The rich culture and art of South India never fail to amaze art lovers, and Tanjore Panel art is also no exception. This classical artform glorifies the rich artistic tradition of Southern India, and that’s why it derived its name after the Thanjavur town in Tamil Nadu. Tanjore panels and paintings are famous for their elaborate embellishments, vibrant colors, and extravagant detailing of the deities.
Though the art form has witnessed various changes over the years, it continues to be popular among the ancient art lovers of the modern era. It is hard to take your eyes off the vivid murals and sculptures, and most importantly, the unique 3D effect on every artwork.
The Ancient Roots
The Tanjore art drew inspiration from the 16th century’s Indian culture and heritage when the Vijayanagara Rayas established their vast kingdom in South India through the Nayaka Governors.
Talking about the Nayakas, they were great patrons of literature and art. All Maratha buildings and palaces were adorned with large paintings of Maratha rulers, countries, deities, and nobility. During that time, Tanjore art flourished and developed into the form and style we still recognize today in various Tanjore panels and other artworks.
Since the inception of the Tanjore art style, all the deities had almond-shaped eyes, rounded faces, and streamlined bodies. The colossal temples of Trichy, Madurai, and Thanjavur districts are primarily adorned by the imitations and figurines of Gods and Goddesses painted in Tanjore style.
The artists used vibrant colors to paint the figures often placed within drapes, arches, and ornate borders. Of all the artforms Thanjavur is proud of, Tanjore painting is the most significant and globally acclaimed artwork.
What Is So Special About Tanjore Painting?
While celebrating the region’s rich artistic heritage, Tanjore paintings are a phenomenal visual amalgamation of design and art. The most common themes of these paintings are figures of Lord Krishna portraying different stages of his life and Hindu Gods and Goddesses in various poses.
But artworks depicting the ancient culture and deities are widely shared in India. Then what is so unique about the Tanjore art style in particular? These paintings of deities are famous for their stunning visual treat created by the decorative jewellery made of cut glasses and precious stones and exceptional work of gold leaf.
Besides the intricate detailing of jewellery, ancient artists also used natural colors like mineral or vegetable dyes in the past. However, with the passing course of time, artificial colors have gradually taken over. Hence, these paintings have bizarre color schemes like vivid reds, bright yellow, greens, and blues. Be it a painting or a wooden Tanjore panel, the vibrant colors breathe life into the images, making them alive in a unique way.
The Delicate Process Behind Creating the Tanjore Art
The most beautiful part of this artwork is that all the paintings on wooden panels are handcrafted with very few tools. The touch of an artist’s handcraft makes pieces more valuable and memorable. Let’s look at the making process in detail below:
- Step 1: To create the canvas, a fabric, usually, a muslin cloth, gets attached to a wooden base made from the jackfruit tree. However, new-gen artists are using plywood as a substitute as well.
- Step 2: The artist sketches using french chalk or limestone on the fabric.
- Step 3: Once the drawing has dried, the artist colors it in black or dark brown and then finishes with vibrant colors with delicate and intricate brushstrokes.
- Step 4: Now comes adding visual elements to make it more unique. Usually, Tanjore artists use colored laces, cut glass, precious stones, and even 22 karat gold foils. Next, an artist pastes all these pieces in different parts of a figure while filling other areas with colors to match the overall glow.
Creating such a genius work is never an easy task, and Tanjore panels and paintings have demonstrated this fact very well. Due to premier quality gold, an authentic piece of artwork lasts for generations without any tarnish and decay. However, you have to ensure proper care and maintenance as well.
How to Care for Tanjore Paintings and Wooden Panels?
If you want to adorn your house or your workplace with the ancient beauty of wooden Tanjore panels or paintings, you need to handle it carefully to preserve it for a long time. Here are a few steps to avoid causing harm to your precious decors.
- Avoid Direct Sunlight
Don’t hang your paintings or wooden panels in a place directly exposed to extreme Sunlight as the UV rays can drain out the color from almost anything, including your ancient piece of art.
- Pay Attention to the Humidity
The amount of water in the air has a significant impact on the overall durability of ancient art pieces. You can monitor the humidity level of your home with a simple hygrometer. Ideally, keep the levels around 55%.
- Watch Your Hands
Don’t touch your paintings or wooden Tanjore panels directly without wearing a cotton glove. If you do, you risk damaging the acrylic framing surfaces with the natural oil of your finger, dusty fingerprints, or nails.
- Keep the Glass Framings Squeaky Clean
When your painting is framed within a glass or acrylic panel, use a soft micro-fiber towel or a non-abrasive cloth and wipe the surface with an ammonia-free glass cleaner.
- Dust-Don’t Clean-Your Wooden Panels
When you have a wooden Tanjore panel that is not behind any acrylic or glass, never use any solvents or cleaners on the surface to clean the artwork. Instead, lightly dust off the piece with a soft sable brush or feather duster.
A Tanjore Painting V/S A Tanjore Panel
A Tanjore painting often depicts a single frame with a single deity, whereas a Tanjore panel is usually a series or collection of multiple frames and figurines. In addition, a Tanjore painting might be framed inside glass or acrylic. On the other hand, the surface of a wooden panel is bare, and the artwork is directly exposed to light, air, and water. Therefore, caring for a panel painting requires more delicacy.
However, the techniques of creating the artwork, the intricate detailing, and the themes of the paintings and the panels are the same.
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