Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

When Britain was expanding its political and economic hold over India, an artistic and technological shift was happening that enabled an accurate pictorial record of the country. By late 18th century CE, drawing and painting was making space for variety of prints (lithographs and others) recording the land, its people and their culture. A century later photographs replaced both as a more reliable visual record. After 1770, professional artists began to visit India and observe the country through the eyes of British taste. They made oil paintings for local British residents, as well as drawings, which could later be worked up in England into engravings. Suddenly the market had numerous copies of the same subject.

After the Anglo-Maratha war, the British residents started taking interest in western India. The appearance of Captain Robert Melville Grindlay’s book “Scenery, Costumes and Architecture” shows a shift of interest from Eastern to Central India, Rajputana, Deccan and Gujarat. This print captures the view of the mystical Kailash Temple at Ellora in Aurangabad district, Maharashtra, at a time when India was in the process of discovery. The late 18th to early 19th centuries were a time of many changes. History was transitioning from the medieval to the modern. Such records are important because the mid of the 19th century saw the rediscovery of an ancient India as well as the making of the modern. These prints record India as it was just before this transit.

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Great Excavated Temple at Ellora

By Robert Melville Grindlay (1789 – 1877)

Drawn on the spot for the Hon Lady Hood

By Captain Grindlay in 1813

Coloured aquatint by J. B. Hogarth with etching by G. Rawle

Published in Grindlay’s Scenery, Costumes and Architecture

Chiefly on the western side of India

London, 1826 – 30

Vol. I, pl. 12

Gift by Pauline & Roy Rohatgi



Phuldan – Flower Vase


19th century CE

Damascene work

Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection


The ground of the tall, slender vase is richly ornamented with gold damascene work. The body of the vase is divided into four panels, each in the shape of a large petal. Each panel has eight-petalled flowers all over. Similar flowers decorate neck and base. The term “damascening” is derived from the name of the ancient city of Damascus in Syria where it originated. It reached India during the Mughal period, probably through Iran and Afganistan. Initially this technique was used mainly to decorate hilts of daggers, swords, and shields. However, later it was also used to embellish articles of daily use like boxes, huqqa bases, vases, trays, etc. Metal objects, especially those of steel or iron, were embellished using the damascening technique. The art is practised in many countries though there are variations in the decoration from region to region. It is an art of decorating one metal with encrusted designs in another metal, usually gold or silver. A laborious technique is to cut grooves in the surface of the base metal, to receive thin gold leaf or wire which is hammered carefully into the incised pattern. In another technique gold leaf or wire is inlaid or applied to a surface which has been prepared by crosshatching or chasing with a sharp tool. This work is a bit superficial compared to the former technique. It is therefore called koftgari or false damascening.




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Name: Nataraja - the Lord of the Dance


South India, 18th century CE

Presented in memory of Bai Dossibai and Seth Cawasjee Clubwala by their grandson Nariman

Shiva is the creator, sustainer, dispeller of ignorance, grantor of solace and destroyer. These five essential acts are called Shiva panchakrityas. The destruction by Shiva, according to Shaiva Siddhanta, is both the end and the beginning. Nataraja is the depiction of Shiva as cosmic dancer. He performs tandava, a vigorous dance which is source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. In this cosmic dance Nataraja trampled Apasmara purusha a demon representing ignorance. It is believed that Shiva always remains in his Nataraja form suppressing Apasmara for all eternity. He did not kill him to maintain balance of knowledge and ignorance.

Name: Venus and Adonis

Giuseppe Bartolommeo Chiari (1654-1727)
Oil on canvas
Sir Tatan Tata Collection

Adonis, in Greek mythology, is the god of beauty and desire. The narrative of Venus’ love for Adonis first appeared in the 1st century BCE Roman poet Ovid’s mythological narrative, ‘Metamorphoses’. As Adonis is about to go for hunting in the forest, Venus seizes him and persuades him to love her, although Adonis is not very interested and cares only for hunting. After they part, Adonis is soon killed in a hunting accident. Venus’ sensuous nude figure is shown passively lying in the foreground while Adonis, with his hounds is all set to escape from the scene for hunting. Cupid is shown pulling his cloak trying to divert his attention to Venus.

Giuseppe Bartolommeo Chiari was an Italian painter of the late-Baroque period, active mostly in Rome. In 1666 CE, joined the Italian Baroque painter Carlo Maratta or Maratti (1625 –1713) as an assistant and in a short period of time he became one of the leading painters in early 18th century Rome, winning commission for major ceiling decoration in the Palazzo Barberini and in the Palazzo Colonna.

The Venus’ figure is reminiscent in pose of ‘Sleeping Venus’ by Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco, (c. 1477/8–1510), Italian painter of the High Renaissance, which is on display in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Germany

Recently the signature of the artist has been discovered on the base of the chariot and near the left breast of Venus. The InfraRed image of the signature clearly reads ‘Joseph Clarivs’- the anglicised version of the artist’s name.

Name: Harappan Storage Jar

C. 2500 – 1900 B.C.E
93 x 79 cms.
Acc. No. 1637

The Harappan jar consists of three parts- a narrow base that is usually made in a chuck or using a mold, a large rounded body and a narrow neck, both of which were made separately and added on to the base. The points where the three sections are attached are smoothed over. But since the mid section of the jar is thick and heavy, string is tied around this section to keep it together after the pot has been shaped. The string leaves an impression on the soft clay when the jar is fired and the string burns away.

The jar is coated with a red or purple-black slip on the inside and a black or purple-black slip on the outside. The slips that create an impermeable surface, the large size of the jar and their narrow necks suggest that they were most suitable for storing liquids (wine or water) or grains.

Similar jars have been found in a number of Indus sites such as Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Chanhudaro and others. They have also been found in Hili in modern day UAE and since they are not part of the local assemblage there, it clearly shows that these jars were brought there from Harappan sites.

Name: Indian Pangolin

Scientific Name: Manis crassicaudata

The Indian pangolin, thick-tailed pangolin, or scaly anteater is a pangolin found in the plains and hills of India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. It is not common anywhere in its range. It has large, overlapping scales on its body which act as armor. It can also curl itself into a ball as self-defense against predators such as the tiger, lion and leopard. It is an insectivore that feeds on ants and termites, digging them out of mounds and logs using its long claws, which are as long as it’s fore limbs. It is nocturnal and rests in deep burrows during the day. The Indian pangolin is endangered by hunting for its meat and for various body parts used in traditional medicine.