Portraits

Memories of the Water Bearer

To a weary traveller or parched soldier in 19th-century India, there was perhaps no sight as welcome as the approach of a bhishti. A quick untwisting of the mouth of the mashaq slung over his shoulder, and cool clear water would splash into a grateful cupped palm.

Thakore Sahib of Morvi with Mahendrasingh, Prince of Morvi

This is a studio portrait of Thakur Sahib Maharaja Lakhdirji Waghji and the young Mahendrasingh of Morvi. They represent two generations of the Jadeja Rajputs who ruled the state of Morvi on the Kathiawar peninsula. In 1807, the East India Company declared the state of Morvi a British protectorate, a system by which local rulers… Read more »

Jagatjit Singh, Maharaja of Kapurthala

This is a portrait of Jagatjit Singh, Maharaja of Kapurthala from the album Delhi Coronation Durbar, 1st January 1903 by Wiele and Klein. Jagatjit Singh (1872-1949) carried his royal Sikh heritage with pride. He was the descendant of Sardar Jassa Singh, founder of the Ahluwalia dynasty, who led the various misls or ancestral warrior clans… Read more »

Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir

This is a Carte de Visite portrait of  the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Ranbir Singh (1830-1885). After the decline of the Mughals, power over Jammu was seized briefly by the Afghan Durrani dynasty who were defeated in the early 19th-century by the armies of the Lion of Punjab aka Ranjit Singh, the first Maharaja… Read more »

Postcards from Madras

Postcards began at the end of the 19th century as a new kind of crossover between photography and the popular print market. In a collaboration with Picture Postcard Empire, we bring you a virtual exhibition of intriguing postcards from the city of Madras

reimagine II

Inside the studios and minds of seven contemporary artists who have interpreted and re-imagined objects from our collection to tell us stories in their unique styles

Whose land is it anyway?

We examine the themes presented in Saju Kunhan’s work as they are represented in our collection of rare 19th-century portraits, war photography, engravings, contemporary art and Warli painting

Family Portraiture: An attempt at reading a personal album

We dive into a study of family portraiture with a set of three albums belonging to John Sinclair, the First Lord Pentland, and the Governor of Madras between 1912 and 1919—and draw out the themes that emerge from this treasure trove of 20th-century photography

Parallel Histories: Personal Photos as a Political Statement

Powerful pieces of imagery from personal albums are setting down in history what is otherwise undocumented and therefore unacknowledged, acting as the nuanced subtext that is drastically missing from our public rhetoric. We talk to the curators of these intimate archives

Portraits of a Pandemic

We asked photographers and artists how they interpreted the seasons of 2020 through their work to paint a portrait of an extraordinary year

Early Photography

A 21st-century take on vintage photography techniques like platinum prints, stereoscopic photos and cyanotypes. Plus, an intriguing trail of portraits of Indian women from the Caribbean

People of India

“A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.” As the chief photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair in the early 1900s, Edward Steichen knew what he was talking about. Portraiture is the result of a dynamic collaboration between photographer and model, both of whom colour the final frame with… Read more »

Portrait of an Unidentified Nobleman, Mewar

This is a cabinet card portrait of an unidentified noble of Mewar in his traditional garb. His turban is tilted to his left and fixed with ornamental jewels. He is also wearing earrings and necklaces. Read about Indian kings and their fabulous jewels here. On the back of the photograph is printed the name of… Read more »