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Rembrandt visits Mumbai

The long history of artistic exchange between India & the Netherlands - celebrating 400 years of shared cultural heritage

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum is nestled in Kala Ghoda, Mumbai. A beautiful mix of Victorian-Gothic and Art-Deco, I used to be a frequent visitor during my art school days – usually just to practice sketching one of their 70,000 artefacts.

The year 2019 marks the 350th death anniversary of Dutch artist Rembrandt and saw CSMVS partnering with the Rijksmuseum for the very first time for the exhibition ‘India and the Netherlands in the Age of Rembrandt’.

When the Dutch East India Company was established in 1602, it opened its factories in Coromandel, Gujrat, Bengal and the Malabar Coast. This simulated a curiosity for other cultures and there arose a fascinating artistic dialogue between India and the Netherlands.

Rembrandt Van Rijn, the prolific Dutch draughtsman, painter and printmaker was an avid collector. His collection contained several Mughal miniatures that had flooded the market and used them as study material in the 1650s. They gave him the opportunity to study and develop a new style – the 2 paintings showcased at the exhibit today are clearly inspired by the Indian miniatures.

Indian painters such as Kesu Das were equally enthralled by Dutch prints that had reached the subcontinent through Jesuit missionaries. Elements of perspective, spatial depth and attention to musculature from Flemish prints (top image) began to influence his art (bottom image).

What is truly noteworthy is the spirit of collaboration between CSMVS and the Rijksmuseum to make this exhibit possible – we even got to create our own Rembrandt etching outside the gallery and experience the style and technique first hand. Something I’m sure even my 7 year daughter would genuinely enjoy.

Highly recommended for both adults and children – this exhibit ends on the 16th of December 2019.

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