwin Binney 3rd (1925–1986), an heir to the Crayola fortune. It consists of more than 1,400 works of art created during the 12th through 19th centuries at the Mughal, Deccani, Rajasthani and Pahari courts. The collection of Indian and South Asia paintings came to the museum in 1990, and is one of the largest and finest private collection of South Asia paintings outside of India.

Opening Saturday, June 9 at Noon (Members’ Preview 10:00 a.m.-Noon)

Epic Tales from Ancient India premiered at Princeton University Art Museum in Princeton, N.J. from November 12, 2016 to February 5, 2017, and traveled to Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin from July 9, 2017 to October 1, 2017.

Exhibitions of works from the Binney Collection have previously been on display in prestigious institutions around the world.  Most recently, the exhibition Into India: South Asian Paintings from The San Diego Museum of Art traveled to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City, and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Paintings from the collection have also been shown in many major exhibitions of Indian art at institutions including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Musée Guimet in Paris.

A 150-page catalogue accompanies the exhibition and includes essays on book production in South Asia and the history of illustrating each of the texts in the exhibition.

Support for the exhibition is provided by Barbara M. Katz, and the members of The San Diego Museum of Art and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program. Institutional support for the Museum is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.


Your tax-deductible contribution supports the exhibition and educational and public programs for Epic Tales from Ancient India. Programs include in-gallery storytelling, lectures, and dance performances; film screenings; a “Bollywood” community event; and the Epic Tales symposium.

Featured (Details): Nur Muhammad, Dipak Raga, 1695. Opaque watercolor on paper.  Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, 1990.791. Detail of The Worship of Vishnu at the Birth of Krishna Folio from the Bhagavata Purana, ca. 1560. Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, 1990.585