Soboleva E. S. The treasures of the Indian maharajas (according to the Meerwarths’ photocollections)
Elena S. SOBOLEVA — Candidate of Historical Sciences, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia, Saint Petersburg)
ABSTRACT. The collections brought by the Meerwarth expedition of 1914–1918 include photographic materials on several private collections and museum in South Asia. In the MAE collection № 3078, the negatives were revealed shot in the Treasuries of the Maharaja of Pudukkottai Sri Brabadamba Das Raja Martanda Bhairava Tondaiman Bahadur and the Maharaja of Travancore Rama Varma Sri Mulam Thirunal VI. The negatives capture the state regalia, jewels, status objects, offerings, symbols of monarchies of South India, as well as unique works of decorative art produced by Indian masters. These items had been in private and state ownership and were never published. For the Indian subjects, the context of decorations on these objects had a paramount importance — symbols (primarily elements of the family coat of arms), characters (deities, heroes of Indian mythology), landscapes (forests, backwaters) and buildings, scenes (hunting, entertainment, grand trips of Maharajah). The negatives depict the most important Travankor rituals (weighing the ruler on the scales), political and religious symbols (Maharaja’s palace, Sri Padmanabhaswami’s temple and the image of its main deity — Vishnu in a mystical dream), the portraits of members of the dynasty. In the British gifts, the images are not so diverse, but in the texts of the inscriptions the full official title of the Maharaja is represented. Previously, only few photographic prints and transparencies were taken from these negatives. This category of the MAE photographic materials is to be introduced into scientific circulation.
KEYWORDS: India, Malabar coast, history, ethnology, art, Meerwarth, Tondaiman, Varma, MAE
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