Friday, March 26, 2010

Mysore Traditional Paintings

The history of traditional Mysore paintings begins in the second half of the16th century during the rule of Raja Wodeyar (1568-1617), the first powerful ruler of the rising Wodeyar dynasty. It is known from literary sources that a large number of artists and their families, made homeless after the fall of the mighty Karnataka Empire of Vijayanagara in 1565, were rehabilitated and employed by him.  An old temple dedicated to the goddess Nimishaamba, family deity of the Chandravamshi Arya-kshatriya Raju community to which most of the artists belonged, still stands on the banks of the Cauvery (Kaveri) near Srirangapattana, the then capital of the Wodeyar dynasty. Raja Wodeyar's successors were also generous patrons of the arts and employed artists to decorate palaces, temples and manuscripts. Unfortunately very little is known of this early phase of Mysore paintings as very few examples have survived the constant battles and generations of neglect and vandalism.  But one can safely presume that this early style followed the Vijayanagara idiom, perhaps with minor changes to suit the taste and culture of the new patrons.

The Mysore style was again revived in early years of the 19th century under Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1799-1868). Some of the most beautiful and refined work was produced during his rule as the king himself took a very keen and personal interest in the art of painting. The illustrations in the manuscript of the famous cultural encyclopedia 'Sri Tattva-nidhi' are examples of the king's sophisticated taste and patronage.

By the middle of the 19th century, traditional paintings became quite popular. Many rich merchants and palace officials wanted paintings to decorate their homes and domestic shrines. To meet this demand, traditional artists began to paint small, intimate groups of gods and goddesses set within decorative niches in the manner of portraits. Mysore paintings of the 19th century were generally done on paperboard or cloth using both mineral and vegetable pigments. Jewellery, textile patterns and architectural features were done in low relief using gesso work covered with gold leaf.

The subject chosen were mostly from the rich heritage of Indian mythology. Some of the favourite themes were: the coronation of Sri Rama  (Rama pattabhisheka), wedding of Shiva and Parvati (Girija kalyana), Sri Rama with bow and arrows (Kodanda-Rama), Sri Krishna with his foster mother (Yashoda-Krishna) and the goddess Chamundeshwari, the family deity of the Mysore royal house. Occasionally portraits of the king and his family were painted.

Though the subjects were religious and mythological, the models were from real life. The delicate and fleshy oval faces depicted in the paintings can still be seen among members of the old nobility. And the architectural backgrounds of many paintings are faithful copies of the architectural features of the Mysore palace.

Though a dying art form now, a few artists still paint in the traditional Mysore style even though the technique involved is long and labourious and the market limited.
- Swami Sivapriyananda

1 comment:

  1. nice post thanks for sharing..

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