Tanjore paintings basically signify paintings created using a style and technique, which originated in Thanjavur. A typical Thanjavur painting would consist of one main figure, a deity, with a well-rounded body & almond shaped eyes. This figure would be housed in an enclosure created by means of an arch, curtains etc. The painting would be made by the gilded and gem-set technique – a technique where gold leaves & sparkling stones are used to highlight certain aspects of the painting like ornaments, dresses etc. The subjects of most paintings are Hindu gods, goddesses, and saints. The paintings are known for their surface richness, vivid colors, compact composition and especially the glittering gold foils used to give the paintings their rich look .

Tanjore paintings originated in Thanjavur during the reign of the Marathas in the 16th century. It existed from 17th to 19th Century,

The art was practiced by two main communities namely – the RAJUS in THANJAVUR and TRICHY[a city near THANJAVUR] and NAIDUS in MADURAI[a city ruled by PANDIYAS]. The artists [Rajus & Naidus] who are originally Telugu speaking people from “Rayalseema” region, moved to Tamil Nadu in the wake of the Nayaks rule of Madurai & Tanjore. The paintings were rooted in tradition and innovation was limited. The art was sacred to those master craftsmen who chose to be anonymous and humble.

The early paintings were embedded with real Diamonds, Rubies and other precious stones. Later, use of semi-precious & artificial stones gained popularity.

With the rebirth of this art in the twentieth century, artists in addition to recreating the original Tanjore figures are also experimenting with more proportioned figures, birds, flowers, animals, etc,.

……. From http://www.thanjavurpaintings.com/abouttp.html

  1. Plywood: 4 to 6 mm thick, waterproof & termite proof
  2. White cotton cloth: A muslin cloth that is porous & absorb muck paste that will be applied on it
  3. Chalk powder: to make muck paste & embossing gum
  4. Fevicol: to make muck paste & embossing gum
  5. Flat brush: 3″ wide
  6. Emery paper or black sand paper
  7. Arabic gum: to make muck paste
  8. Colored Jaipur stones: Semi precious stone used to highlight ornaments & dresses of the painting.
  9. Gold leaf: available in form of a book with sheets of gold foils
  10. Poster colors
  11. painting brush: Round tip brush, varying sizes from 000, 2,4,6,8
  12. Black pilot pen: to provide depth to embossing
  13. Multi color transparent ink: to provide details & effect
  14. Cutter: to cut the gold leaf in desired size & shape
  15. Carbon paper: to trace the design
  16. pattern to be traced
  17. Cone

  1. Canvas making: Cut the plywood into desired size & smoothen the edge with the sand paper. Take a clean muslin cloth that is an inch bigger than the plywood on all four sides. Mix 4 portions of water & 1 portion of fevicol in a bowl. Immerse the muslin cloth in it for few minutes, Remove the cloth, rinse it gently & hold it for extra paste to drain out. Now paste the cloth onto the plywood pulled tightly. Mix chalk powder, fevicol with water in 2:1:! ratio. Arabic gum can be added in this paste to get glassy look.The board should be coated (use 3″ flat brush) twice with this mixture, once horizontally & one vertically. Leave it to dry for 15 min between two coats. After second coat leave it to dry in shade for 24 hrs. Rub sand paper to get smooth even surface. Canvas is now ready for next step.
  2. Trace the design: Allow 1cm space on all four sides for framing. Trace the picture onto the board with the help of a carbon sheet under your tracing paper.
  3. Decorating stones: Stick the stones on appropriate place using fevicol.
  4. Muck preparation: Muck paste is used to create embossed effect on the painting. Muck is applied in 3 consistencies: thin is applied over stones, medium thick is applied to plain area without stones & thickest is used for laying intricate designs using plastic cone. Prepare muck by mixing chalk powder & arabic gum in 2:1 ratio.
  5. Apply Muck paste: Pour muck over the stones and areas to be covered with gold. Apply more muck to draw the outline, After it dries up, remove the muck stuck on the stones with a wet cloth. Now create embossed lines & dots design using medium thick muck, apply the same muck to base where gold foil will be stuck. Let it dry, then make thin lines around the stones using thick muck paste in a cone. Let it dry.
  6. Applying gold foil: Apply the gold foil to give the painting a rich look. Every small bit of white seen in the painting should be carefully covered with gold foil. Smooth the foil gently over the area. If any gold foil is stuck to the stones, scrape out it gently.
  7. Completion: Complete the picture with poster colours, starting with the body, hands, feet, and finally the face. The background is usually of deep colour like red, blue, or green.

For visual step-by-step instruction, please check following external links

  1. http://www.tanjorecollections.com/blogs/category/learn-how-to-make-tanjore-paintings/
  2. http://www.indian-heritage.org/painting/tphowto.html
  3. http://www.gruhinii.com/hobbies/making-tanjore-paintings

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