Sobha Singh’s Art

‘an accomplished but somewhat sugary style that reminds us of Edmund Dulac’, as Partha Mitter describes it (The Triumph of Modernism: India’s artists and the avant-garde 1922-1947, London 2007, p. 146)……approximate date for the pictures….between 1931 and 1941. X.

Sobha Singh, Wine Drinking.

Pic 2, 3 and 4 – click for larger view and closer details of the hair ornaments (jhoomar and mathapatti), the jewelled fringe for the choli, waist sash and the somewhat unusually shaped payal.

The other painting (Devotee) has simpler details, the clothing is *very* diaphanous here which is kind of common in some of the popular art of the 1920s and 1930s (e.g. Hemen Mazumdar).

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Mulgaokar’s art

Filmy costumes for mythological/historical figures in Raghuvir Mulgaokar’s 1953 paintings/calendar art.

Pic 1: Mastani  – this outfit aka a kameez that has a tight fitted bodice and skirt and the jhoomar for the hair is both particular to films and also late 19th century.
Pic 2 (below pic 1): Padmini – kind of Hindi film does Rajasthani costumes.
Pic 3: Devayani – a flowing dress with a girdle (or sometimes a sari) is often used to depict mythological figures.

Posted in 1950s, Art, Bollywood, churidar kameez, Costume, Courtesan, Culture, Dancer, Deccan, Film Costuming, ghaghra, historical costume, indian art, Indian Dress, Islamic style, Maharashtra, mid century, Paintings, Rajasthan, regional styles, Sari, vintage art, women in art | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dancers (Sudhir Khastgir)

For awhile (in the 50s I think), Sudhir Khastgir painted a number of dancing figures. Here are two:

Sudhir Khastgir, Dancing Figure, 1962. The lower panels indicate the earrings and forehead ornament, a little bit of the knotted ponytail, bangles and the girdle.

khastgir1957Another painting by Khastagir (1957). Unfortunately I have lost the source and my notes on this.


Posted in 1950s, 1960s, Art, Bengal, Costume, Dance, Dancer, indian art, Indian Dress, Indian men, Indian Women, mid century, Paintings, Vintage, vintage art, vintage costume, Vintage Dress, women in art | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Costumes in NS Bendre’s Paintings

Part of a series on costumes as seen in Indian art.


Weaving had a special significance for Bendre, who taught it together with painting and papier mache while in Baroda in the 1950’s. He painted several works over the years that depict women engaged in different methods of weaving; from sitting at a loom or behind a spinning wheel. This painting from 1987 shows a young girl sitting at a loom that is typical of the weavers in Arunachal Pradesh. [X].

Note: So is the costume, especially the shawl.

Indian costumes in N.S. Bendre’s paintings: 1 & 2) bordered saris of Bengal and Central/Northern India 3) Kullu costume (X) 4) Western India 5) Kerala 6) the salwar-kameez.

Posted in 1980s, 20th century, Art, Bengal, Costume, Culture, Early 20th Century, Folk, indian art, Indian Dress, Indian men, mid century, North East India, regional styles, Vintage, vintage art, vintage costume, Weaving, Women, women in art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Costume Books

I have been reading a couple of books on Indian costumes and thought I would write a bit about two of them.

book1Queen Subada, Detail from Shahnamah, Sultanate School, 1450.

Costume Details:

Phiran: of transparent material, form-fitting and ankle length, has two embroidered vertical panels along the length and sleeves.
Odhni: of sheer material, fringed, draped over the head around the neck and shoulders.
Sulwar: tight fitting white pyjamas
Hairstyle: long, worn in a plait ending in a decorative tassel.
Hair ornaments: of pearls, have many strings and loops suspended from the head of the Queen.
Necklace: many stringed gold necklace edged with pearls, and a smaller necklace with a ruby pendant.
Bangles: of graded sizes of gold and pearls.
Baldric: gold and pearl baldric, like a chain, is worn over the right shoulder and under the left arm.
Anklets of gold and pearls.

Indian elements: odhni, bare feet, bare/visible torso, some of the ornaments.

From Roshen Alkazi’s Medieval Indian Costume (India and Central Asia). The tale referred to is the Shahnameh and the character is Sudabeh (I am assuming the name is modified in the Indian version). The illustrative style draws a bit on Jaina texts of the period.

This is a doorstopper of a book with great visuals and illustrations that covers an intermediate period of Indian history, starting with Mahmud of Ghazni and ending somewhere around the time of Babur. There aren’t too many costume resources for this period but Alkazi draws on Indian and foreign texts (largely Central Asia and Iran and both Islamic and Buddhist influences) to show the kinds of costumes that were prevalent and the intermingling of styles. It is a little more focussed on parts of India that came under Islamic rulers but covers a lot of ground.

