Old World Values

There's something unfamiliar about the image of Chandni Chowk on display at Triveni Kala Sangam's Shridharani Art Gallery. The lithograph shows spacious streets aligned with neat houses, and people dressed in flowing robes or dhotis. This 1879 hand-coloured engraving by an unknown artist hangs in tandem with an engraving of the "Jumna Musjid", a black-and-white side view of the monument in 1876. There is none of the street chaos that exists today around the Old Delhi mosque. These works form a part of a collection of 16th to early 20th century prints, lithographs and etchings, titled "Hindoostan Revisited". Owned by Mumbai-based antique dealer, collector and art historian Dilnavaz Mehta, 70 of these works are on display.

"The exhibition, in a way, gives an idea about Delhi and since my aim is to increase awareness about the pieces, I keep a small description alongside every work," says Mehta, about her first Delhi exhibition. "For instance, when you see the streets of Chandni Chowk, you get an idea about what was happening at that time. There is a raw style when it comes to its artistic quality, yet there is this ethnic style in the bright colours," she adds.

The 40-year-old has been holding "Hindoostan Revisited" exhibitions since 1999 in Mumbai in collaboration with Mumbai-based Cymroza Art Gallery.

Apart from sketches and prints, the exhibition also comprises maps and paintings, mostly of prominent structures in the Capital. There are vivid portraits too, such as of the Maharajah of Rewah's durbar in Govindghur (1876) and Mirzas of the Imperial Family of Delhi (1876), a hand-coloured engraving.

An 1828 lithograph of nautch girls of Pondicherry adorns a wall alongside "hunting scenes" from 1851. The earthy colour tones are set against scenes such as British soldiers enjoying evening snacks out in the open after a hunt, with pitched tents and Indians tending to the horses.

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