Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

St John Plate Obverse

St John Plate Reverse

a22.4521

Plate with the Birth of John the Baptist

Limoges, France
Mid-16th Century
Polychrome enamel on copper
19.8 cm
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection

The circular plate is painted in grisaille, heightened with flesh tones, small touches of red, and gilding. The centre depicts the birth of St. John the Baptist, within a band of griffons, masks and vases on black ground around the rim; the reverse is painted with four masks and strapwork, within rubbed gilded bands of arabesques and laurel. The reverse bears two old paper labels, including an exhibition or dealer’s label with initials A.S. & C.

This plate probably belonged to a set painted with a series of scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist. The story of his birth is only told in the Gospel of Luke.

The Tata plate is not signed but is close in style to the work of jean de court (active 1555-85). He was not the inventor of the decoration however. The ornamental border and strapwork to the reverse is in the typical decorative language of mid to late 16th century Mannerism and the main subject, set in a fashionable contemporary interior and depicting the newborn being washed and, in the background, being dried and warmed by the fire, is almost certainly derived from an engraving. The exact surce has not been traced but a cycle of engravings of the life of the Baptist by Martin van Heemskerck includes a very similarly composed scene

dec_obj

SARI

Acc. No. 97. 12/2
Silk, Batik
Shantiniketan, West Bengal
1935-1939 A.D.
Designed by Nandalal Bose
490 x 114 cms.
Gift of Shri Bansi Mehta from his wife Sushila Asher’s Collection.

BATIK is one of the earliest methods used for creating designs on fabrics. There are diverse opinions regarding the origin of the art. According to some scholars it originated in China while some ascribe its origin to India and Java. Popularly it is known as Javanese art of wax printing. The design is created by resist dyeing process using wax as the resist, which retains the original fabric colour in the patterns, after dyeing the material. It was forgotten in our country till the University of Shantiniketan revived the art around 1923. Pratima Tagore learnt this Batik technique in Paris and started the workshops at Shantiniketan.

The present sari is a unique example of Batik specially designed sometime around 1940 by Nandalal Bose, a renowned artist of the Bengal School, for a performance to be staged in front of Gurudev Tagore. Gauri, the daughter of Nandababu, executed it in Batik. The sari is designed on motia or off-white fine silk and the patterns were drawn with brush and tjanting method in which a copper vessel filled with hot wax is used. A gentle flow of wax is maintained through the spout to draw a freehand design. The brown silk sari has bold floral creeper designs on the pallu, border and in the centre where it is to be pleated into multiple folds.

The sari was worn by Sushila Asher while performing the famous dance drama Shyama as well as Natir puja in 1940, in the presence of Gurudev Tagore.

garuda_deepa_nov

Garudadipa – Lamp with Garuda

Maharashtra,
Early 20th Century CE
Brass
Height 30 cm
Sir D. J. Tata Collection
33.725

The impressive lamp must have been made for a Vaishnava temple. Garuda, the vahana (mount) of Lord Vishnu, is shown in human form, identified by his large out-stretched wings and sharp, beak-like nose. He wears a mukuta (crown) with a serpant, earrings, necklace, armbands, kadas (bangles), and yajnopavita (sacred thread), and has the typical U-shaped Vaishnava tilaka on his forehead and similar marks on his body. He is shown subduing a Naga with his left knee. This is a symbolic representation of the mythology connected with Garuda and his Naga cousins whom he defeated.

The interesting part of this figure is the lamp placed behind Garuda’s head. The lamp is in the form of a padma (lotus) which is also one of the attributes of Vishnu. Interestingly the lamp can be opened and closed as required. When not in use, the form presented is that of a lotus bud, but unscrewing the bud to use the lamp the fuel receptacle appears as a round bowl forming the centre of a full-bloomed lotus.

The practice of using animal and bird figures for lamps and other ritual objects is common in India. This is probably because the vahana which is favourite of a particular deity is a suitable medium for conveying a devotee’s gift or offering to the god. The Garudadipa is one of the 16 lamp types (Shodashadipa Lakshana) mentioned in the Shilpashastras.

MAHISHASURAMARDINI

Basalt

Elephanta

Maharashtra

Mid 6th Century A.D.

