, Kali Enlarge 1 /1
Kalighat style Bengal, India, Calcutta
Kali 1855-60 Place made: Kalighat, Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India
Materials & Technique: paintings, watercolour, silver paint, pencil watercolour, silver paint and pencil Support: paper
Dimensions: support 43.6 h x 27.7 w cm mount 46.2 h x 30.2 w cm
Acknowledgement: The Gayer-Anderson Gift 1954
Accession No: NGA 91.1315
Subject: Hindu Kalighat School Deities
  • Acquired in Dundee, Scotland, by Colonel Thomas Gayer Gayer-Anderson, 1953
  • held in the collection of Colonel Thomas Gayer Gayer-Anderson and the late Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, Pasha, both of The Little Hall, Lavenham, Suffolk, England, 1953
  • who gave it to the Commonwealth of Australia, 1953
  • held by National Library of Australia, Canberra, after transfer from London, 1954-1991
  • transferred to the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 1991.
  • The collecting history of this painting is partial. The earliest known transaction is its acquisition by the donor in Scotland in 1953. The National Gallery of Australia welcomes further information regarding its history of ownership prior to 1953.

These watercolours were produced in the area surrounding the Kalighat temple in Kolkata (Calcutta). Dedicated to the goddess Kali, the temple was established in 1809. From around 1830, thousands of distinctive paintings, most often illustrating deities, were produced as mementos for pilgrims. The quickly painted souvenirs were later replaced by mass-produced prints.

The Hindu goddess of time and change, Kali gives and destroys life, and may be revered as a violent supernatural being or a benevolent mother goddess. With protruding tongue and a severed human head in one of her four arms, this vibrant image conveys Kali’s ferocious aspect. Her characteristic garland of skulls is suggested by the semicircles around her neck and her girdle of human arms has been simplified to appear as a striped skirt.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label