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“For the Greater Glory of Indian Art”: The Life of an Endangered Art Treasure in Modern India

  • Tapati Guha–Thakurta (a1)

The essay narrates the biography of a single art object—acclaimed in recent history as a “masterpiece” of ancient Indian sculpture—to invoke the larger spectrum of practices and discourses that came to constitute the field of art history in modern India. It explores the shifting locations and aesthetic trajectories that marked the transformation of this artifact from a curious archaeological “antiquity” into a national “art-treasure” and icon of Indian femininity, and later even into “a travelling emissary of ancient Indian art and culture.” On the one hand, the spectrum of travels of this object provides an ideal instance for mapping over the twentieth century the changing colonial, national and international stature of Indian art. On the other hand, its career also pointedly reveals the clash of contending claims and the politics of “return” and “restitution” that have attended the nationalization and artistic consecration of many such objects.

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International Journal of Cultural Property
  • ISSN: 0940-7391
  • EISSN: 1465-7317
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-cultural-property
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