Early 20th century
Painting on ivory

Miniature paintings on ivory were a popular art form in the Indian subcontinent. Thin translucent sheets of ivory were roughened and de-greased to make the surface retain paint. They were then bleached in the sun to make them whiter and the colours were made stickier by adding a binding material. By the end of the 18th century, miniature portraits on ivory demonstrated European influence on form and composition, such as this exquisite example of the Empress Jodhabai, queen of the Mughal ruler Akbar, from the Rajput School. George Birdwood, one of the Museum’s earliest curators, notes that painting on ivory was coveted by both the Indian and European elites.