Along with Hamilton and Co, Grish Chunder Dutt was the premier silversmith operating in Calcutta, the centre of British activity in India which from 1790 was known as ‘The City of Palaces’. From 1872 to 1947 his workshop produced all manner of items including tea services, claret jugs, cups and boxes, and operated out of the district of Bohwanipur, located between the city and the famous shrine of the goddess at Kalighat.
The firm was known for its characteristic depiction of rural scenes which often included images of farming, fetching water, or winnowing grain, as well as tales from Indian folklore and mythology, such as processions or festivals. The figures in Dutt’s work have a very naive quality to them, and the repousse designs are incredibly tactile.
The mountainous landscapes that appear in the background of a number of his pieces are also simplified, and seem to take inspiration from 19th century Japanese wash paintings, in the way that the mountains stack up on top of each other in bands, seen below.
The skill of the craftsmen in Dutt’s workshop becomes apparent when one considers how even on small pieces a real sense of perspective is achieved. The proportion of the figures in relation to the background also gives these works a great sense of depth, a decorative feature mainly used by silversmiths from Calcutta, and which was introduced in the second half of the 19th century. Stylistically this set Dutt apart from Hamilton and Co, who were famous for their pared down designs, opting instead for a smooth finish and minimal decoration of their objects.