India’s first lithography presses, founded in the late nineteenth century, were devoted to printing images of Hindu gods and goddesses. These early lithographs were printed from limestone blocks with images hand-drawn on as many blocks as there were colors to be printed. The stones, each inked in one color, were then printed in succession. By the late 1930’s to mid 1940’s this technique was replaced by photo-offset printing.
In India today one sees god prints everywhere, in tiny tea stands, on taxi dashboards, tied to the handle bars of rickshaws and bicycles, nailed to tree shrines, as well as in all Hindu shops and homes. These are not just images of gods, they are gods! During puja (worship) the gods are invited to descend into their printed images and are treated as guests. Offerings of fruit, flowers, and sweets are placed before these prints, prayers are chanted to them, incense burned for them, and garlands of marigolds are hung around their frames.
Early prints in good condition are extremely rare. The tradition in India is to frame prints so they are pressed flush against the glass (this is very bad because paper absorbs humidity and needs an air space to dry). Prints which have been framed for 100 years or more, having gone through as many monsoons (with months of 100% humidity), generally have rippled paper, moisture stains, darkened varnish, patches of white mold, and sometimes areas which are stuck to the glass. Framers routinely trimmed the borders off prints and sometimes glued them down to boards (and still do). Many hung on bright sunny walls for years and are now extremely faded. Tears and holes where paper has been eaten by bugs and worms are common, etc. Through years of hard work we are proud to have formed one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of important 19th and early 20th century Hindu mythological prints.
Prints from our collection have been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, The Davis Museum at Wellesley College, The Library of Congress, and The Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas.
If you would like to visit us to see our collection of prints for sale, or to see our personal collection, please email or give us a call.
Wishing you all the best,
Mark Baron & Elise Boisanté