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