This album is one of two volumes that contain botanical paintings, intricate line drawings and vibrant watercolours of Hindu deities in the South Indian style.

The manuscript

This early 19th century album contains a collation of 122 paintings and drawings of Hindu iconography and architecture that include pencil sketches, black ink line drawings and paintings by Indian artists using thick washes of opaque watercolour and metallic paints to create colourful renditions of the deities from the Hindu pantheon. It also contains botanical paintings of flowers such as the lotus, hibiscus and jasmine flower, used as part of religious ceremonies and rituals in temples for the deities pictured in the album.

This collection was compiled by Reverend William Malkin (1791–1874) during his time as a chaplain in South India as part of the British East India Company, from 1816–1832. Reverend Malkin’s extensive notes that accompany this album (see Or 1276 and Or 1277) show a keen interest in Hindu religious practice and iconography.

Why is it so important?

The paintings in this album are typical of a South Indian style of painting that emerged in the 18th and early 19th century whereby images of Hindu deities were created in large numbers for commercial purposes. However, the combination of botanical paintings and religious iconography suggests a practical as well as decorative purpose to this album.