Taj Mahal India
Taj Mahal India

Dr Ursula Weekes

Dr Ursula Weekes

Dr Ursula Weekes is an independent Art Historian based in London, specialising in Mughal art and culture. She read History at St John's College Cambridge, followed by an MA and PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art on printmaking in 15th-century Europe.

Dr Ursula Weekes is an independent Art Historian based in London, specialising in Mughal art and culture. She read History at St John's College Cambridge, followed by an MA and PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art on printmaking in 15th-century Europe. She has worked as Supervisor of the Western Art Print Room at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Ursula lived in India for six years where she held a Commonwealth Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and taught Mughal and Renaissance Art at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Since returning to the UK, she has been an Associate Lecturer in Mughal art for seven years at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She also teaches at Guildford High School and for the London Art History Society. Ursula has published a number of articles and books and she is currently writing a book on "Mughal Court Painting in India" for Reaktion Books Ltd.

What first sparked your passion for archaeology?

My passion for archaeology began aged 5 on our family holidays to the Lands End peninsula in Cornwall. My father would cajole us through wet bracken, open fields and dramatic cliff tops to find Iron Age settlements, ancient chapels and underground tunnels called fogous.

What does archaeology mean to you?

To me, archaeology offers the opportunity to tear the mask off the face of the past ...to read its riddles and to look it in the eyes. (I'm quoting from a lyrical speech given by Lord Curzon to the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1899).

What is the most interesting experience you have had leading an Andante tour?

Nothing can beat seeing the mesmerising Taj Mahal emerge from the white mists of the dawn and gradually turn golden as the sun rises. Another fascinating experience leading an Andante tour was exploring the great triple basement of the 15th-century Tomar fort palace at Gwalior with its clever cooling systems.

What is your favourite archaeological site?

My favourite site has to be Amber Palace just outside Jaipur. It is a stunning example of Rajput architecture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with incredible views over the surrounding landscape. I love the network of narrow passages high above the zenana (harem), with steep steps down into each of his queen's apartments, enabling the Maharaja to enter and exit from visiting his various wives incognito.

How many tours have you led for Andante?

I led my first tour for Andante in February 2020, and I loved it.

Have you written any books or featured in any TV programmes?

I have written books on "Techniques of Drawing" (Ashmolean Museum, 1999) and "Early Engravers and their Public" (Brepols 2004). I have published a number of articles on both European and Mughal art and I am currently writing a book on "Mughal Court Painting in India" for Reaktion Books Ltd. My TV career is yet to come...watch this space!

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