University of Cambridge > > Visual Constructions of South Asia (2014-15) > ‘For a little amusement’: A Brutal Look at Leisure in Early Modern Indo-Danish Relations

‘For a little amusement’: A Brutal Look at Leisure in Early Modern Indo-Danish Relations

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes.

A beautifully painted textile, known as the Tranquebar palampore, has sat unstudied in the Danish Design Museum for a little less than a century. At first glance, it depicts a world of violence: An elephant runs rampant, leaving a trail of mangled corpses behind it, Danish soldiers fire canons, while a woman trains her gun at a fleeing deer and a man stabs a squealing pig through the heart. Hence, although little was known of its patronage or arrival in Denmark, it has been unanimously used by Danish historians as an illustration of early modern Danish military ‘dominance’ in Southern India. This is a fallacy. At closer observation, a world of both Danish and Indian royalty and splendour reveals itself alongside a leisurely, early modern and decidedly everyday brutality. My paper will reveal previously unrecognized primary evidence that suggests the textile was commissioned by the Maratha ruler, Tukkoji I of Thanjavur. Moreover, this visual evidence will shed important light on the rituals and ceremonies associated with gift giving and tribute in early modern South Indian courts. Ultimately, the textile provides a richly detailed glance into the world of diplomatic relations between Europe and India in the early eighteenth century.

This talk is part of the Visual Constructions of South Asia (2014-15) series.

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