Thanjavur Painting is a peculiar, primeval, miniature category of paintings named after its centre of origin Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. An archetypal Thanjavur painting consists of one main character, a divine being with a voluptuous body, and almond-shaped eyes. The figure is housed in an enclosed space created by way of arches, and curtains. Thanjavur paintings are made by the gild and gem-set technique - a procedure where gold foliage and luminous stones are used to emphasize certain facets of the painting like ornaments, clothing, etc.
Historically, King Serfoji played a significant role in cultivating this art form. The art was practised by two major communities - the Rajus of Thanjavur and Tiruchirapalli, and the Naidus of Madurai.
Since the making of a Thanjavur painting involves dedicated labour, each work is done in stages. “Relief work is carried out with an adhesive, on top of which thin wafer-like leaves of 22 carat gold are set in. The residual regions are then painted using vivid colours. Faces in the paintings are plump, and angelic, the figures are usually rounded, and paramount care is taken to see that conformist depiction of the deities are maintained with figurines usually heavily decorated with jewellery.”