Two Rembrandts are on display at the CSMVS. Check them out now

The etchings are part of an exhibition on artistic exchanges between Indian and the Netherlands in the 17th century.
Abraham Welcoming the Angels, a drypoint etching by Rembrandt circa 1656, from the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Note how he etched Abraham in non-European clothing, with the countenance of a Sufi cleric.(CSMVS)
Abraham Welcoming the Angels, a drypoint etching by Rembrandt circa 1656, from the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Note how he etched Abraham in non-European clothing, with the countenance of a Sufi cleric.(CSMVS)
Published on Oct 17, 2019 08:33 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByVanessa Viegas

India and Netherlands in the Age of Rembrandt

Where: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj museum, Fort

When: October 17 to December 16, 10 am to 6 pm

Two Rembrandt etchings have arrived at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj museum, offering lovers of art and even history a rare chance to see a work by the Dutch master right here on home ground.

At the peak of his career, between 1656 and 1661, Rembrandt produced about 25 drawings inspired by the Mughal miniature paintings of the 17th century. He also created several etchings based on these miniatures. The artist never left the Netherlands, but this was a time when Indian paintings were travelling the world during through trade channels and the East India companies.

Around the same time, painters at the Mughal courts in India were exploring new artistic styles, influenced by the Dutch prints that had reached the subcontinent via Jesuit missionaries.

Roman Hero, an Indian miniature painted by Kesav Das between 1590-1595 from the collection of the Rijksmuseum, is also on display. (CSMVS)
Roman Hero, an Indian miniature painted by Kesav Das between 1590-1595 from the collection of the Rijksmuseum, is also on display. (CSMVS)

The exhibition at CSMVS titled ‘India and the Netherlands in the Age of Rembrandt’ revisits this accidental artistic exchange.

On display are 12 pieces lent by the Dutch Rijksmuseum to CSMVS, which include two works each by the Mughal court painter Kesu Das and the Dutch painter Hendrick Goltzius. Ten additional pieces are from the CSMVS collection of Indian miniatures. These include a portrait of Shah Jahan and an Indianised painting of Madonna and the Infant Jesus from the Muraqqa or album of the Maratha statesman Nana Phadnis; a portrait of the warrior king Shivaji and a painting of Dara Shikoh and a noble man. The collaboration also celebrates 400 years of cultural exchange between Indian and the Netherlands, in the year of Rembrandt's 350th death anniversary.

“The exhibition is curated in a fashion where the Indian paintings match the Dutch ones from the time, to reflect how the artists from the two countries influenced each other,” says Vandana Prapanna, curator for Indian miniature section of the exhibition.

A Rembrant etching from 1650-1654 titled ‘A Scholar in his office’, from the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. (CSMVS)
A Rembrant etching from 1650-1654 titled ‘A Scholar in his office’, from the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. (CSMVS)

Most say Rembrandt was probably drawn to Indian miniatures because it gave him a reference point to imagine traditional Biblical scenes in an oriental setting. This is seen in one of the etchings on display, Abraham Welcoming the Angels, where Abraham is depicted in non-European clothing, with the countenance of a Sufi cleric.

“From his paintings you understand that Rembrandt was not only a gifted painter but also a philosopher,” says Jos Gommans, curator from the Rijksmuseum. “He was interpreting the world with his own eyes but he was painting to show the unknown, that which we can’t see.”

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