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Indic paintings

Collection Details

Indic paintings held at Oriental Collections Central Bodleian [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

A collection of over 900 paintings, with over 830 in the Mughal style and approximately 100 Kalighat paintings. Paintings in the collection date from the 11th to the late 19th century.

History and development

The Bodleian has acquired South Asian paintings from the earliest years of its re-establishment by Sir Thomas Bodley. The first South Asian paintings came to the library in a series of gifts given by Archbishop William Laud between 1635 and 1640 and consist of a set of 18 Ragamala paintings illustrating the mood and sentiment behind the traditional forms of Indian music.

The collection continued to grow through the 18th and 19th centuries with a number of purchases and gifts. A collection of Mughal paintings came as part of the bequest of the antiquary and bibliophile Francis Douce in 1834 and the library's holdings were augmented a few years later by paintings from the manuscript collection of the diplomat Sir Gore Ouseley. Mughal paintings and other fine manuscripts from his library were presented to the library in 1859 by Mr. J.B. Elliott, a Bengal civil servant who had purchased them after the diplomat's death in 1844.

When the Indian Institute Library came under Bodleian management in 1927, the Bodleian acquired, as part of the Library's collection of manuscripts, a set of 111 Kalighat paintings. These formed part of the original collection of books given to the library by its founder, Sir Monier Monier-Williams in 1883.


The collection shows a rich variety of the main types of Indian painting from 11th century Pala dynasty paintings on palm leaf, through imperial and provincial Mughal painting to Kalighat bazaar pictures of the 1880s.

General arrangement and access regulations

Closed access. Those wishing to study the paintings have to make written application to the Keeper of Oriental Books, Ms. Lesley Forbes, prior to any visit to the library.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

South Asia.


India, Nepal.



Names relevant to the collection:

  • Laud, William, 1573-1645
  • Douce, Francis, 1757-1834
  • Ouseley, Gore, Sir, 1770-1844
  • Elliott, John Bardoe
  • Monier-Williams, Monier, Sir, 1819-1899

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types


Total size of collection

Approximately 1000 paintings.

Collection Management Information

The collection is being actively developed.

Content date range

1095 to 1890 AD

Interlibrary loan procedure

Collection Catalogue Information


The collection is described in a number of printed catalogues, handlists and articles, details of which can be found on the Library's web page.

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