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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

This Mumbai exhibition showcases rare artworks from the colonial era

Art historian Dilnavaz Mehta’s Rare Finds exhibition puts the spotlight on artworks, maps and books that date back to the colonial era.

art-and-culture Updated: Nov 30, 2018 12:19 IST
Soma Das
Soma Das
Hindustan Times
Festival of Buckrah Eade, Outside the fort at Delhi by John Luard, 1832-38
Festival of Buckrah Eade, Outside the fort at Delhi by John Luard, 1832-38(Courtesy: Dilnavaz Mehta)

During the colonial era, some of the early European scholars, artists, merchants and The East India Company employees were fascinated by the topography and culture of India. They took efforts to learn more about the religions, laws, customs and literature of India.

While, on the one hand, it gave rise to societies like the Asiatic Society, maps and prints as well as visual and textual documentation of the flora and fauna of India, social customs, different professions, and historical monuments.

Lanka Yudh, from Ramayana, c1920
Lanka Yudh, from Ramayana, c1920 ( Courtesy: Dilnavaz Mehta )

Rare Finds is art historian Dilnavaz Mehta’s labour of love. Under the banner of Rare Finds — Hindustan Revisited, she curates an exhibition of old maps, lithographs, etchings, aquatints, engravings and antiquarian books.

“The goal is to generate greater interest and offer a glimpse into the India of yore. The paintings from that period are not well-known,” says Mehta, adding, “While some people may look down upon artefacts that are associated with that the colonial period of history, there was a lot of amalgamation as well. It was, for some, a romance with India and its culture.”

Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match, by Zoffany, 1792
Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match, by Zoffany, 1792 ( Courtesy: Dilnavaz Mehta )

The paintings date between 1660 to 1930. The highlights include portraits of royalty such as The queen of Delhi and Maharaja Dileep Singh, a series on the epic Ramayana published in 1920, a painting of a cock match by Colonel Mordaunt published in 1792, and a series of views of Bombay city photographed by Bourne and Shepherd and published in 1890.

There are maps as well that showcase areas of Bombay city, Poona, Ahmedabad and Tughlakabad (Delhi). Some of the noteworthy books on display include The Modern History of Hindostan by Thomas Maurice dated 1802, History of the Mahrattas by James Duff James dated 1873 and Anglo Indian and Oriental Cookery by Grace Johnson dated 1893.

Rare Finds is on display at Cymroza Art Gallery, Bhulabhai Desai Road from December 5 to 12. Call 23671983

First Published: Nov 30, 2018 12:18 IST

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