Detail from Bansy (Bunsee - Bamboo Nose Flute) by François Baltazard Solvyns, 1808-1812. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
This is a full-length image of a Hindu playing a duct flute through the nose. He stands, facing left, before two thatched huts and palm trees. Four other Hindus, each holding or playing a nose flute, stand behind a woven grass fence at the far right. The Bengali title beneath the image, Bansy, refers to the material from which the nose flute is made, bamboo, derived from the Bengali word for bamboo, bas(a). The sky is a pale green; the grass and trees are darker shades of green; the thatch and woven fence are straw-colored; the base of the hut is a pale, blue-gray; the men are dark brown; the nose flutes are bright yellow; and, small red or orange highlights are seen in the faces, jewelry, or clothing of the Hindus, and in the architectural details of the building in the center distance.
Most of the colors in this image have been added à la poupée, meaning that colored inks were applied with a cloth doll to areas of the plate itself before the plate was pulled through the press. Evidence of the plate being inked à la poupée can be seen in the straw color at the base of the fence which slightly overlaps the green border of the grass at the right. The image has also been delicately colored by hand with watercolor, as seen in the blue-gray washes at the base of the thatched hut at the left, and in the thinly painted orange borders of the Hindu's clothing. This image comes from a four-volume book by François Baltazard Solvyns and Georg Bernhard Depping, Les Hindous. See 216/Y, an etching, inked à la poupée and heightened with watercolor, also from Les Hindous by Solvyns.
About the Artist
François Baltazard Solvyns, marine painter, etcher, and ethnographer, 1760-1824
François Baltazard Solvyns was born in Antwerp in 1760, and he died in the same city in 1824. He was a student of Quartenmont in Antwerp, then of Vincent in Paris. He left for India and remained there for several years, creating over 300 plates on the social mores, festivals, and customs of the Hindus. He resided in Calcutta from 1791 to 1804 and, inspired by Sir William Jones, undertook a project to document the social life of the Hindus in and around Calcutta, for which he created over 250 colored etchings. Two successive printings were made in Calcutta in 1796 and 1799 respectively but they were not a financial success. On his return to Europe, Solvyns prepared new etchings and published them in a folio edition of 288 plates entitled, Les Hindous. They were published in four volumes in Paris between 1808 and 1812.
- See François Baltazard Solvyns and Georg Bernhard Depping, Les Hindous. Paris: F. B. Solvyns and H. Nicolle, [1808-1812], vol. 2. This set of volumes is not in the Library of Congress. It is available at the George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. Call number: 954.03 S625 Folio. See also a recent publication on Solvyns by Robert L. Hardgrave, Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns & the European image of India, 1760-1824. New York: Oxford University Press in association with Mapin Publishing, 2004. Library of Congress. General Collections. LC call number: N7615.I5H37. Robert L. Hardgrave has also published an online resource, The Solvyns Project, which provides links to images of all of Solvyns etchings from the different editions. This image appears as number 180, identified as Bansi - Bunsee from the Paris edition, Section II, 12.6, pp. 372-373. See also Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr., and Stephen M. Slawek, Musical Instruments of North India: Eighteenth Century Portraits by Baltazard Solvyns. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 1997. Library of Congress. Music Division. LC call number: ML533.S65. This plate, its original description by Solvyns, and commentary by Hardgrave and Slawek, appear on pages 141-143. [back to article]
- The biographical information provided here on Solvyns comes from Bénézit and from an article by Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr. in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online (subscription only). [back to article]