An exhibit of Aligarh pottery as follows:- Black ware:- 18 plates (SB). Black plate (LC).
Made mostly at Sewan in Bengal in Eastern India, Aligarh ware imitates the beautiful and traditional Azamgarh ware of the region. Half of the Museum's collection, which divides into two clear categories, belongs to this group. These pots are strikingly elegant and lovely, with clean burnished shapes and simple incised decoration. The other half of the collection could hardly be more different; the forms of these pieces relate more to European metal vessels than to traditional Indian pottery, while the applied decoration is positively extravagant. Decorative exuberance is characteristic of the late Victorian dedication to ornament, and the luxurious vines, fruit and flowers on these jugs, plates and bottles probably reflect the style of modelling then taught at the various schools of art and design established along European lines by the Indian government. Tradition however dies hard, and the artists of India have long been respected for their ability, with an eye to the export market, to incorporate foreign ideas into their products while still retaining an essentially Indian character. The studied pairing of luscious fruit in the applied decoration is strikingly reminiscent of the round breasts and round behinds of the voluptuous goddesses of the Indian pantheon.
The works are wheel-thrown, with the flowers modelled by hand whilst the vessel is soft. The work is baked in mud-ovens, or by immersion in cow-dung fires.
The Aligarh ware was selected for the colony of New South Wales by Mr F A Franklin, while he was in India for the Calcutta International Exhibition of 1883-84. Franklin was the Executive Commissioner in India for the New South Wales Commission for the Calcutta Exhibition, whose goal in accepting the invitation to exhibit in Calcutta was to capture for the producers and manufacturers of New South Wales a large slice of 'the vast market' of India. to this end, the Commission gave strong encouragement to the producers and manufacturers of New South Wales to prepare a range of exhibits for shipment to Calcutta. The collection of Aligarh pottery was presented to the Museum by the Commission, by decision of their 'Final Meeting', as were some of the exhibits themselves, on their return to Sydney from Calcutta.