Kali thumbnail 1
Kali thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
South Asia, Room 41

Kali

Painting
ca. 1865 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Painted in opaque watercolour on paper, with tin alloy details. This image of the Goddess Kali is an aspect of the Hindu deity in her most terrifying form. Here she is depicted as black skinned, four armed with her tongue out and blood dripping from her mouth, wearing a garland of human heads. She has the third eye on her forehead. The deity holds her upper right hand in abhoy-mudra and the lower right hand in baroda-mudra. In her lower left hand she holds a severed head of an asur (demon) and in her upper left hand she holds a kharga, sacrificial axe. The deity is depicted in one hand as a benevolent goddess and on the other as fearsome. The image is elaborately ornated in Kalighat style in tin alloy with necklace, ear and nose rings, amulets and bracelets. The image is also adorned with a tiara.

The picture is in watercolour on paper with lithographed outlines. Specially apparent in the garland of heads, uncoloured, appearing through the upper wash of yellow.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Painted in opaque watercolour on paper
Brief Description
Painting, Kali, opaque watercolour and tin alloy on paper, Kalighat, Kolkata, ca. 1865
Physical Description
Painted in opaque watercolour on paper, with tin alloy details. This image of the Goddess Kali is an aspect of the Hindu deity in her most terrifying form. Here she is depicted as black skinned, four armed with her tongue out and blood dripping from her mouth, wearing a garland of human heads. She has the third eye on her forehead. The deity holds her upper right hand in abhoy-mudra and the lower right hand in baroda-mudra. In her lower left hand she holds a severed head of an asur (demon) and in her upper left hand she holds a kharga, sacrificial axe. The deity is depicted in one hand as a benevolent goddess and on the other as fearsome. The image is elaborately ornated in Kalighat style in tin alloy with necklace, ear and nose rings, amulets and bracelets. The image is also adorned with a tiara.



The picture is in watercolour on paper with lithographed outlines. Specially apparent in the garland of heads, uncoloured, appearing through the upper wash of yellow.
Dimensions
  • Height: 17.5in
  • Width: 11in
Content description
Kali, the Hindu deity, in her most terrifying form.
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
Debi Kally in English is written on top left corner.
Object history


Rawson, Philip S., Hayward Gallery and Arts Council of Great Britain. Tantra. Hayward Gallery, London 30 September-7 November 1971. London, Arts Council of Great Britain, [1971]. p. 43, no. 176.



Kali is the female consort of Shiva, the Hindu god of both creation and destruction. It was in honour of the Goddess Kali that the temple at Kalighat in the suburbs of Calcutta was dedicated and live animals are sacrificed daily to the deity. This image would have been sold as the main pilgrim souvenir from artists' stalls around the famous shrine.



Kali is a form of Durga and considered as Shakti, the Goddess of Strength. This picture is a replica of the image which is worshipped inside the Kalighat temple. The format of the image has influence and origin in Bengal tribal culture. Kalighat is considered by Bengali Hindus as a 'Pitasthan' and Sati's toes were supposed to have fallen at this site.



Purchased from Mrs H. Wagner in 1955.



Historical significance: Calcutta was recognised as the capital of British India from 1833-1912. By the 1830s, artists had arrived in Calcutta from rural villages in Bengal and began to produce paintings that reflected the local history, mythology, customs and conflicts of a colonised society. As a popular art form, these artists are recognised for their use of brilliant colour, simplified images and swift brushstrokes that became the hall mark of Kalighat painting in the 19th and early 20th century.
Subjects depicted
Bibliographic References
  • Sinha, Suhashini, and Panda, C, eds. Kalighat Paintings from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2012. ISBN 1851776656.pps. 44-45 and p. 36 (detail) fig.4.6
  • Barnard, Nick: Arts of Asia, vol. 45, no. 5, September - October 2015, "The Parasol Foundation Trust Programme: digitising and cataloguing the V&A's South Asian collection.", p.105, pl. 18.
  • Kalighat paintings : a catalogue and introduction / by W.G. Archer. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1971 Number: 0112900291 :
  • Kalighat paintings : a catalogue and introduction / by W.G. Archer. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1971 Number: 0112900291 :pl. no. 16, cat. no. 9,ii: p.53.
Collection
Accession Number
IS.3-1955

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record createdSeptember 16, 2002
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