Materials and techniques of Kalighat paintings: pigment analysis of nine paintings from the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum

Embed Size (px)

Text of Materials and techniques of Kalighat paintings: pigment analysis of nine paintings from the...

  • This article was downloaded by: [Otterbein University]On: 22 November 2014, At: 09:05Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: MortimerHouse, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of the Institute of ConservationPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rcon20

    Materials and techniques of Kalighat paintings:pigment analysis of nine paintings from thecollections of the Victoria and Albert MuseumMichael Wheeler a , Lucia Burgio b & Michelle Shulman ca Senior Paper Conservator Victoria and Albert Museum South Kensington, London , SW72RL , UKb Senior Object Analysis Scientist Victoria and Albert Museum South Kensington, London ,SW7 2RL , UK E-mail:c Associate Professor of Chemistry Saint Mary's College of California 1928 St. Mary's RdMoraga California, CA , 94575 , USA E-mail:Published online: 04 Jan 2012.

    To cite this article: Michael Wheeler , Lucia Burgio & Michelle Shulman (2011) Materials and techniques of Kalighatpaintings: pigment analysis of nine paintings from the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Journal of theInstitute of Conservation, 34:2, 173-185, DOI: 10.1080/19455224.2011.607769

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19455224.2011.607769

    PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE

    Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose ofthe Content. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be reliedupon and should be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shallnot be liable for any losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and otherliabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to orarising out of the use of the Content.

    This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

    http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rcon20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/19455224.2011.607769http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19455224.2011.607769http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Michael Wheeler, Lucia Burgio and Michelle Shulman

    Materials and techniques of Kalighat paintings:pigment analysis of nine paintings from thecollections of the Victoria and Albert Museum

    This article is dedicated to the memory of Christine Mackay ACR, Senior PaperConservator at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. She jointly organized andcurated the exhibition entitled Kalighat Icons. Paintings from 19th CenturyCalcutta.

    Keywords

    Kalighat paintings; Raman microscopy; X-ray fluorescence; pigments; non-destructive analysis

    The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has a large collection of paintings fromthe Indian subcontinent, numbering over 6000 works on paper, cloth, mica andpalm leaf. Included in this is a comprehensive collection of folk art, includingBengali scroll paintings and approximately 600 Kalighat paintings and hand-coloured woodcut printsone of the largest collections of these paintingsoutside India. A travelling exhibition entitled Kalighat Paintings, consistingof 80 Kalighat paintings from the V&A collections, toured Indian venues in2011 and 2012. Pigment analysis was carried out on nine of the works selectedfor the exhibition using a number of non-destructive techniques, includingultraviolet photography, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and Ramanmicroscopy. This article presents the results of these analyses.

    The works selected for this study represent some of the different subjectgenres and span the time periods covered by the exhibition (Fig. 1). Thescope of the current study is necessarily limited, covering as it does onlynine paintings which were part of the exhibition.

    The paints and paper of Kalighat paintings have been studied previouslyby Mackay and Sarkar, whose findings relate to Kalighat paintings in theNational Museum of Wales collection.1 They used energy dispersiveX-ray spectrometry (SEM EDS) and polarized light microscopy (PLM) toidentify pigments.

    The purpose of this research at the V&A was to identify both modern syn-thetic pigments and inorganic pigments to see if there was any correlationbetween the palette used by scroll painters working in rural Bengal in theearly nineteenth century and the urban painters of Kalighat. As theseurban works were produced for sale at a very modest price, it was necessaryto use cheap and readily available pigments which were both attractive inappearance and of high density to give these works the graphic impactthat characterizes them. The dating of Kalighat paintings on stylisticgrounds alone is very approximate; therefore, it was hoped that the presenceof certain pigments might help with establishing a more accurate chronology.What has been difficult to establish, however, is the exact date at whichcertain pigments were first imported into India. Information uncovered bySarkar and Mackay showed that the first specialist paint shop was openedin Kolkata by N.C. Dutt in 1842, which was taken over by the Laha familyin 1872 (now G.C. Laha).2 Although many of the companys accountsremained in existence, records regarding exact dates of import of particularpigments were not available.

