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Volume 70 Number 2, December 2018–March 2019

Volume 70 Number 2

The Weight of a Petal: Ars Botanica
Edited by: Sita Reddy

Ars Botanica: Refiguring the Botanical Art Archive
Sita Reddy

Flowers in Mughal Architecture
Ebba Koch

Moochies, Gudigars and Other Chitrakars: Their Contribution to 19th-Century Botanical Art and Science
H.J. Noltie

Illustrating Plants at the Tanjore Court
Savithri Preetha Nair

 

NOTES ON MANUSCRIPTS

Jardin de Lorixa
Kapil Raj

The Gurney Herbal
Savithri Preetha Nair

Hortus Indicus Malabaricus
Sita Reddy

 

ARCHIVAL SPOTLIGHT

The Roxburgh Icones in the Kolkata Botanic Garden
Santhosh Kr. Sakhinala

The Botanical Gallery in the Indian Museum
Santhosh Kr. Sakhinala

Lalbagh Botanical Drawings
Suresh Jayaram

Marianne North's Sacred Hindu Plants at Kew Gardens
Michelle Payne

Joseph Dalton Hooker and Indian Botanical Art at Kew Gardens
Cam Sharp Jones

The Buchanan-Hamilton Collection of Botanical Drawings at the Linnean Society of London
H.J. Noltie and Mark Watson

The Hands that Painted Plants of the Coast of Coromandel
Meghan Lambert

Palms at the Blatter Herbarium
Lina Vincent

Harvard's Blaschka Glass Flowers
Rishika Mehrishi

Jagadish Chandra Bose and Plant Autographs
Emilia Terracciano

 

CONTEMPORARY BOTANICAL ART

Sunoj D., Rohini Devasher, Meena Subramaniam, Damodar Lal Gurjar, Mahaveer Swami,Waswo X. Waswo and R. Vijay

 

BOTANICAL ART EXHIBITIONS

The Lost Plants Archive
Ranjit Kandalgaonkar

Such Treasure and Rich Merchandize
Annamma Spudich

Botanical Dispersals in Ayurvedic Man
Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz

 

ARTIST'S PAGES

Run
Simryn Gill

Inside front cover and pages 1–9: Thematic ad-portfolio on Botanical Illustration Schools in the Himalaya
Sita Reddy

Thematic Ad-Portfolio: Himalayan Roots: Botanical Art Schools in the 21st Century
Reddy, Sita
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 2–9

This write-up features Hemlata Pradhan and Neera Joshi, two botanical artists based out of Kalimpong and Kathmandu respectively. It looks at their mission to spread ecological awareness in the Himalayas by training a younger generation of art and nature enthusiasts through the schools they have set up i.e. Himalayan Institute of Natural History Art and Studio Petals. The main thematic pages showcase their works as well as those of their students.

Editorial Note
Gupta, Latika
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, p. 12

The associate editor places this issue in the context of contemporary times, looking at the current relevance of botanical art studies within industries such as medicine, commerce, cosmetics, textiles and design. She also discusses the role of these images in generating ecological awareness at a juncture when we are witnessing rapid environmental change and must reassess our relationship with nature.

Introduction
Reddy, Sita
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 14–23

This opening essay defines the field of botanical art, poised between the worlds of science and aesthetics, and serving the purposes of utility and beauty. By bringing together art from the 16th century to the present day, dispersed across different countries and archives, a larger project of reunification is planned: one that will help us remember the many known and unknown hands that have drawn and painted these works and the indigenous communities who have contributed their knowledge to this field.

Flowers in Mughal Architecture
Koch, Ebba
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 24–33

By the 17th century, a predominantly floral decorative vocabulary had established itself as the mainstream ornament in the arts of the three great empires of the Muslim world: the Ottomans, the Safavids and the Mughals; it took precedence over the previously favoured geometrical patterns. This essay explores the Mughal fascination with botanical study and art, focusing in particular on Shah Jahan’s patronage and the new floral aesthetic that affected all art forms and objects and buildings during his reign.

Moochies, Gudigars and Other Chitrakars: Their Contribution to 19th-Century Botanical Art and Science
Noltie, H.J.
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 34–43

This essay explores three groups of botanical drawings in the collection of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. They were made for the Scottish East India Company surgeons Robert Wight, Alexander Gibson and Hugh Francis Clarke Cleghorn. In a bid to decolonize the archives, the writer shifts focus from the European commissioners of these works to the lesser-known Indian artists who produced them, highlighting their backgrounds and painting traditions. Thereby a larger argument is made to abandon the term “Company School Art” and use instead a more authentic term like “Indian Export Art” to describe this genre.

