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The many shades of miniature paintings

From intricate paintings on palm leaves to a recreation zenena (a separate quarter for women prevalent in the Mogul era), the newly opened miniature painting gallery at the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya (also known as Prince of Wales museum) is one of the most interactive parts of the museum.

mumbai Updated: Aug 23, 2010 01:28 IST
Apeksha Vora

From intricate paintings on palm leaves to a recreation zenena (a separate quarter for women prevalent in the Mogul era), the newly opened miniature painting gallery at the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya (also known as Prince of Wales museum) is one of the most interactive parts of the museum.

Inaugurated last week, the only miniature-painting gallery in the city takes a visitor through an aesthetic journey of the evolution of miniature paintings.

It is home to over 60 paintings and 10 manuscripts, which represent most major schools of painting such as the Mogul, Sultunate, Rajasthani, Deccani and Pahadi.

“It is interesting to see the how figures, colours and styles in paintings have changed over the years,” said Sabhyasachi Mukherjee, the director of the museum.

“For example, Buddhist paintings from the 12th century had doll-like figures with protruding eyes and basic colours which transcended to more realistic figures with a larger variety of colours by the Mogul era,” Mukherjee added.

The objects depicted in the paintings are displayed next to them to give the viewer a clearer picture of the era.

“Paintings mirror the social and material culture and architecture of an era. At the gallery, we have displayed textiles, turbans, arms and other objects from the paintings that will help the viewers relate to the paintings," said Vandana Prappna, the curator.

Among the paintings, viewers will find the Panchatantra stories depicted in

miniature style painting commissioned by emperor Akbar for his son Jehangir when he was seven. One can also find the Razm Nama, which is a Persian translation of the Mahabharat.

Detailed paintings of birds and animals that were used for scientific study at the time are also on display.

To cultivate the visitor’s interest in miniature paintings, the gallery has gone a step further and displayed the various stages of making a miniature painting.

Pigments and tools used and different surfaces on which paintings are made such as cloth, barks of trees and types of paper can all be seen.

At the computer kiosk, another first for the museum, visitors can look through historical facts and backgrounds of paintings on display as well as draw characters on their own and take printouts.

“As part of the modernisation project of the museum, we have included computers to make the gallery more interactive and appealing to the technologically savvy audience,” added Prapanna.