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Painting SM X148. ©Sir John Soane's Museum. Photo: Lewis Bush.
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  • image Image 2 for X148

A painting of the Hindu deity Balarama as a child



Painted on cotton

Height: 67.3cm
Width: 53.4cm

Inscription: 'Mr Falk from the India Office library identified this as The Adoration of the Child Balarama / Painting on cotton / 65 x 52 cm / South India, Tanjore, circa 1810-20. [Note pinned to the picture, ?1970s, in ithe hand of Sir John Summerson, Curator 1945-84, recording this external opinion on the work. The measurements are inaccurate.]
Inscription: 'Not in Soane's inventory. Connection with Soane extremely doubtful'. [Additional (incorrect) note added by Sir John Summerson]

Museum number: X148

Not on display

Curatorial note

The Hindu god Balarama is the elder brother of Krishna and traditionally a patron deity of farmers.

This is the only Indian painting in the collection and is the only non-European picture that Soane acquired.

This work appears in a manuscript draft inventory of the 'Contents of closet left side of doorway leading from Museum into Dressing Room' dated 22 April 1837 (a few months after Soane's death) listed as 'tin case with painting of sundry idols'. The tin case would have been a cylindrical one, designed to hold an architectural plan or drawing rolled up, which probably explains the poor condition of the picture, which is now stored flat. It is listed in the Soane Museum 'AB' inventory, 1837 (p.338) as 'A tin case containing a painting on canvas of a Mexican idol?'. The two descriptions imply that Soane and his assistant George Bailey (who drew up the inventories and became the first Curator of the Museum), knew nothing about its origins.

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