116 x 37 cms

This is a fragment of what must have been a magnificent image of Mahishasuramardini. In the mythological story, the witty demon Mahisha troubled the Gods endlessly until Goddess Durga came to their help. She killed the demon Mahisha (who in the form of a buffalo) and therefore is known as ‘Mahishasuramardini’ – one who killed the buffalo demon. This sculpture is from the nearby Elephanta caves. It is overpowering with its strength and vigour. The artist has vividly captured the forceful attack of the goddess on the buffalo demon and depicts his agony, as he turns his head up in deadly action.

The tail of the buffalo is curled as it happens with the cattle in times of anxiety. The goddess has her foot on the back of the buffalo demon completely subjugating him. Even though the upper part of the sculpture is lost, the modeling of the solid mass of the body of the buffalo, the firm, strong legs of the goddess, and vivid depiction of her act of killing, suggest the work of a great artist.

Elephanta is an island located about 12 kms. away from this Museum. The cave structures are decorated with grand and marvelous stone sculptures. Though many of these sculptures are mutilated, their sizes as well as quality of workmanship testify to their importance as sculptures from Western India.

‘The Mahomaden Pilgrim’ is the painting by Savalaram Haldankar which won him the gold medal in 1925 in the exhibition of Bombay Art Society. On the mountainous background, an old man draped in shawl is set off for the pilgrimage carrying a huqqa and a bundle. The high points of this painting are the dramatic effect achieved through light and shade.  He had a fascination to depict play of light and shadows. Haldankar was a promising student of art since childhood. Inspired by his teacher, N. S. Malankar, he joined Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay as a student in 1903. He was taught by Cecil Burns, Walter Robotham, Ganpatrao Kedari and A. X. Trindade.

After passing from Sir J. J. School of Art, Haldankar soon earned a name as a master portrait painter and began receiving important commissioned works. One such request was from Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru to paint a portrait of Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya, the work now displayed in Parliament House, New Delhi Pt. Nehru also awarded him the title “Kalamaharshi”.

Raas Krida on Sharad Purnima
Rajasthani, Nathdvara, 19th century CE
(Acc. No. 78.7/2) Painting size: 55*42 cms.

Dance, drama and music forms an essential part of Bhagavata sect since ancient times. As early as 400 B.C. Bhasa the great dramatist presents Raas dance associated with Bhagavata cult. There is a mention in the Bhagavata Purana where Krishna says that “My stories should be sung, dance and enacted on festive occasions” (XI.27.44).

Philosophically the most important dance of Krishna is the Raasmandala (Raas Lila) meaning circle of delight or ecstasy. The love of Krishna and the gopis takes place in a circle which has no beginning nor an end and goes on and on for eternity. In the Vaishnava cult this mystic dance has a special ritualistic significance.

Dashma skanda of Bhagavata Purana describes the Raas lila of Krishna. With a desire to sport with gopis on a full moon night of Sharada Ritu (October-November), Krishna invites gopis by playing melodious music on his flute. Enchanted by the music, gopis rush to him and Krishna starts dancing and sporting with them amorously. On receiving Krishna’s favour gopis feel immense pride. Realizing this, Krishna disappears from the scene and comes back only on repeated pleading of the gopis and plays maharass with them. With his divine power he multiplies himself and dances with all the gopis and simultaneously. He thus convinces them that he participates in their lives, giving freely of himself to each and everyone and ensuring that he is lovingly and completely available to his devotees. The dance leads the gopis to the path of liberation where the individual soul jivatman joins the divine soul parmatman.

There is a long tradition of circular dance in India. The earliest reference of a circular dance is in the Harivansha Purana (5th century A.D.). The dance is referred here as ‘Hallishaka’ where many women dance in a circle around one man. In Indian Philosophy a circle has many symbolic connotations.

Svetastara Upanishada says:

“This Universe is a wheel
Upon it are all creatures that are subject to
Birth, death and rebirth
Round and round it turns
And never stops”.

The Tradition of raas dance still continues.
Krishna through Yogamaya became many so that he could give his love to all. He was like a sapphire in a necklace of gold. There was such harmony of ragas and raginis that hearing it, water and wind no longer flowed. The moon together with the starry sky being astonished rained down nectar with its rays. The wives of Gods gathered in the sky. Meanwhile night advanced and six months had passed. The name of that night has been the night of Brahma.

Surdasa