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Anthropology, fine art and missionaries: the Berndt Kalighat album rediscovered


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Brittlebank, K 2007 , 'Anthropology, fine art and missionaries: the Berndt Kalighat album rediscovered' , Journal of the History of Collections, vol. 20, no. 1 , pp. 127-142 , doi: 10.1093/jhc/fhm017.

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In the early 1960 s, the Australian anthropologist, Ronald M. Berndt, purchased a Victorian album containing forty-four Kalighat paintings from Bengal. The attraction of the album for Ronald and his wife Catherine, also an anthropologist, is examined here in the context of their work on Aboriginal Australia, revealing links between their public life and their personal collecting activities. The second part of the paper reconstructs the album’s life history, prior to its acquisition by the Berndts. Owned previously by the artist Sir Hans Heysen, the album is shown to have been collected by the Australian Baptist Church’s earliest missionaries to India. At the centre of the ownership of the paintings, from the time of their collection, lies their iconographic imagery: idolatrous to the eyes of the Christian missionaries, visually appealing to the artist and embodying rich religious and mythological meaning for the anthropologists.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Brittlebank, K
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of the History of Collections
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0954-6650
DOI / ID Number: 10.1093/jhc/fhm017
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Copyright © 2007 Oxford University Press

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