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Thanjavur Art Plates
The popular Thanjavur Art Plates (Metal Plate Art) feature design of deities, birds, flowers and geometric patterns beaten out from the back of copper and silver sheets. These are then encrusted on a brass tray, pot (kudam) or cup (panchapatra). Generally, the designs follow a theme, such as the Dashaavathaaras of Vishnu or the miracles of Shiva and eight forms of goddess Lakshmi.
Formerly used for making ritual objects, this work is now restricted to wall hangings, which depict a deity made of silver in the center and alternating copper and silver designs around the rim. Thanjavur art plates are mounted on a wooden base in a variety of ways and are extensively used as mementos or giveaways. Three metal artwork (brass-metal base, copper, silver) ornamentation with the embossing technique. Generally, the Art Plates are round or oval in shape and the base plate in brass from the size of 3″ to 48″ with the side decoration figures are embossed in silver and copper foils.
The encrusted work of Thanjavur Art Plate is very famous from traditional times. It has been described as consisting of “mythological medallions and canopied niches in imitation” of the encrusted and agglutinated style of work which is the unique characteristic of this craft. The ornamentation mostly consists of a figure of Puranic Gods in high relief. These figure ornaments are either beaten out from the metal surface of the article itself, a repousse, or they are separately made and skillfully soldered or riveted onto the metal article.
Name of the Geographical Indication
Thanjavur Art Plate
Geographical Area of Production
This craft is being widely practiced/produced in Thanjavur District.
Proof of Origin
This craft originated in and around Thanjavur during 1755 AD. Thanjavur is one of the ancient cities; the civilization and culture that flourished along the Cauvery delta in Thanjavur province have a historical background.
Damascening (or encrusting) is the art of encrusting one metal on another in the form of wire which by undercutting and hammering is thoroughly incorporated into the metal it is intended to ornament. Practically, damascening is limited to encrusting gold and sometimes silver wire, on the surface of iron, steel or bronze. The design is chased on the steel (or iron or bronze) surface with a hard and very sharp style, and the wire, held by one hand within the grooves, is hammered by the other until it is made literally to unite with the metal.
This form of ornamentation is purely oriental and takes its name from Damascus, where it reached perfection under the early goldsmiths. Whereas encrusting work is the monopoly craft of Thanjavur in South India, a set of craftsperson belonging to the Vishwakarma community practice this craft from the early period of Maratta monarchs. Thanjavur art plate is also called tri-metal artware, as the object consists of copper, silver, and brass.
It is widely accepted that the origin of the craft Thanjavur Plate has different versions. One set of experienced craftsperson says that an Egyptian King presented an ornamental copper pot to King Sarfoji which was reproduced by sculptors of Thanjavur. Another set of senior artisans says that the origin dates back to 250 years when Maratta Rulers allowed specialized artisans from Moradabad to impart the technique of tri-metal artware. The third kind of version is King Sarfoji bought one artistic bidri plate during his pilgrimage to Prayag, Kasi and Ganga which he wanted to presented the Bidri Plate to Kammal patronage, local artisans competed with each other and produced art plates similar to bidri plate. Thus art plate was born in Thanjavur. It is evident from the above said three different stories that the art plate was originally founded and patronized by King Sarfoji. This craft was practiced only in Thanjavur, that too, in and around, Palalce building, i.e., Nanayakkara Chetty Street, Ellaimman Koil Street, Karandai, later on, spread to the entire Thanjavur District and of late at Thirukattupalli.
Description of the Goods
Thanjavur art plate is an exquisite product of the artisans of Thanjavur. For the sheer beauty of its purpose and vigor of its style, it occupies a pride of place among the show pieces adorning elegantly furnished houses. The art of engraving and embossing beautiful figures and images of different size and shapes on metal, mainly silver and fixing them on brass or copper plates is the unique merit of the craft.
Thanjavur Art Plates have a unique appeal on account of its superb manual dexterity and skilled craftsmanship – and its elegance is recognized the world over. Dr.G.Bidie, the noted historian and connoisseur, commenting on the timeless and unique quality of this craft, has written :
“Ornamental work in copper and silver, brass and silver, and brass and copper is made at Thanjavur. It is of three kinds, namely, brass graved, brass encrusted with copper and copper encrusted with silver. The designs consist, as usual, of mythological figures and floral decorations which although in some cases rather crowded, have yet an excellent general effect. ”
This type of tri metalwork is not being done anywhere other than in Thanjavur.
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