Travellers and Toddy Trees: A Vision of Colonial India

Guest & Gray are one of our most eclectic purveyors of fine antiques. Known primarily for their expertise in Chinese and European ceramics, their fascinating collection also holds a wealth of incredible works of art from around the world.

This week we're shining a spotlight on 14 Indian paintings on Mica (a transparent mineral resembling papyrus) dating from 19th century ...

'A Naatch, Girls Dancing before a Native of Rank', with seated figures at leisure, attendants, musicians and dancing girls all beneath a canopy in a palace courtyard

The Mica Paintings were originally part of a leather-bound volume produced by Indian artists for Europeans living and working in the sub-continent, particularly employees of the British East India Company. 

During the 19th Century The British Raj was at it's height of colonial power and influence, with historians estimating that up to 800,000 Britons resided during it's peak period. 

The paintings were produced by native Indian artists and so have some traditional elements of folk style, like the rich primary colours of native dyes and the expressive, almost geometric poses of the figures. These elements fuse with traditionally western modes of representation: note the focus on perspective, and the touches of classical style within the landscapes. 

The paintings are fascinating evidence of a hybrid culture at a very specific period in time. Whilst we may wish to draw conclusions about Indian traditions from the various scenes we see depicted here: we can never lose sight of the fact that they were produced for a western market. As such they may reveal more about how colonialists viewed India than India itself.

We've selected some of the most intriguing pieces from the collection below, the full 14 are available to view at Guest & Grays website.

 'The Hindoo Festival of the |Chut|', the foreground with figures carrying out rituals of holy bathing, accompanied by a crowd bearing baskets of prayer offerings along the riverbank

'A River Scene with Boats'

'A Dank Traveller', with four men carrying a figure in a litter, accompanied by a number of attendants

 'A Chouttaree, the Procession of an Offering Made to the Ganges on the Fourth Day after a Hindoo Marriage', the foreground with a procession of musicians on the left and a sword bearing figure leading a group of ladies on the right, with the walls and entrance to a palace in the background

'Toddy Trees and Female Patty Sellers' 


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