Thanjavur has a unique place in the history of Indian painting, in that it houses the 11th century Chola wall paintings in the Brihadeshwara Temple (Periya koyil or Pervudaiyar koyil in Tamil) as also paintings from the Nayak period (many times superimposed on the earlier Chola paintings dating to the 16th century.
The fall of the Vijaynagara Empire and the sack of Hampi in the Battle of Talikota in 1565 CE resulted in the migration of painters who had been dependent on the patronage of the empire.
Some of them migrated to Thanjavur and worked under the patronage of the Thanjavur Nayakas. Subsequently, the Maratha rulers who defeated the Thanjavur Nayaka began to nurture the Thanjavur atelier.
Needless to say, the artists absorbed the local influences and the individual tastes of their Maratha patrons which helped evolve the unique Thanjavur style of painting.
The Thanjavur artists in addition to decorating temples also began painting and decorating the major buildings, palaces, chatrams and residences of the Maratha kings and nobility.