India, Calcutta, Kalighat painting, 19th century
Black ink, watercolor, and tin paint on paper
Secondary Support - h:49.70 w:29.30 cm (h:19 9/16 w:11 1/2 inches)
Painting only - h:45.90 w:28.00 cm (h:18 1/16 w:11 inches)
Gift of William E. Ward in memory of his wife, Evelyn Svec Ward
Black-skinned, four-armed, her tongue out, and blood dripping from her mouth, Kali has a third eye—representative of enlightened or divine knowledge—on her forehead. Simultaneously benevolent and dangerous, she holds a sword and a demon’s severed head in two hands while the other two hands are in gestures of protection and blessing. This image would have been sold as a pilgrim souvenir to both locals and the colonial British around the Kalighat temple and is a replica of the image worshipped inside the temple (see below). The frightening image of Kali especially fit into the colonial imagination and into Victorian popular culture and would have been an iconic souvenir/artifact to be shown to intrigued and horrified friends at home in England.