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Strange and Wondrous: Prints of India from the Robert J. Del Bontà Collection

History of a print

Detail: “Hindu fakirs practicing their superstitious rites” Robert J. Del Bontà collection E026 and E579



“Divers Pagods and the Penitence of the Faquirs.” Robert J. Del Bontà collection, E1340
Sixty years later, yet another version of Tavernier’s print appeared in the Reverend James Gardner’s multivolume encyclopedia The faiths of the world, which included entries on Indian religions, ceremonies, customs, and peoples, such as fakirs. The print, here hand-colored, and its key are nearly identical to Claude du Bosc’s engraving after Bernard Picart. However, the title has been altered from du Bosc’s “Divers Pagods and the Penitence of the Faquirs” to the charged “Hindu Fakirs Practising Their Superstitious Rites.” This likely reflects the increasingly judgmental and derogatory attitudes that Europeans and Americans professed toward Indian ascetics in the mid- to late nineteenth century. It is corroborated by another of the print’s iterations in Frank S. Dobbins’s Errors Chains: how forged and broken (1883), a vitriolic Christian tract against “heathen” religions.

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