On display in London, natural history paintings by an obscure 19th-century Bengali artist by Malini Roy from Scroll.in

The British Library has loaned 20 paintings and manuscripts to the Wallace Collection in London for the “Forgotten Masters” exhibition, running through April 2020. Included are a selection of four works by the relatively unknown artist Haludar, whose natural history drawings are on display for the very first time.

When the exhibition curator William Darymple started scoping paintings to be included in the exhibition, I brought to his attention the natural history drawings in the collection commissioned by the Scottish surgeon Dr Francis Buchanan-Hamilton – 1762–1829, hereafter referred to as Buchanan – at the turn of the 19th century. When I showed him the delicate paintings of a moloch gibbon, a sloth bear, a long-tailed macaque and the gerbils painted by the artist Haludar, Dalrymple was intrigued and we started considering the conservation aspects in displaying these works for the first time.

Sloth bear drawn for Francis Buchanan by Haludar, circa 1799-1806. Credit: British Library (CC Public Domain)

In researching the Buchanan collection at the British Library, which consists of several hundred natural history alongside countless volumes of his notes, I met with Dr Ralf Britz an ichthyologist, or fish scientist, at the Natural History Museum, who was working on Buchanan’s volume on Fishes of the Ganges held in the British Library. When I mentioned my plans to work on the drawings of mammals in the Library’s collection and researching the artist Haludar, he immediately sent me a scientific article by the French zoologist Henri de Blainville. In 1816, de Blainville wrote in the science bulletin, par la Société philomathique de Paris, that a new species of Cervus niger could be identified “after a very beautiful coloured drawing that was completed on site by Haludar, an Indian painter”. After reading this article, I started to look at other early 19th century periodicals to see if any other zoologists were looking at de Blainville’s work or by chance also mentioned Haludar.

Indian sambar deer, Cervus Niger, drawn for Francis Buchanan by Haludar, circa 1799-1806, Barrackpore. Credit: British Library (CC Public Domain)

I discovered that in 1819, the German naturalist Lorenz Oken’s periodical Isis also made reference to Cervus niger, stating it was “painted on the spot by the master painter Haludar”. Both references to Cervus niger, which is an Indian Sambar deer, provided only brief descriptions of the species, and omitted to give details regarding the source of the scientific information as well as the location of the artwork by Haludar. However, in cross-referencing C niger with Haludar, we are directed to a single drawing in the British Library’s collection that was commissioned by Francis Buchanan inscribed with the artist’s name, that had been deposited at the Company’s library on Leadenhall Street, London in 1808. This painting of Cervus niger is one of 28 natural history drawings now held in the British Library that are inscribed Haludar Pinxt and that were prepared between 1795 and 1818, when Buchanan was working as a surgeon for the East India Company and actively documenting botanical and zoological specimens during his travels across the subcontinent.

This article first appeared on British Library’s Untold Lives blog.

More: https://scroll.in/article/952818/on-display-in-london-natural-history-paintings-by-an-obscure-19th-century-bengali-artist

Nasir Shah’s Book of Delights from the British Library Blog

To celebrate our new series of South Asian seminars and especially the focus on food with Neha Vermani’s talk this evening Mughals on the menu: A probe into the culinary world of the Mughal eliteI thought I would write about our most ʻfoodyʼ Persian manuscript, the only surviving copy of the Niʻmatnāmah-i Nāṣirshāhī (Nasir Shah’s Book of Delights) written for Sultan Ghiyas al-Din Khilji (r.1469-1500) and completed by his son Nasir al-Din Shah (r.1500-1510). We are planning to digitise this manuscript in the near future but meanwhile I hope some of these recipes will whet your appetite.

 

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More: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2016/11/nasir-shahs-book-of-delights.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

The Gazi Scroll of West Bengal

Painted on paper, mounted on cotton, scrolls such as these were used as visual props in storytelling performances in India approximately around 1800 AD.

Handprinted in Murshidabad, this scroll is around 13 meters in length, with 54 frames which narrate the story of Gazi and Manik – two Muslim saints or pirs. 

Patua scroll artists use natural colours borrowed from leaves and fruits to create art work.

More: https://theheritagelab.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/the-gazi-scroll-of-west-bengal/

Jainism in the early 19th Century: Drawings from the Mackenzie Collection by Jennifer Howes, Independent Art Historian from The British Library Blog

The British Library holds over a thousand Jain manuscripts, most of which were collected in the 19thCentury, by Indologists and East India Company officials. In a recent blog, Pasquale Manzo, the British Library’s Sanskrit curator, gives an overview of these manuscripts, and news that 33 of them have been digitised.

