Book offers a flowering depiction of India’s Botanical arts

Indian Botanical Art by Martyn Rix

Adorning the walls of royal precincts, Botanical arts of India are generally identified with company painting but there is much more to it, the book published by roli books gives an elaborated account of the art which is more decorative than scientific at the time.

The subject of botany in Indian miniature is however different than how it is depicted in European conventional botanical art. over the years, artists have tried to sum up the different plant species in a compendium of illustrated record books but eventually the obsession of Europeans for Indian flora and fauna depicted in Mughal and Rajput mansions made it possible to recreate the account of botanical illustration book in Kew Garden series, although they were more decorative than scientific at the time.

The first volume of ‘Indian Botanical Art’: An Illustrated History by Martyn Rix brings together the rare Indian botanical art, as a part of the Kew Gardens’ archives. The book consists of striking Indian botanical illustrations and painting commissioned in 18th-19th C by East India Company’s surgeon-botanists but were brought to life entirely by the genius of native Indian artists spanning over three hundred years.

The painter of this set divides the flat surfaces into different zones through trees and foliage, and arranges groups of figures within the arches formed by the branches.” Later on, in the late 17th century, “The arches of the first phase become bowers, representing consecrated celestial space, while the trees represent terrestrial space.

Depictions of plants and floral motifs in Indian art dates back to prehistoric times and can be observed in temple walls, pottery designs, motifs on woven carpets and embroidered textiles, representations of the Buddha at Bodh Gaya, and illustrated folios from medieval manuscripts of Hindu epics among other things.

This account on botanical arts certainly affords an immersive look into the diverse flora and fauna of India which inspired many European Naturalist and Botanical artists.

Cover image by Roli Books


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