Robert J. Del Bonta Collection
Portions of this collection are digitized

Collection ID:
Underwood & Underwood
Physical Description:
6 Linear feet
Prints, books and stereographs

Scope and Contents
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.

Arranged on one shelf

Biographical / Historical
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.

Custodial History
Gift of Robert J. Del Bonta, 2014 and 2015

Local Numbers
Local Numbers
FSA A2014.06

Digital Content
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Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
India Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Prints Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Stereographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Picart, Bernard, 1673-1733 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
Washington, D.C. 20013