The Elegant Image is an exquisitely-crafted catalogue presenting an extraordinary collection of Indian bronzes. It had accompanied an exhibition in New Orleans, curated by the eminent Indian art historian, Dr Pratapaditya Pal. The remarkable works of art presented here have been collected over the course of three decades by Dr Siddharth Bhansali. Setting out a tasteful selection of these objects d'art, the exhibition and catalogue are a de facto the first survey of major schools of Indian bronzes.
It, says the author, is not just another catalogue of a private collection, but seeks to provide a meaningful introduction to the history of religious bronzes, created in the Indian subcontinent over fifteen centuries of the Common Era. All the objects, included here, were created in the Indian subcontinent (that now constitutes India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) between circa 1000 BCE and the 17th century. Relevantly, Indian metal technology has a long history of at least 5000-years – as is exemplified by the material excavated from the sites of the ancient Harappan Civilization (c. 2500 BCE).
Historically, these bronzes are important for their close association with the religious and artistic traditions of Indian Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. The volume -- primarily an art-historical publication – examines style, iconography, chronology, and other aspects of these images. The author has expressed his “personal aesthetic response (to these images), even though the principal motivation behind these works was piety rather than beauty”. With Dr Pal’s “scholarly consideration of the history of pan-Indian bronze production”, this volume – says Susan M. Taylor, Director, New Orleans Museum of Art -- will be a “lasting contribution to the field of Indian art history in particular, and art history in general”.
Pratapaditya Pal is the General Editor of Marg. Over a four-decade long academic career, he has organized numerous path-breaking exhibitions in the United States covering the arts of the Indian subcontinent, Himalaya and Southeast Asia.