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One of the collectors mentioned in this previous blog is Colin Mackenzie, the first Surveyor General of India. There are 21 Jain manuscripts, 18 of which are palm leaf manuscripts from Karnataka’s Digambara tradition, in the British Library’s Mackenzie Collection.

More: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2016/07/jainism-in-the-early-19th-century.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

 

The Sixteen Sacred Lands of Buddhism, San San May, Curator for Burmese, British Library

Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was brought up to become a king, but he left his life of great comfort after encountering the ‘four signs’: an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and an ascetic. After six years of hardship, working to find the right spiritual path, he attained his ‘Great Enlightenment’, and became the Buddha. During the following forty-five years of his mission until he passed into Mahaparinirvana (the state of reaching the end of suffering) at the age of eighty, the Buddha walked widely throughout the northern districts of India, delivering his teachings to thebhikkhus (Buddhist monks) and laity in the places that he visited. The sixteen lands where he spent time during his long ministry can be found illustrated in many Burmese Buddhist cosmology manuscripts.

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Shown below is a depiction of the sixteen sacred lands in a Burmese folding-book paper manuscript. The Buddha is seated in Bhumisparsa mudra (earth-touching posture) on a throne under the Bodhi tree at the centre. Around him are depicted the sixteen lands, with indications of the distances between the centre and each of these regions, varying from one day to two months of travel. The sixteen lands are labelled (clockwise from the top) Mithila, Sankassa, Jetuttara, Takkasila, Savatti, Kosambi, Kalinga, Mudu, Koliya, Kapilavastu, Campa, Varanasi, Rajagaha, Vesali, Pataliputta, and Pava.

More: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2016/07/the-sixteen-sacred-lands-of-buddhism.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

Revisiting the provenance of the Sindbadnamah, by Ursula Sims-Williams, Asian and African Studies, British Library Blog

While recently looking for documentation on the Library of Tipu Sultan, Sultan of Mysore (r. 1782-1799), my eye fell on this entry in Charles Stewart’s Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Library of the late Tippoo Sultan of Mysore (Cambridge, 1809), pp. 72-3:

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XCIV. Diwāni Sindbād Hakīm. Thick quarto, common hand, ornamented with pictures, &c. The instructions of the philosopher Sindbād to his pupil, the ignorant son of a king; in a series of interesting and facetious stories. The author is unknown; but it is dedicated to Shāh Mahmūd Bahmeny of the Dekhan, A.D. 1374.

More: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2016/06/revisiting-the-provenance-of-the-sindbadnamah-io-islamic-3214.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

 

 

Bangladesh’s Genius Architect Marina Tabassum: An architect in search of roots – inspiring, spiritual & divine – shortlisted for 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture

“… a mosque needs to be inspirational and spiritual enough to generate respect and create a divine feeling, otherwise it loses its purpose.”

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Source: Bangladesh’s Genius Architect Marina Tabassum: An architect in search of roots – inspiring, spiritual & divine – shortlisted for 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Marina's mosque

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Our Story of Dhaka Muslin, Aramco World, May/June 2016, Written by Khademul Islam

The cloth is like the light vapours of dawn.

—YUAN CHWANG,
Chinese traveler to India,
629-45 ce

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I FIRST HEARD OF MUSLINon a hot summer night in Karachi, Pakistan. It was sometime in the late 1960s. I was at the verandah table arm-wrestling with my school homework. My father was at the other end drinking tea. I can’t recall now how the subject came up, but I probably asked him something about the British colonial times. It was a topic on which he held forth occasionally. He must have answered me, for he always did. Then—and from here on my recollection is clear—he said, “Muslin.” Not knowing what muslin was, I looked at him questioningly. “Our muslin. The British destroyed it.”

“What’s muslin?”

Muslin, he said, was the name of a legendary cloth made of cotton, fit for emperors, which used to be made way back in the past. Muslin from Dacca had been the finest, he said, from where it used to be shipped to the far corners of the world.

“Dacca?” I asked, surprised.

More: http://www.aramcoworld.com/en-US/Articles/May-2016/Our-Story-of-Dhaka-Muslin

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Destination Bangladesh: art world decamps to third Dhaka Art Summit

Four-day event is billed as “the world’s largest non-commercial platform for South Asian art” by GARETH HARRIS  |  4 February 2016 – The Art NewsPaper

A key art-historical exhibition throwing new light on historic post-war works by South Asian artists forms part of the third Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh, which opens tomorrow (5-8 February). The show, entitled Rewind, features 12 artists including the late Bangladeshi practitioner Rashid Choudhury and Indian-born Monika Correa. The Indian art collector Amrita Jhaveri is sponsoring the exhibition, which is part of a programme encompassing solo art projects, group shows, panel discussions, and workshops.

More: http://theartnewspaper.com/news/news/destination-bangladesh-art-world-decamps-to-third-dhaka-art-summit/