Indian and Himalayan Art
Souvenir Painting of the Goddess SarasvatiMade in Calcutta (present-day Kolkata), West Bengal, India, Asia
Kalighat, c. 1850-75
Artist/maker unknown, India
Transparent, opaque, and metallic watercolors on paper
Currently not on view
1994-148-564Stella Kramrisch Collection, 1994
LabelIn 1809, a temple to Kali, the goddess of destruction, was built just south of present-day Kolkata (Calcutta), the capital of British India. Professional painters quickly began making souvenir images for the many pilgrims who visited the site. These so-called Kalighat paintings grew from earlier traditions of popular art, but merged new painting techniques such as thin, shaded watercolor brushwork developed from British models. Painters made fluid line sketches overlaid with color washes, as in this example, to increase the speed of production. Most early Kalighat paintings were icons of gods and goddesses, such as Sarasvati, the goddess of learning and music, shown here playing a stringed instrument.