Documenting the Image in Mithila Art:


This article traces the documentation of ritual wall paintings by Maithil Brahmans and Kayasthas through the collecting practices of private individuals, libraries, and museums, the commercial practices of producing and marketing cultural products, and the interpreting practices of scholars and critics. These practices have come to focus on the output of a handful of celebrity artists in a few villages around Madhubani, gifted artists but not representative of the wide distribution of wall painting at all levels of the two castes. This paper turns to the oldest extant documentation–the 1940 photographs of William Archer and the previously undocumented 1919 paintings for the marriage of the daughter of Maharaja Rameshwar Singh–to demonstrate the importance and quality of wall paintings among all strata of Brahmans.