Notes on Culture & Antique Art, Ethnic Decor & Vintage Fashion | Wovensouls Art Gallery

Rare Antique Company School Mica Paintings

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.

(Click to visit the gallery)

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!


jaina mishra


*[From the point of view of collecting the length of time it has taken to put the set together is a marker of hope … one can never be sure what one might come across next week or next year… the waiting stretches into forever.. quite a good feeling to walk around with – not exactly knowing for sure where and when one will meet the next object of delight  – exactly the opposite of impending doom]

3 comments on “Rare Antique Company School Mica Paintings

  1. Leonie Andrews
    August 19, 2018

    Fascinating Jaina. I hadn’t heard of painting on mica, but then a few months ago I saw for the first time ‘old master’ paintings on slate.

  2. wovensouls
    August 19, 2018

    Yes … being brittle it’s a wonder that it stayed intact even just during painting!
    Must lookfor the slate paintings online!

  3. Leonie Andrews
    August 20, 2018

    Try looking up the Prado in Madrid. That is where I saw the exhibition.

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