    (Received 28 February 2011; Accepted 21 July 2011)

    1 Christine Mackay and Aditi NathSarkar, Kalighat Pats: an Examinationof Techniques and Materials, in Scienti-fic Research on the Pictorial Arts of Asia:Proceedings of the Second Forbes Sym-posium at the Freer Gallery of Art, ed.Paul Jett, John Winter, and BlytheMcCarthy (London: Archetype, 2005),13542.

    2 Mackay and Sarkar, Kalighat Pats.

    Journal of the Institute of Conservation

    Vol. 34, No. 2, September 2011, 173185

    ISSN 1945-5224 print/ISSN 1945-5232 online

    # 2011 Icon, The Institute of Conservationhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19455224.2011.607769

    http://www.tandfonline.com

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Otte

    rbei

    n U

    nive

    rsity

    ] at

    09:

    05 2

    2 N

    ovem

    ber

    2014

  • Historical backgroundA core group of early Kalighat paintings dating from 183050 were given tothe V&A by Rudyard Kipling in 1917. He presented the museum with aseries of watercolour paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses that hadbeen collected by his father Lockwood Kipling, while Principal of theLahore School of Art. The largest acquisitions, however, were made inthe period from 195053 encompassing collections from W.G. Archer andother donors. The pictures were painted by patuas, or village artists, atKalighat, Kolkata and had been produced for mass sale to pilgrims visitingthe Kalighat temple. The Kalighat temple is a shrine dedicated to the Hindugoddess Kali and the word ghat literally means bathing place. Although

    Fig. 1 The nine Kalighat paintings analysed in the present study, from left to right: WomanSelling Fish (I.S. 215-1950); Two Fighting Sepoys (I.S. 211-1950); Courtesan with Peacock (I.S. 247-1953); Elokeshi Meets the Mahant at the Tarakeshwar Shrine (I.M. 2_86-1917); Hand with FreshwaterShrimp (I.S. 469-1950); Elokeshi Offering Betel Leaf to Mahant (I.M 137-1914); Krishna StealingClothes (I.S 470-1950); Infant Krishna Nursed by Jasoda (I.S. 40-1932); Freshwater Prawn (I.S. 2-1954).

    174 Wheeler, Burgio and Shulman

    Journal of the Institute of Conservation Vol. 34 No. 2 September 2011

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Otte

    rbei

    n U

    nive

    rsity

    ] at

    09:

    05 2

    2 N

    ovem

    ber

    2014

  • the current structure only dates from 1809, the significance of the site goesback many hundreds of years. The temple is probably the origin of thename of the present city of Kolkata.

    Kalighat paintings are characterized by bold, often simplified forms withcurving lines and large areas of unmixed colour. W.G. Archer, a formerKeeper of the Indian Department at the V&A, wrote that the Kalighatstyle was a by product of the British connection.3 Current knowledge ofthe social history of Bengal and recent research by Dr Jyotindra Jain hasled to a deeper understanding of the cultural and social historical signifi-cance of these images.4 The artistic style of the paintings owes much tothe narrative scrolls produced in rural Bengal and Bihar using paper andwater-based media. It was also influenced by the pratinas made by thepotters of Kumortulithese would be painted by the patuas at festivalperiods in a similar style to that of Kalighat paintings. This is an indigenoustradition that grew up quite independently of the European influx intoKolkata.

    Kalighat painting is also readily distinguishable from the native traditionof miniature painting that had developed from the sultanate and Mughaltraditions of manuscript illustration. The subject matter of miniature paint-ings is largely concerned with the activities and preoccupations of the elitesurrounding the Mughal and princely courts of India. By contrast, Kalighatpainting took as its sub