Victoria and Albert museum

The Victoria and Albert museum in London is an Art and Design museum and is one of the prettiest that I have ever seen. I discovered it quite by chance and have been returning to it ever since. Even so, I have not spent as much time as I wanted to here. I look forward to the day when I can come here on my own and explore whatever I want and as much as I want.

Wandered into the Italian room and found this flawless piece. Trust the Italians to come up with something so beautiful.

1

2

The courtyard has, what can only be termed as a huge splash-pool, free for children to splash in, in summer.

3

Isn’t this just beautiful? This is the reception area of the museum containing and the first time that I saw it, I fell in love.

4

5

Young people sitting on the floor and sketching the sculptures.

6

The famed Maratha ruler Shivaji’s wagh nakha – tiger claws – or as the museum calls them – wagnucks. No one knows whether these are the original ones.

7

An example of one of the themes used in Mughal architecture.

8

And because I was feeling a little masochistic, I wandered into the Nehru gallery, displaying the treaures of India (read looted during the Raj). That is the ring of Shah Jahan that you can see in the middle and a crystal bowl used during the Shah Jahan period.

9

The art of nuptials

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Madhubani is a form of painting that originated in the Mithila district of Bihar state in India. As an art form, it is believed to be nearly 3000 years old. Traditionally this form of painting was undertaken solely by women to decorate the walls and floors of their village huts.  The greatest efforts were spent in decorating the ‘kobbar ghar’ or the nuptial chambers for the newly wedded bride and groom to enjoy.

The walls were first prepared by plastering them in cowdung, after which they were white washed and then covered in rice paste. The main parts of the paintings were often given to the most talented painter. However everyone, apart from the men, played a part in decorating different areas of the walls. Paintings were often painted in a centrifugal way – starting from the centre and then moving outwards.

The paint was made from locally available plants and roots. In his book on the history of Indian paintings, Krishna Chaitanya explains how the dyes were obtained. Blooms of the ‘Kusum’, which is found growing in the wild grass, provided the scarlet colour. Kusum, when left to darken, turns to a deep Sienna. The juice of the banana leaf mixed with lime and milk gave a soft gold dye. Turmeric was used for a dark yellow shade. Smoke captured from the charcoal fire gave a rich black. Flowers from the ‘Palasa’ plant were often used for yellow, while green was obtained from certain climbers. The binding agent for the paints was made from goat’s milk mixed with the gum from the ‘Babool’ tree. A sharpened twig of bamboo served as the brush and rags of cloth were used to colour larger areas. Because the paints were freshly made, the paintings acquired a unique radiance.

Nowadays these paintings have acquired a commercial aspect and are now done on paper with chemical paints being commonly used. It was during one of the exhibitions on handicrafts in India, that I first came across the Madhubani paintings. I hadn’t come across this style of art before and liked the combination of strong colours and intricate designs. The photos shown are of the paintings that I purchased. Unfortunately this traditional art form is no longer used to decorate the walls in Mithila. Otherwise how amazing it would have been to see the walls of a hut covered with these radiant designs – all done to welcome a new bride.