Mar 18, 2014

A Barber Cleaning the Ear of a Courtesan

A Barber Cleaning the Ear of a Courtesan

c. 1890

Shri Gobinda Chandra Roy

(Indian, active late 1800s)


Secondary Support: 50 x 30.3 cm (19 11/16 x 11 15/16 in.); Painting only: 45.5 x 28.2 cm (17 15/16 x 11 1/8 in.)

Gift of William E. Ward in memory of his wife, Evelyn Svec Ward 2003.118



Popular Kalighat paintings were made into woodcuts for mass printing and distribution. This image reveals the lifestyle of a new middle class of Indians who prospered under British rule. Holding a fancy hookah for pleasurable smoking, draped with jewels, wearing a glamorous sari, and with a flower tucked in her hair, she has the luxury of going to a barber to have her ears cleaned.

The age of mechanical reproduction made a heavy impact on the new Indian middle class during the last decades of the 1800s. British magazines and periodicals were fashionable among Indian households, and they served to shape their taste for British and Western styles and commodities. Cheaper prints such as this woodcut were made for more popular distribution. They spoke to aspirations or observations by a broader, less privileged community.

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