Hindu mythology, £8.99
Gift of P.C. Manuk and Miss G.M. Coles through
Asia OA 1948.10-9.0156
Stall for the sale of painted figures, a painting in the Company style
From northern India
Around AD 1850
Souvenir for a European visitor to India
'Company' painting is the broad style term used to describe the paintings produced by Indian artists for European patrons, particularly the British of the East India Company, in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Paintings of natural history, architecture and everyday life in India were of particular interest to the British. Many sets of Company paintings are of Indian occupations or castes, or rituals and festivals.
In this painting a woman is shown seated on a platform selling clay models of Hindu deities arranged on several shelves. On the top row are the goddesses Kali and Durga within large arches. On the next row down are four images of the elephant-headed Ganesha. Beneath are rows of cows, tigers and elephants with riders. Such models are often found for sale at the entrances to temples as souvenirs for visiting pilgrims. Alongside the stall a man is shown making pots.
Such Company paintings were produced by Indian artists for Europeans to send home to Britain as souvenirs. This was especially important in the days before photography, providing those unlikely ever to see India with some inkling of its wonders. The style of these paintings combines both Indian and European features. From the 1840s the patronage of this type of painting declined with the introduction of photography.
M. Archer, Company paintings: Indian pain (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1992)