19th century Kalighat paintings at Oxford now online

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jul 15, 2015 10:13 IST
An example of the digitised Kalighat paintings available at the Bodleian library of University of Oxford. (Image source: bodleian.ox.ac.uk)

Over 100 Kalighat paintings from 19th century Calcutta have been digitised and made available online, casting new light on the souvenirs that were sold for 1 anna to pilgrims visiting the Kali temple there.

The paintings have been digitised by the University of Oxford's Bodleian library, alongwith nearly 115,000 rare manuscripts and images collected from around the world. They have been made available online free for the benefit of scholars and others.

The library said that the 110 Kalighat paintings were acquired by Monier Monier-Williams for the Indian Institute Library and Museum at Oxford as a result of his third fund-raising trip to India in the winter of 1883-1884.

During the trip, he secured the help of various regional authorities in obtaining local art and craft works and sent them to Oxford.

The Kalighat paintings are listed in Babu TN Mukherji's "List of Articles collected for the Oxford Institute under the instruction of TW Holderness Esq. and Dr George Watt," Calcutta, 1884, which is bound in the "Original Lists" MS volume held in the department of Eastern Art, Ashmolean Museum.

The library said that the paintings are homogenous in style, resembling that of collections in documented ownership by about 1875: the India Office Library from the 1871 exhibition, the museums in Prague and St. Petersburg, the Herwitz batch A (1870) published by Jyotindra Jain and those acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1887.

"Some of the paintings originally had labels stuck to them, which indicated they had cost 1 anna each", it added.

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