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A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns and the European Image of India 1760-1824
     

A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns and the European Image of India 1760-1824

by Robert L. Hardgrave
 

The Flemish artist Francois Balthazar Solvyns, who lived in Calcutta from 1791 to 1803, is little known, but his collection of etchings of the Hindus provide a rich and compelling portrait of India two hundred years ago. These remarkable prints, depicting the people of Bengal in their occupations, festivals, and daily life, and the accompanying descriptive text,

Overview

The Flemish artist Francois Balthazar Solvyns, who lived in Calcutta from 1791 to 1803, is little known, but his collection of etchings of the Hindus provide a rich and compelling portrait of India two hundred years ago. These remarkable prints, depicting the people of Bengal in their occupations, festivals, and daily life, and the accompanying descriptive text, are only available in rare book collections and have rarely been referred to by scholars of Indian culture and history. In Part I of this lavishly illustrated volume, Robert Hardgrave introduces Solvyn's life and work. Part II reproduces Solvyn's etchings and descriptions, with Hardgrave's detailed commentary. This book will make these invaluable images and writings generally available for the first time. It will be an important resource for those in South Asian studies and well as those interested in European artists in India and the European representation of the "other."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A superb scholarly edition fascinating and definitive. This deeply researched and lavishly produced volume is a tribute to an artist who was more than an Orientalist. Hardgrave's ardent and meticulous scholarship has succeeded in restoring Solvyns' deserved reputation. A Portrait of the Hindus will be an essential purchase for all university libraries with any coverage of South Asia and will be cherished by lovers of fine book production." —Times Higher Education Supplement

"Solvyns appears as an artist of unflinching integrity and a man out of his time, international in an insular age. Here was a Dutchman with a Biblical first name of Persian origin and a passion for India, and the only European painter to venture into Calcutta's squalid and dangerous native quarter to confront his subjects face-to-face. An oddly appealing figure, there is nothing about him that you will not find in Hardgrave's massive and definitive tome."—The Hindu

"A Rich mixture that illustrates the vibrancy of life in late 18th-century British India.... Highly Recommended."—Choice

"Above all else, this is an enormously enjoyable book. The drawings are exquisitely reproduced, which contributes to the feeling of being carried back into that early colonial period when the Europeans still felt themselves to be part of India. But this is also a work of prodigious scholarship from which I got more than simply vicarious enjoyment. There is such strong continuity in Bengali culture over these two centuries that the past is readily recognizable from the present, and yet the pre-1857 context is never absent." —Ralph W. Nicholas, President, American Institute of Indian Studies

"The Paris-trained Flemish artist Balthazar Solvyns brought an Enlightenment sensibility to India, where he spent the 1790s producing a remarkably detailed record of what Bengal looked like. Until now far less well known than such British Orientalists as Sir William Jones, Solvyns convincingly emerges here as a major eighteenth century practitioner of systematic ethnography, and the best to focus on Bengal. All of Solvyn's Bengal images are beautifully reproduced, alongside Solvyns' eccentric but valuable commentaries. A splendidly realized presentation of imaginative and thorough research by the well-known American scholar Robert Hardgrave, Jr." — Francis G. Hutchins, author of The Illusion of Permanence and other books on India.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195220414
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
02/28/2004
Series:
South Asia Research Series
Pages:
568
Product dimensions:
12.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.60(d)

Meet the Author

University of Texas, Austin (Emeritus)

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