Credit: David Dunning / Courtesy of the Mehrangarh Museum Trust

The reason Britain called it the jewel in the crown of the empire is on glittering display this fall in “Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts,” a gobsmacking exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (through Jan. 17, 2010). Opening with a life-size model elephant slathered in jewels and textiles, the show is a 250-object survey of the culture of the maharajahs. But it’s not all gem-encrusted thrones and silver-gilt howdahs. The glamorous royalty of Indore were patrons of the European avant-garde; the show includes Modernist furniture they commissioned. And in December, V&A unveils its new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries—10 of them—housing its superlative collection of European art and objects from the fall of the Roman Empire to the end of the 16th century.