Arts and Culture
Reverse glass painting is a fascinating yet comparatively unknown facet of Indian art, which lasted c. hundred and fifty years. It flourished in the mid-19th century and fell out of fashion in the early decades of the 20th century. It is an eclectic form of art displaying a fascinating mixture of Indian and foreign, mainly Western, elements.
Created in the second half of the 18th century by Chinese artists settled in India, and later practised by Indian artists, these vibrant paintings were popular especially in south India where the miniature painting tradition was not as strong as in the northern part of the Subcontinent.
Royalty, wealthy landowners, and merchants were among the patrons of this genre. The ‘secular’ themes range from royal portraits, to ‘men about town’; from dancers and musicians, to landscapes and still lives. The majority of the works, however, focus on religious subjects. Although bound by the tenets of tradition as far as the iconography of the individual deities is concerned, the artists felt free to re-interpret and elaborate upon the mythical episodes. Gods and goddesses appear in Neo-Classical halls with heavy Victorian furniture, dressed in 19th century finery. Thus, the supernatural merges into the prevailing fashion and lifestyle of the educated urban elite of the time.