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Exhibition of French Maps of Ancient India

An exhibition of French Maps and Drawings was held at New Delhi, National Museum from 18th December 2000 to 21st January 2001

Bombay Island in 1977
by Lafitte de Brassier, 1778

The Embassy of France in India, and the National Museum of India in collaboration with Alliance Francaise de Delhi and National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad will host an exceptional exhibition of French maps and drawings of 18th Century Cities and Monuments of India in New Delhi, National Museum from 18th December 2000 to 21st January 2001. The exhibition celebrates 50 years of the National Museum and the end of the Millenium, in the spirit of Indo-French Cooperation.

For the very first time some unique pieces, coming from two prestigious French institutions – the “Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer” (the Centre of Archives of Overseas territories) and the “Bibliotheque Nationale de France” (National Library of France) are travelling outside France are being exhibited in India.

Plan of Mangalore
by Lafitte de Brassier, 1778

The exhibition includes forty-two drawings and maps from the “Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer”, realised in the 18th century by French cartographers. These original documents will take the visitors into 18th century India, showing various cities and monuments, some of which have disappeared. In addition, five drawings from the Gentil collection, kept in the “Bibliotheque Nationale” are also being exhibited. The dimensions of some of these drawings are impressive: they include two-metre long pieces, the colours of which having been remarkably preserved.

Plan of the city of Surat and the “Garden of the French” Done in 1758 under the supervision of Sir Anquetil de Briancourt then Chief of the French Nation at Surat

One can see map drawings of the Danish port city of Trinquebar in 1778, Dutch fort and city of Negapatnam of 1778, plan of Pondicherry in 1702-3. Plans of other cities and monuments on view will include Surat, Mumbai, Mangalore, Cochin, Srirangapattanam, Chandranagar, Fort William, Konkan, Deccan, Delhi and Lucknow. Also, drawings of the palace of Nizam-ul-Mulk at Delhi, the palace built in Old Delhi by Salim Shah used as a prison for Mughal princes and Mahtab Bagh, a garden made by Aurangzeb for his wives inside Red Fort is exhibited.

The National Geographic Institute has recovered some cartographic instruments of that era with which the maps have been realised. Six such instruments are also on display.

The exhibition whose scenography has been developed by some of the best students of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, was inaugurated on December 18th 2000 at the National Museum and will be open to public until 21st January 2001. 

Palace of Nizam ul-Mulk at Delhi By an architect working for Shuja’ud Daula, 1774

A new book written by Jean-Marie Lafont – an eminent historian on Indo-French relations – and jointly published by Oxford University Press and the Embassy of France in India will be released on the occasion. This book is the result of several years of research on French Archives. It will present in a scientific way most of the maps and drawings of the Chitra exhibition.

The art treasure displayed in the exhibition have not only attracted a number of visitors in the last fortnight but has also attracted their attention to the detailed information portrayed and the skill of the cartographer, who had unlike modern techniques only handfull of tools to accomplish this work .

For further information please contact:
Embassy of France in India, Cultural Service,
2 Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi – 110 011