Alkazi’s research was for theatre productions and it is really extensive. Some of the plays are listed at Natrang Pratishthan.

See also X, details of these costumes are also discussed in the book.

Posted in 1990s, 20th century, Accessories, Actor, Ancient India, antique, Art, Asia, Authors, Costume, Courtesan, Culture, Dancer, fashion, Hinduism, historical costume, historical dress, historical fashions, historical hairstyles, Illustration, indian art, Indian Dress, Indian History, Indian Illustrators, Indian Theatre, Indian Women, Jaina Literature, Jewellery, Medieval India, Sanskrit Drama, sari history, Theatre, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Music Post

From a series of posts I did the week of 13 July 2015-17 July 2015.

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Saraswati painted by Hishida Shunsō [X, X]

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Flute Player (1) and Esraj Player (2), Nandalal Bose.  Both were painted in 1937 and were commissioned by MK Gandhi for Indian National Congress Party meeting 1938, Haripura.

kkPlaying the veena, January 1956.Both blouse and sari are typical of the decade.

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Kesarbai Kerkar was born on 13 July in 1892. These beautiful screencaps from a piece on Kesarbai Kerkar featuring her great grand niece, Shalaka Kerkar.  Pic 1 includes a photograph of Kesarbai, probably taken in the 1910s (see also X). The song of pic 2 here.

Down South in the land of Tyagaraja, where the prevailing voices always had a chesty timbre, Lata clones sang shrieking into the night in every language. Even Bengali voices, which only a few years earlier reflected the honeyed textures of Kanan Bala, abandoned their inheritance and joined the Lata bandwagon.  Raghava Menon (1989) quoted in Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India, Peter Manuel.

A particular kind of female voice, best embodied by the Mangeshkar sisters, held sway in India for much of the latter half of the 20th century in so far as film music  was concerned.  The voices in the 30s and 40s are much more varied (and of course actresses often sang their own songs). In the latter half of the 20th century there are a few scattered singers who have distinctive voices but whose output was limited at least by way of film songs.

Some of the early singers are documented at womenonrecord.

In the photoset 1) The Karnataki sisters, Amirbai and Gauharbai 2)  singer and flautist M. Saraswathi 3) Geeta Dutt (well known but not as prolific as the Mangeshkar sisters 4) Kamala Sista and Sharda 5) Chhaya Ganguli.

As always the clothes and styling embody the decade 1) 1930s 2) 1940s 3) 1950s 4) 1960s 5) late 1970s/early 1980s.

Posted in 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 20th century, Culture, Early 20th Century, Folk, Folk Dance, Goddess, Hinduism, India, Indian Music, Indian Singers, Indian Women, Japanese art, Music, Paintings, photodivision, Photography, regional styles, Sari, Sari Blouse, Sets, South India, Vintage Blouse, Vintage Music, vintage photography, vintage sari, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Magazine Post


Covers of Chandamama Magazine. Pic 1: 1957, Pic 2: 1979, Pic 3: 1987 (Hindi), Pic 4: 1968 (Telugu), Pic 3: 1979 (Bengali), Pic 4: 1980 (Bengali),

Some of the covers really require a Women in Art History deconstruction (though no one can do it better than Mallory). The Urvashi of pic 5 is Nope, not taking you with me, Pic 6looks mighty pleased at her order delivery and Pic 5 is nope that long sheathed sword is that overcompensation. Even the Savitri of Pic 1 is like OK…. what fresh hell is this.

As someone on tumblr pointed out the illustrations are a little more lurid and voluptuous than those on Amar Chitra Katha.

Interestingly in the 1970s there are a number of covers that portray foreign stories. Though Chandamama (Uncle Moon) always carried a tales from afar kind of section it is rare to see a cover dedicated to the story but this seems to have been the norm in the 1970s before changing in the 1980s.

Anyone who has read Chandamama will also remember the serialised Vikram and Vetal  stories (vetala is commonly translated as vampire).  They are present in the 1950s Chandamamas (Plate 1) but the beginning sentence of Dark was the night etc. is seen from the late 70s editions onwards (Plate 2). The illustration is pretty consistent over the decades.

I do not think a Gupta emperor would have worn this Rajput ensemble but we will let that pass:)

Vintage Chandamama is available online here.

Posted in 1950s, 1970s, 1980s, Comics, Costume, Courtesan, Culture, Dancer, fashion, Goddess, historical costume, Illustration, indian art, Indian fashion, Indian Illustrators, Indian Mythology, Indian Tales, Magazine, Uncategorized, Vintage Illustration, Vintage Magazine | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment