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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Rare paintings of Chhatrapati Shivaji from foreign collections to be part of Pune historian’s book

Prasad Sudhir Tare, a member of Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal, has tracked down the unique images from museums and private collectors in the US, Germany and France.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Pune |
Updated: November 14, 2021 10:29:56 am
Four months ago, Prasad Sudhir Tare had his first success when he found three miniature contemporary paintings of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. (Express photos)

A fortnight ago, history researcher Prasad Sudhir Tare checked his email early in the morning and saw that a museum in France had sent him the thumbnail of a painting of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj that was previously unknown in India. “At that moment, I got the feeling that I was standing in front of the king. I paid my obeisance. I was overwhelmed to think of the artist who had stood before Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and made the work,” says Tare, who is a member of Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal.

The Golconda-style painting was made when the Chhatrapati was visiting the ruler of Golconda in 1677. In it, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is seen standing, his full figure depicted in side profile with a long angarkha, a headgear adorned with pearls and gold, and a dagger to his side. “The beauty of these paintings is that they use natural colour and small amounts of real gold, and show us how the dressing and weapons were in those days,” says Tare.

Back in 2001, Tare had just graduated when he landed a bit role in Shivshahir Babasaheb Purandare’s iconic Marathi stage play Janata Raja on the life and exploits of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The play cemented Tare’s fascination with the Marathi warrior king and set him on a research trail. On a personal visit to Europe in 2011, Tare chanced upon the first reference to the possible existence of 17th-century miniature paintings of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in regional styles, such as the Golconda school, that were patronised by the courts of the era. “I started searching for these artworks, keeping in touch with museums, curators and collectors in Europe and the US, among others,” he says.

In the late 17th century, as art flourished under courtly patronage in India, a large number of paintings were made of rulers and other personalities. The east India companies, Dutch, English and French, had been trading in the country then.

“The Europeans were good at collecting art work, and those from India were of great value to them. Their envoys, ambassadors and other officials would collect albums that contained 30-40 works of Indian art and send them back home, where they found their way into private collections, museums and royal treasures,” says Tare.

Four months ago, Tare had his first success when he found three miniature contemporary paintings of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj — from a private collector in France, a museum in Germany and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the US —that were hitherto unknown in India.

These rare images of the original paintings will be part of a book on the king in which Tare aims to highlight two aspects, the historical side and the application of history to today’s times.

“Maharaj was famous not only as a king but also as a warrior. He created his own kingdom despite opposition from six powerful rulers, such as the Mughals, the Adil Shahi and the Qutub Shahi,” says Tare. “I have read how he was able to connect with different people and share his vision with them. One of the British people present in Surat writes in a letter that when the Maharaj spoke, he seemed to be smiling… It’s a small thing, but having a smile for all people is unique. Today, people are barely welcoming except as a formality. These are lessons that we can learn from the Maharaj’s life and apply in ours,” he adds.

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