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painting / album

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  • Description

    Opaque watercolour painting on European paper of a Kavati-bearer and his wife. The couple are on their way to Palani: he is dressed in green, the colour worn by pilgrims visiting the sites sacred to Subrahmanya. The man, in trousers and a yellow sash worn across the chest and tied around the waist, and with a tall green and red cap, carries on his shoulder a wooden kavati decorated with peacock feathers. His forehead, throat, arms and chest are decorated with tripundras (three horizontal lines). His wife, dressed in an elaborately draped sari, carries a cloth bundle on her head, and a cloth bag hangs from her left shoulder. Both of them wear a number of earrings in the helix and lobes of their ears as well as necklaces and bracelets of various designs. The wooden ends of the kavati are carefully rendered: they bear carved images of Gaṇeśa and a goddess, probably Lakṣmī. Generally, however, kavatis bear the images of Gaṇeśa and Subrahmanya.


  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1830-1835 (circa)
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 18.2 centimetres
    • Width: 11.3 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Dallapiccola 2010:
    This painting is part of a set of ninety-two drawings depicting various Indian castes and occupations. An explanatory caption in English, written in a flowing early nineteenth-century hand, accompanies the majority of the drawings. Their repertoire covers a vast range of castes from the Telugu Brahmins to the Boyis and occupations from the astrologer to the jailer, interspersed with a colourful array of religious mendicants, acrobats and musicians. Of particular interest is a drawing of a private soldier (1884,0913,0.74), of the Private Grenadier Company of the 1st Madras Native Infantry, dressed in a uniform of the early 1820s, which helps to date the album to the early decades of the nineteenth century. This date is confirmed by the presence of a portrait of Serfoji II, raja of Thanjavur (r. 1798–1832), and his wife in this volume (1884,0913,0.44). In depicting the faces of his characters the artist consistently uses a ‘miniaturist technique’, i.e. minute dots of colour; the chin, forehead and nose areas are lightly shaded to suggest plasticity. The rendering of textiles, costumes and jewellery reveals a documentary precision and care for detail. The figures are slender and elegant rather than imposing, and the background is no longer monochrome: either the paper is left plain or in some cases a line of trees and shrubs dots the line of the horizon. The foreground is sometimes green, suggesting perhaps a meadow, or a very pale brownish wash but most frequently a dark, heavy looped shadow is attached to the feet of the figures.


  • Bibliography

    • Dallapiccola 2010 cat.15.1 bibliographic details
  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    3 December 2010

    Treatment proposal

    Provide custom-made archival box for storage


    In good condition but requires protection from phsyical damage, dust atmospheric pollutants and light during storage.

    Treatment details

    The album of 91drawings was housed in a custom-made box. Which consisted of of an inner envelope of Manilla 225 gsm paper and an outer box constructed using Boxboard and Filmoplast T 6472. The envelope and box were adhered to each other with double-sided tape and cotton ties were attached using Culminal (non ionic cellulose ether)

    About these records 

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Painting. Portrait. A palanquin-bearer and his wife. Painted on paper.

Painting. Portrait. A palanquin-bearer and his wife. Painted on paper.

Image description



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Object reference number: RFI517

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