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Creation date: 1892-1893
Creation place: India

Other Information

Type: Watercolor Painting
Medium and Support: Opaque watercolor on mica
Credit Line: Gift of Isobel Gray, through Clinton G. Abbott
Accession Number: 1934.91.a
State/Province: Bihar (or Assam)
Dimensions: 4 3/16 in. x 6 in. (10.64 cm x 15.24 cm)


Isobel Gray, ( - 1934)

J. Errol Gray, Assam, India (1891-1892 - )

San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California (1934 - )

Label Copy

Craftspeople at work in customs of a local population of northeastern India are depicted in this rare, complex set of twelve mica paintings that was first acquired by J. Errol Gray, a British tea plantation owner in 1892.

a. Ironing
b. Palanquin Bearers
c. Prisoners and Prison Guards
d. Cloth Merchants
e. Funeral Procession
f. Elephant Drivers
g. Basket Weavers
h. Banana Seller
i. Blacksmith
j. Unidentified Scene
k. Spinning Thread
l. Ritual Dance in Honor of the Goddess

Paintings on Mica
Translucent sheets of mica, a mineral readily available in northeastern India, painted with colorful imagery and lit from behind, had long been used to enliven nocturnal festivals. The British in India were captivated by the effective and unusual use of this material, and they avidly collected sets of mica paintings made for them by local artist. The sets came in groups of twelve, and they depicted scenes of ceremonies, rituals, courts, and occupations of the local people. Sometimes they were painted on both the front and back sides in order to enhance the sense of depth in the image.
Before the advent of the rail system, British East India Company personnel traversed the country along river ways, stopping at cities on the banks for rest, trade, and provisions. British travelogues tell of local artists wading through the water to greet the boasts coming in to dock and offering sets of mica paintings packaged for sale as souvenirs to the travelers.
Pinturas Sobre Mica
Las Laminas de mica translúcida, un mineral fácil de conseguir en la India nororiental, se pintaban con imaginería colorida y se iluminaban por atrás para avivar festivals nocturnos. Los británicos en la India estaban cautivados por el uso poco usual de este material y ávidamente coleccionaron juegos de pinturas sobre mica realizados para ellos por artistas locales. Los juegos venían en grupos de doce y re-presentaban escenas de ceremonias, rituals, cortes y ocupaciones de personas locales. A veces estaban pintadas por ambos lados con el objeto de realzar el sentido de produndidad en la imagen.
Antes de la llegada del sitema ferroviario, los trabajadores de la Compañía Britanica de las Indias Orientales atravesaban el país por medio de sus vías fluviales, parando en las ciudades en las orillas de los ríos para descansar, comerciar y comprar provisiones. Las bitácoras británicas cuentan de los artistas locales que se metían al agua para saludar a los barcos que llegaban al muelle y ofrecían juegos de pinturas sobre mica ya empaquetados para su venta como recuerdos para los viajeros.
Last Updated: 10/2/2013


This object was included in the following exhibitions:

In the Company Manner: Indian-British Painting ca. 1770-1890 (Binney Rotation) , 3/28/2009 - 9/27/2009

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