The Tanjore form of painting was popular in the southern part of India from 17 - 19 centuries under the patronage of Tanjore's Maratha rulers.
This art form of paint and gold leaf, primarily portrayed deities and the paintings adorned temples and sacred places. Tanjore developed a delectable tradition of its own in folk painting on wood. The themes were from the epics. Tanjore paintings are naturalistic in outline with perfect harmony and rhythm in the composition and colour blending. This art form is now widely practised by a large variety of people and is extremely popular as a contemporary craft.The traditional Tanjore painting uses the technique of painting in beautiful vegetable colours on wood covered with cloth which is made to adhere through a vegetable gum binder. A mixture of limestone, chalk powder, gum and honey are applied in layers on a sketch of the icon. At this stage, the traditional designs with thousands of dots are embossed with the paste. All surface areas raised in certain sections from the background, such as sari borders, furniture, drapery and jewellery are given extra coats with this paste. Once dry, the gem stones are set - in the past, diamonds, pearls and rubies were used - and the gold leaf pressed onto the painting with glue made of tamarind gum and jaggery.Finally the decorations are etched.
The speciality in these pictures lies in their ornamentation. With the use of golden leaves made by beating gold into a very fine sheet, gilded metal pieces, coloured stones, traditional jewellery pieces are reproduced on the bodies of these picture images, until they are completely covered with adornment. While the faces are pleasing and expressive, they all confirm to a pattern. The skill here lies in composing and working out the ornamentation, especially with the balancing of the gold leaf and the coloured stones