Robert J. Del Bonta Collection

Detail of a pattern

At A Glance

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  • Creator

    Underwood & Underwood
  • Dates

  • Physical Description

    6 Linear feet (Prints, books and stereographs)
  • Collection ID


  • Scope and Contents

    Works from the encyclopedic collection of Dr. Robert J. Del Bontà. Comprised of prints and published volumes from a range of European and North American sources dating from the 16th through 20th centuries, primarily illustrating the visual reception of Indian visual culture through scholarly and popular press. By tracing how these images were interpreted and reproduced over time, the collection demonstrates how perceptions of Indian culture shifted through the centuries, from the Enlightenment to the colonial period and Christian missionary movement, and into modernity. Together these prints reveal structures of the European and American imagination as much as they encapsulate conceptions of India. Specific topics illustrated include religious ascetics and religios practices, as well as Mughal rulers. Also included are an extensive group of photographic stereocards of Indian subjects from a number of publishers, including a nearly complete set taken by James Ricalton between 1891 and 1900 and published by Underwood & Underwood.
  • Biographical / Historical

    Polymath scholar, curator, collector, and jeweler, Dr. Robert J. Del Bontà began to collect prints related to India while completing his doctorate in South Asian art history at the University of Michigan in the 1970s. In his collecting practices, Del Bontà traces how Europeans and Americans constructed knowledge about India through prints. He focuses on the curious mixture that resulted when events witnessed "up close" in India were published "from afar," in Europe or America. A careful attention to prints made "up close" allows Del Bontà to see how Indian and European texts and visual resources influenced travelers' on-the-spot observations in India. By viewing prints created "from afar," he examines how printmakers and publishers fluent in European artistic conventions adapted travelers' in-person observations, always adding a dash of fantasy. He further tracks how compositions were copied and altered over long stretches of time, inspiring questions about publication practices as well as the accuracy of these images.
  • Local Numbers

    FSA A2014.06
  • Creator

    Underwood & Underwood
  • Names

    Picart, Bernard, 1673-1733
  • Place

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    Robert J. Del Bonta Collection
  • Custodial History

    Gift of Robert J. Del Bonta, 2014 and 2015
  • Archival Repository

    Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
  • Type

    Collection descriptions
    Archival materials
  • Citation

    Robert J. Del Bonta Collection, FSA A2014.06. National Museum of Asian Art Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Arrangement

    Arranged on one shelf
  • Genre/Form

  • Restrictions

    Collection is open for research.

Repository Contact

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
National Museum of Asian Art Archives
Washington, D.C. 20013