Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
In the early-mid 1800s Mica paintings were produced as souvenirs in Murshidabad, Patna and Benares in eastern India and Trichinopoly in South India.
They imitated paintings on glass.
Mica, a transparent mineral is formed between strata of granite and consists of many interlocking platelets, resulting in a structure which can be split easily into thin sheets.
The smooth surface of mica is the main appeal for its use as a base for painting : the paint applied does not sink in, making the colours very vibrant.
The majority of these paintings were produced in standard sets for the colonial tourist market.
Popular subject were Hindu gods and goddesses, various occupations, costumes of the local people, people and flora and fauna of the sub-continent.
However, Mica is a very brittle substance and so very few of the numbers created have survived the century.
The V&A Museum London has the largest public collection of about 700 mica paintings.
The Wovensouls collection of Mica paintings currently consists of 4 paintings collected over 10 years*.
These are special as the subject is rarer to find today: ‘Rituals & Festivals’.
Majority of the mica paintings seen today have only 1 person in them (and some have upto 3) and explain the person’s occupation or dress.
In contrast, each of the 4 paintings in the wovensouls set, depicts a large group of people 15 or more – engaged in a shared community experience.
1) A Wedding Procession (Bengal)
2) The Jagannath Rath Yatra (Puri)
3) A Muharram Procession (Bengal)
4) A Sati Celebration (contrary to our beliefs today, at the time the painting was createdSati was an event to be venerated)
The fourth is rarer than others.
That soft careful gliding of a paintbrush on smooth brittle mica reaching out to say Hello to all of us across two centuries leaves quite an impact – doesn’t it?
Waiting for more!