A 350-year-old cloth painting depicts an elaborate procession — king Abdullah Qutb Shah, who reigned in the 1600s, advances into the Golconda kingdom with horses, elephants, soldiers and a palanquin. The once-damanged painting, known for its distinctive influences from Chalukyan, Timurid, Mughal, Deccani, Maratha and European forms, has now been restored. You can see it among 50 conserved works this weekend, a collection that spans 5,000 years of Indian history.
Hosted by the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), an exhibition titled Conserving the Collection features 50 artworks — paintings; and terracotta, stone, metal and ivory sculptures.
The oldest artefacts on display are a terracotta grain-storing pot and toy cart dating back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. A 1962 VS Gaitonde painting ends the trajectory. The pieces have been restored by the museum’s state-of-the-art conservation lab over the past 14 months.
“This is the first-of-its-kind exhibition in the country, which highlights conservation processes and techniques,” says Anupam Sah, head of the conservation centre.
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The Deccani painting mentioned above had water stains all over it. The powdery paint was peeling off. “Even if we tried to touch it, the paint would come off,” says Sah. To restore the work, the centre used a medical nebulizer, a device used to administer medication in the form of mist. “The mist consolidated all the paint. Then we could start work on the piece,” adds Sah.
To restore this cloth painting from the 1600s, the conservation lab used a nebuliser — a device used to administer medication in the form of a mist — to consolidate the paint.
Another interesting work is that of Buddha, dating back to the period 300 BC to 1200 BC. Made of stucco, a mixture of lime and sand, it is among the few idols where Buddha is seen with a crown, seated on a pedestal rather than the floor, says Sah. This work had dirt deposited on it; it had to be cleaned using laser beams. “It is intriguing that even at the time, the measurements to make the stucco mixture was standardised. One part lime and two-and-a-half part sand was a universally practiced ration,” adds Sah.
A 2,250-year-old basalt-stone Ashokan edict, which depicts the importance given to slaves and revere teachers in Brahmi, is also on display, recovered from Nallasopara, Mumbai. A hand-woven and embroidered Chumba rumal or handkerchief is 200 years old, and was found with several holes in it. These were fixed using the Chumba style silk and weaves, using the kind of thread used in the era.
A book titled Conserving the Collection, authored by Sah, will also be released at the exhibition.
WHERE: Premchand Roychand Gallery, East Wing, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj vastu Sangrahalaya, MG Road, Fort