Illustrating Plants at the Tanjore Court
Nair, Savithri Preetha
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 44–51

Moochy artists from south India traditionally painted royal portraits and religious subjects in the miniature style for eager European patrons. At the turn of the 19th century, Raja Serfoji II of Tanjore encouraged them to adopt a “modern” hybrid style and turn to subjects of natural history. This essay aims to historically situate three albums of botanical art commissioned by the raja and bring to light a hitherto unknown agricultural manuscript predating these albums, all of which were illustrated by locals. It shows how the project of modernizing the Tanjore moochy, might be read as yet another facet of the Tanjore Enlightenment shaped up by the raja.

Jardin de Lorixa
Raj, Kapil
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 52–53

This article highlights a 17th-century French herbal on Indian plants that is today preserved in the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle’s library in Paris. It was created in Orissa for the French East India Company servant Nicolas L’Empereur who gleaned much knowledge from local fakirs. The writer compares the Jardin with older and contemporary European manuscripts on Asian natural history, analysing the style in which artists from Chandernagore were trained to illustrate its pages.

The Gurney Herbal
Nair, Savithri Preetha
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 54–57

This article brings to focus the Gurney herbal, a manuscript acquired by Hans Sloane in the latter part of the 17th century and now in the collection of the British Library. So far, it is the earliest known illustrated English work on the plants of the East Indies, including the coast of Coromandel. Pre-dating or contemporaneous with similar projects commissioned by the Dutch and French East India Companies, this document remains an invaluable source not only for historians of science and medicine but also for scholars of botanical art.

Hortus Indicus Malabaricus
Reddy, Sita
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 58–63

The Hortus Indicus Malabaricus is a monumental 12-volume illustrated herbal describing 740 Malabar plants that was compiled by Dutch East India Company official Hendrik Van Reede in the 17th century. This article traces the various processes that went into the making of this manuscript, showing how Dutch military artists interacted with local scholars to create pen-and-ink drawings that were later converted into copperplate engravings drawing on different styles.

The Roxburgh Icones in the Kolkata Botanic Gardens
Sakhinala, Santhosh Kr.
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 64–67

This essay focuses on a set of botanical drawings called the Roxburgh Icones produced between 1776 and 1813 at the Calcutta botanic garden under the supervision of its Superintendent, the East India Company Naturalist William Roxburgh. It highlights the aesthetics behind these images whereby traditional techniques of miniature painting came to serve the functional requirements of scientific diagrams. The pages are pictorial notations that convey taxonomic information without invoking the unity of a picture.

The Botanical Gallery in the Indian Museum
Sakhinala, Santhosh Kr.
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 68–69

This article briefly traces the history of the Botanical Gallery in the Indian Museum, Kolkata. The gallery displays the colonial accumulation and organization of “economic botany” encased in Victorian-era glass vitrines. It also has dioramas that narrates the industrial processes of transformation of raw botanical materials into commercial products. The collection showcases the empire’s utilitarian approach to nature and attempts to establish authority over the country’s resources.

Lalbagh Botanical Drawings
Jayaram, Suresh
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 70–72

Over centuries, Bangalore’s Lalbagh has been the site of various political ambitions and agendas. Originally part of Tipu Sultan’s project to build a house of exotic plant species, it was later turned into a colonial garden and today houses an agri-horticultural laboratory. This essay focuses on a set of botanical illustrations that were made by Cheluviah Raju under Superintendent John Cameron between 1884 and 1923 to highlight the garden’s collection. These reveal early attempts in the region to study nature and natural history through a modernist lens.

Marianne North’s Sacred Hindu Plants at Kew Gardens
Payne, Michelle
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 73–76

Marianne North was a British traveller and artist who visited India in the late 1870s during which time she painted various indigenous plants and flowers. These she wished to bring out as a book in collaboration with south India-based Sanskrit scholar Arthur Coke Burnell. However the project never reached publication stage due to Burnell’s premature death. This article revisits certain works produced in this period that are a part of a subset of 28 paintings preserved today in a gallery named after North at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Joseph Dalton Hooker and Indian Botanical Art at Kew Gardens
Jones, Cam Sharp
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 77–80

This article explores the botanical illustrations produced by Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker during his travels in Sikkim and the Himalayan regions in the 19th century. Hooker’s work had visible impacts on British and European understanding of the diversity of Indian flora. His field-sketches, especially those of the rhododendrons, later adapted by the lithographer Walter Hood Fitch, established these wondrous blooms as staples of British horticulture.

The Buchanan-Hamilton Collection of Drawings at the Linnean Society of London
Noltie, H.J. and Watson, M.F.
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 81–84

Discussed here is a collection of 19th-century Indian botanical drawings made for Francis Buchanan-Hamilton of the East India Company. These are now housed in the library of the Linnean Society of London. The drawings were made, possibly by the Bengali artist Haludar, during two major expeditions led by Buchanan-Hamilton—to Mysore in 1800–01, and to Nepal in 1802–23.

