Salient Features of Mysore Paintings

The two schools of miniature paintings of south India viz. the Mysore Paintings and Tanjore Paintings are offshoots of the earlier Vijayanagar School of Painting. The Vijaynagar School was basically known for Frescoes & murals of the various mythological themes of Hindu deities on the temple walls and ceilings, and was itself inspired by Ajanta. Vijayanagar art includes wall-paintings of the Dashavatara (The Ten Avatars of Vishnu) and the Girijakalyana (marriage of Parvati) at the Virupaksha Temple at Hampi.

As soon as the Vijaynagar Empire fell, the painters started migrating to Thanjavur, Mysore, Shahapur and Surpur. Those who migrated to Tanjavur and Mysore came under the heavy influence of other styles and thus, these two developed as two distinct styles of Paintings.

Salient Features of Mysore Paintings

Out of them Mysore paintings generally depict the Hindu gods and goddesses and scenes from Hindu mythology. This style is also known for the Gesso Work. Gesso refers to a paste of white lead powder, gambose and glue and is used as an embossing material covered with Gold foils. Gesso work is found in both the Mysore as well as the Tanjore paintings. In Mysore paintings, the work is low in relief and intricate, while in Tanjore school, the Gesso work is little thicker.


The famous example of Mysore school painting is a manuscript called Sritattvanidhi. This is a pictorial digest of 1500 pages and contains illustrations of gods, goddesses and mythological figures. Thus, we conclude that Hindu Mythology is the dominant theme in the Mysore paintings.

Gesso Work

Gesso was used in Mysore painting for depicting intricate designs of clothes, jewellery and architectural details on pillars and arches that usually framed the deities. The work was taken up in the morning when the base of the gold work on the painting was still moist so as to hold the gold foil firmly. After allowing the painting to dry, glazing was carried out by covering the painting with thin paper and rubbing over it with a soft glazing stone known as kaslupada kallu. When the thin paper was removed the painting shone brightly and looked resplendent with the combination of gold and a variety of colours. (wikipedia)

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