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Volume 49 Number 2, December 1997

Volume 49 Number 2

The Victoria Memorial Hall - Calcutta

From the General Editor’s Desk

Introduction
Philippa Vaughan

A Visible Monument: Architectural Policies and the Victoria Memorial Hall
G.H.R. Tillotson

The Last of the Augustans: Lord Curzon and Indian Architecture
Derek Linstrum

India and the European Cultural Inheritance: the Victoria Memorial Hall
Narayani Gupta

Curzon’s “National Gallery”: The Art Collections
Deborah Swallow

New Insights through Restoration: Oil Paintings of India by European Masters circa 1760–1830
Rupert Featherstone

Shri-Vaishnavism and the Vijayanagara Kingdom in the Mid-16th Century
Anila Verghese

The Birds of India: Drawings of Christopher Webb Smith
Jagmohan Mahajan

Newsletters

Book Reviews

From the General Editor's Desk
Pal, Pratapaditya
Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997, p. viii

The general editor expresses the view that the Victoria Memorial does not simply commemorate a queen and an empress, it serves many functions in the life of Calcutta. This issue of Marg gives an account of the restored condition of the edifice and its rich artworks. It is hoped that more Indian corporate groups come forward in the future to support projects as worthy as the conservation of this outstanding monument.

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Introduction
Vaughan, Philippa
Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997, pp. 1-7 [Also in The Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta: Conception, Collections, Conservation edited by Philippa Vaughan; Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997; ISBN: 81-85026-38-6, pp. 1-7]

This volume presents the Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta, in the context of its past and present, and poses the question as to its future. It also draws attention to issues of conservation. Conceived in the high noon of empire by Lord Curzon, it was intended both as a memorial to the Queen-Empress and as a symbol of the continued beneficence of British rule. Today, its galleries and halls include collections of the finest group of oil paintings in the world by European artists active in India between 1780 and 1830. Concern for the survival of this kind of heritage led to the formation of the Calcutta Tercentenary Trust in 1989 by the then Curator of the Victoria Memorial, as part of the celebrations for the 300th anniversary of the city.

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A Visible Monument: Architectural Policies and the Victoria Memorial Hall
Tillotson, Giles H.R.
Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997, pp. 8-23 [Also in The Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta: Conception, Collections, Conservation edited by Philippa Vaughan; Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997; ISBN: 81-85026-38-6, pp. 8-23]

From the outset, Curzon conceived the Victoria Memorial as the physical embodiment of a history lesson. He had a sense of the desired impressiveness of the building and entrusted its design to William Emerson. Although it took almost 20 years to build, the final result is remarkably close to the architect's original design. While predominantly Classical, an essay in the English Baroque, Emerson also incorporated Indian details such as the "Mughal" domes on the corner towers. The article examines other colonial buildings with a similar architectural slant, with the emphasis placed on symbolism, emblematic of the enhanced power of the British in India.

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The Last of the Augustans: Lord Curzon and Indian Architecture
Linstrum, Derek
Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997, pp. 24-36 [Also in The Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta: Conception, Collections, Conservation edited by Philippa Vaughan; Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997; ISBN: 81-85026-38-6, pp. 24-36]

Curzon's own considerable contribution to the country's architectural heritage is discussed. Brought up from birth as the prospective heir of Kedleston, one of the finest Palladian homes in England, with famous Neoclassical interiors, Curzon had an innate appreciation of Classical architecture which predisposed him to feel affinity with Calcutta – the "city of palaces". A domed Classical building seems to have been an idea fixed in his mind, which, combined with the fact that he had lost his heart to the Taj Mahal, resulted in the magnificent design of the Victoria Memorial. Curzon's larger role in caring for India's historic monuments and even achieving legislation to conserve them, is described at some length.

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India and the European Cultural Inheritance: the Victoria Memorial Hall
Gupta, Narayani
Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997, pp. 37-47 [Also in The Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta: Conception, Collections, Conservation edited by Philippa Vaughan; Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997; ISBN: 81-85026-38-6, pp. 37-47]

The first museums in India were designed by the British, as a means of educating people. Thus, when it came about that Curzon was chosen to find an appropriate way to immortalize Queen Victoria, it was natural that he would think of a museum redolent with symbols of Empire. After 1947, though, the state government saw the Victoria Memorial as projecting an incomplete history and added a gallery of portraits of "national leaders", followed by the evocative Calcutta Gallery. Safe under her great dome, Queen Victoria continued to stand, unlike most other examples of British statuary which were replaced by Indian memorial figures. With time, Calcutta has not only come to terms with its British past, it has begun generating nostalgia for the colonial legacy since the time of its tercentenary celebrations.

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Curzon's "National Gallery": The Art Collections
Swallow, Deborah
Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997, pp. 48-65 [Also in The Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta: Conception, Collections, Conservation edited by Philippa Vaughan; Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997; ISBN: 81-85026-38-6, pp. 48-65]

Britain's relationship with the elite of India, whose cooperation had been crucial to the management of the Indian empire, was honoured in galleries gracing the art collections within the Victoria Memorial. Together with those of the British, portraits, busts, statues, jewelled items, weapons, letters, coins and other objects d'art from India were selected to provide an exceptional record of the significant interaction between Britain and India. Initiated at the height of imperial power at the turn of the 20th century and largely assembled under Curzon's guiding hand, the collections are striking testimony to his confidence in Britain's achievements even as the Indian empire was coming to an end.

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New Insights through Restoration: Oil Paintings of India by European Masters circa 1760-1830
Featherstone, Rupert
Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997, pp. 66-80 [Also in The Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta: Conception, Collections, Conservation edited by Philippa Vaughan; Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997; ISBN: 81-85026-38-6, pp. 66-80]

The article discusses specific problems and solutions facing the Victoria Memorial collection of oil paintings by European Masters. The most urgent concern for the Calcutta Tercentenary Trust in 1990 was to ensure the structural well-being of these works. The processes of cleaning, varnish, and overpaint removal were carried out, among other methods of treatment to ensure survival of the masterpieces. The process of "restoration" follows the completion of structural treatment. The importance of training further skilled personnel to work on monitoring the condition of the restored paintings is stressed.

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Notes
Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997, pp. 81-94
Articles on Shri-Vaishnavism and the Vijayanagara kingdom in the mid-16th century by Anila Verghese and on Christopher Webb Smith's drawings of Indian birds by Jagmohan Mahajan. The former article examines the role played by one family of Telugu chiefs of the Aravidu clan as propagators of Shri-Vaishnavism and benefactors of temples. Inscriptions and portrait sculptures offer evidence and are studied at length; the second article notes that Webb Smith was a pioneer in the orderly study of Indian birds. The activities of the lithographic press at Patna, in the context of lithographs of his bird studies are discussed too.
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Newsletters
Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997, pp. 95-102
John Suidmak writes on the Khmer art exhibition held in Paris and on recent auctions of indian art in London; Tushara Bindu Gude reviews exhibitions in the USA commemorating the 50th year of Independence including one on the art of Kotah and Cooking for the Gods.
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Book Reviews
Vol. 49 No. 2, December 1997, pp. 103-107

The Divine and Demoniac: Mahisa's Heroic Struggle with Durga by Carmel Berkson and Devi: Goddess of India edited by John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff, reviewed by Pratapaditya Pal; The Flamed-Mosaic, Indian Contemporary Painting by Neville Tuli reviewed by Ratan Parimoo.

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