Baltazard Solvyns etchings from the 1790s place “The Hindus” in Delhi

Notably, Solvyns traveled to India in the hope of making a fortune and, while doing odd jobs, embarked on a project to produce a comprehensive study on “Hindu manners, customs and clothing. “.

“The first edition, containing 250 hand-colored etchings, was published in Calcutta (Kolkata) between 1796 and 1799. It had no commercial success and Solvyns returned to Europe. Intrepid by its failure in 1808-12 , he published in Paris a second, enlarged edition, differently arranged, in four volumes, with a bilingual descriptive text in French and in English, and a few additional plates, for a total of 288. This is the work we are exhibiting here, for the first time as a complete set, “says DAG.

Exploring an extraordinarily detailed and intimate portrait of a people at one point in history, “The Hindus” includes representatives of all professions and all levels of Indian society and depicts sacred festivals and rites; shows us animals, birds and insects, trees and crops; records all the different types of boats, cars and musical instruments that were in common use at the time.

“Every person and object is seen very closely, with a keen and curious eye, and is shown, sometimes with wit, sometimes with melancholy grandeur.”

Drishyakala, an art museum opened by the DAG and the Archaeological Survey of India in 2019, has also previously exhibited a comprehensive set of ‘Oriental Landscapes’, 144 aquatints of Indian architecture and landscapes, published by English landscape painters. Thomas and William Daniell between 1795 and 1808. “It was also an exercise which involved showing the Indian public a view of the country as seen and intended for Western eyes.” Compared to Daniell’s picturesque depictions of Indian landscapes and buildings, Solvyns focuses on ordinary people and his images are often in a dark mood.

The exhibition is curated by Giles Tillotson, Senior Vice President, Exhibitions and Publications at DAG, and runs until August 20.

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at [email protected])

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