THE MARBLE PALACE IN KOLKOTA
A NEO-CLASSICAL INDIAN JEWEL
Built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick, bengali merchant passionate about art and antiques, the Palais des Arts, most later referred to as “Marble Palace” by Lord Minto, is located at 46 Muktaram Babu Street in North Calcutta. It is still the property of the Mullick family.
Built around a main courtyard paved with a mosaic of marble, the architecture of the Palace skillfully blends Indian, neo-classical and Victorian styles.
However widely neoclassical, Marble Palace opens by small side courtyards of a traditional bengali style; adjacent to the main courtyard was built a thakur-dalan, a place of worship for family use.
The main façade is punctuated by Corinthian columns on all height, the forecourt in overhang is surmounted by a pediment sculpted with traditional Indian ornaments in lieu of the classical, triangular pediment. The sides are flanked by thirteen rows of Doric columns fluted on two levels, alternate by verandas with fixed wood louver, inspired by Chinese pavilions.
The gardens offer vast expanses of lawns decorated with Florentine fountains, sculptures inspired by antique and Renaissance models as well as various marble vases. A lake, a rock garden and a small zoo make this place, the best preserved of Calcutta, one of the major witness of the colonial anglo time in India.
As Versailles, built by the Roi Soleil around the ancient castle of Louis XIII, the Palace is built around an ancient temple built by the father of Rajendra, Nilmoni Mullick.
The marble palace became famous for its tiles in mosaics and its paneling of marbles, on Italian models of the Renaissance, but especially for the rich collections of art it houses:
Sculptures – Venus at the bath, Lions of the loggia of the Lanzi, Medici vases, Florentine fountains, various bronzes, but also Flemish paintings, such as the Van Goyan’s seascape, Italian paintings as the Venus and Adonis from Guercino or the Madonna of Sassoferato, works by Titian, several examples of English painting as the Hercules slaying the serpent or the Venus and Cupid by Joshua Reynolds, but also important witnesses of French or Indian painting.
Most of these items were offered to Rajendra Mullick, which explains a certain discrepancy in the arrangements of the collections. They have such important Napoleon III or Art Nouveau earthware, Japanese, Korean or Chinese porcelain, a bust of Napoleon and various additions of the 20th century by the descendants.
This place evokes nevertheless the home of a passionate for the arts, a collector grouping – nestling in India in a bosky bower built for this purpose, works by more over thirty countries and of all times.
© Pierre-Alain Clostermann, 2015
The Palace is open for tours from 10: 00 to 4: 00 p.m. every day except Monday and Thursday.
However, it is necessary to request 24 hours in advance at the Tourist Office of Bengal in Calcutta.
The Marble Palace – 46, Muktaram Babu Street – Kolkota 700007, INDIA