The Hands that Painted Plants of the Coast of Coromandel
Lambert, Meghan
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 85–88

This essay looks at three lavish volumes of William Roxburgh’s Plants of the Coast of Coromandel, published in 1795–1819, now housed in London’s Wellcome Collection. Roxburgh, a Scottish surgeon with the East India Company, commissioned local Indian artists, identities of whom remain largely anonymous. These life-size hand-coloured copperplate engravings acted as specimens when herbaria were not available. The collection highlights the Company’s interest in botanical research in India and indicates the influence and sheer scale of the colonial project.

Palms at the Blatter Herbarium
Vincent, Lina
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 89–91

The Blatter Herbarium established by Swiss Jesuit Father Ethelbert Blatter at St Xavier’s College, Bombay, in the early 20th century, contains a rich collection of botanical prints. Taking inspiration from his remarkable documentation of palms, this essay discusses certain iconic works such as Adriaen Van Reede’s Hortus Indicus Malabaricus and Cristobal Acosta’s Tractado de las drogas y medicinas de la Indias Orientales. Referring to the palm illustrations, the text attempts to draw a relationship between different techniques of printmaking.

Harvard’s Blashcka Glass Flowers
Mehrishi, Rishika
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 92–93

This piece covers Harvard University’s Blaschka Glass Flower collection, with a focus on the Mangifera indica (mango) model that the father-son duo of Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka created in 1895. Though Mangifera indica is native to the Indian subcontinent, Rudolph Blaschka encountered it in Jamaica and decided to include it among the 4,000 botanical glass models that the Blaschkas made exclusively for Harvard. Once popular for their pedagogical use, the models are now marvelled at for their verisimilitude and unmatched artistry.

Jagadish Chandra Bose and Plant Autographs
Terracciano, Emilia
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 94–97

Bengali polymath Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858–1937) is best known for his pioneering contributions to the fields of microwave physics, optics, radio, wireless telegraphy and science fiction. Bose was also a botanist and plant physiologist whose experiments led him to merge the historically separate disciplines—botany and physics—to develop the nascent field of biophysics. Amongst the first to advocate the view that plants are active and exploratory organisms, he believed that vegetal life was the shadow of human life. This essay explores Bose’s own remarkable tuning into nature and the impact that his views and discoveries had on visual artists of that time.

Contemporary Botanical Art
Sunoj D., Rohini Devasher, Meena Subramaniam, Damodar Lal Gurjar, Mahaveer Swami, Waswo X. Waswo and R. Vijay
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 98–109

In this section, contemporary artists who work with botanical subjects discuss their sources of inspiration, ideas and techniques. What we find is an array of works showcasing traditional and contemporary styles via pen-and-ink sketches, paintings and collages and even video images.

The Lost Plants Archive
Kandalgaonkar, Ranjit
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 110–111

As part of the project Geographies of Lost Consumption, the writer has explored the loss of flora and fauna across various spaces in Mumbai over the last many years due to citywide reclamation of land. The research resulted in a set of art installations at the Bombay Natural History Society and Directorate of Archives which are discussed over here.

Such Treasure and Rich Merchandize
Spudich, Anna
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 112–113

In 2008, the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS)/TIFR, Bangalore, hosted a pioneering exhibition Such Treasure and Rich Merchandize that focused on European books that documented Indian medical and botanical knowledge from the 16th–18th centuries. This article highlights works displayed at that exhibition that contained reproductions of selected botanical illustrations from the original Latin editions of the Hortus Indicus Malabaricus.

Botanical Dispersals in Ayurvedic Man
Muñoz, Bárbara Rodríguez
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 114–115

This article reviews the Wellcome Collection’s 2017 exhibition Ayurvedic Man: Encounters in Indian Medicine that looked at the use of Indian medicinal plants and associated knowledge in the 20th-century manufacture of Western pharmaceuticals. Through a collection of botanical art, South Asian anatomical maps, Kalighat paintings and medicinal artefacts, the exhibition also explored and critiqued narratives of healing and their cultural meanings.

Run
Gill, Simryn
Vol. 70 No. 2, December 2018–March 2019, pp. 116–119

In these specially designed artist pages, Simryn Gill revisits her photographs from a trip to the Banda Islands in Indonesia, where the Portuguese and the Dutch clear-felled forests to make nutmeg plantations in the 16th and 17th centuries. Gill combines these images, many being shown for the first time, with an account of the journey laid on the pages in a series of discrete free floating paragraphs, making an archipelago of image and text.