Images such as this are known as Kalighat paintings, after the famous Kalighat temple in Kolkata (Calcutta) dedicated to Kali, the fearsome goddess of time and death. From around 1830, distinctive, quickly painted souvenirs were produced in large numbers for visitors who flocked to the temple. The images were intended to aid domestic worship and typically illustrate Hindu deities. Later, mass-produced prints replaced Kalighat paintings. Here, the Hindu god Shiva appears as Panchanan the Destroyer of Worlds. As with other Kalighat paintings, the composition is based on an archetype where the blue-skinned, five-headed, four-armed god is seated on a throne with a tiger skin wrapped around his waist. His fifth head is turned upwards and is surrounded by protective cobras and a small image of Shiva’s vehicle, Nandi the bull, can be seen seated in his lap.
The five-faced Mahadev
Siva or Punchanan the Destroyer of the world
A five-faced Shiva
watercolour with silver paint on paper
43.8 x 27.2 cm (irreg.)
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Not on display
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Referenced in 6 publications
Kate Brittlebank, TAASA Review, 'Unexpected Connections: An Australian Kalighat Album Reunited', pg. 4-5, Sydney, Mar 2006.
Kate Brittlebank, TAASA Review, "Postscript: Kalighat's Missionaries', pg. 23, Sydney, Jun 2006.
Kate Brittlebank, Journal of the History of Collections, 'Anthropology, fine art and missionaries: The Berndt Kalighat album rediscovered', pg.127-142, Oxford, May 2008.
Haema Sivanesan, Indian painting, 'Indian Painting', verso of poster., Sydney, 2001. cat.no. 5.2
Jill Sykes, Look, 'Artworks from India under the British Raj...', pg.30, Sydney, Jul 2010, 30 (colour illus.).
The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Folk Paintings and Souvenir Pictures', Sydney, 2003, 48-49 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 49 is a detail of this work.