'Hindu' stamp

jkirk jkirk at SPRO.NET
Sat Mar 11 16:17:16 UTC 2006

If this painting is in a Mumbai gallery, does it not suggest that it was 
painted in India by an Indian artist? My guess (it's only that)  is that it 
was painted by a Christian artist,
perhaps wanting to indicate conversion, or just wanting to show the holy 
family as Indians.  I wonder why the Royal Mail never gave the artist's 
name. Knowing the name would allow for a more persuasive "reading" of this 
picture. Presumably it was signed, but then perhaps it was not.

The tilak on the man's forehead could be a slim version of a Vaisnava mark 
in that it's vertical, but very attenuated and not typical. (Strikes me as 
an artist's fancy.) (It's certainly not a full fledged Vaisnava tilak mark). 
The general style of the picture strikes me as 10th-early 20th c, along the 
lines of Chughtai or the Bengal School.

The Virgin and Child (no tilaks) were represented in 16th c and later Mughal 
art and interior decoration (ceiling paintings). These representations were 
inspired by the importation of holy family pictures by missionaries from 
Europe, some of whom made
it to the court of Akbar and also to later courts. That tilaks were applied 
in this case is a weird feature, considering the general run of such 
depictions in India. It might have merely been an idiosyncrasy of the 

An interesting mystery unless someone comes forward with the artist's name 
and the name of the gallery, where some record giving provenance might be 

Here you can see a Vaisnava tilak photo and a bit about the mark
Here a Shaivite tilaka mark and discussion

Generally speaking, Vaisnava marks are two verticals, often in a V shape, 
and Shaiva marks are three horizontal lines. Sorry I don't know of any 
specific scholarly study of these.
Joanna Kirkpatrick

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list