OF LOVE, EPICS, AND KINGSHIPS Indian Paintings and Decorative Objects
Art PASSAGES Asian Art
OF LOVE, EPICS, AND KINGSHIPS Indian Paintings and Decorative Objects
Catalogued by: Robert J. Del BontÃ and Shawn Ghassemi
The vast corpus of Indian paintings from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries is in fact visual depictions of recurring themes in Indian mythology, religion, and literature. As poets wrote poems of adoration and exultation for the gods and goddesses to be sung in celebrations or gatherings of both the common people and the nobility, the artists created their own visual narratives of the poetry. Love is perhaps the most popular theme manifested in these paintings. Literary sources such as Bihariâ€™s Satsai, Keshav Dasâ€™ Rasikapriya, Ragamala poetry, and the Baramasa provided ample inspiration for the artists. As poetry and storytelling found a visual vocabulary, sets of paintings were created in ateliers all across India.
Epics provided another source of inspiration and many texts were illustrated with large sets of paintings. The main epics, the Mahabharata and the various Ramayana retellings were frequently painted. The important Bhagavata Purana was even more popular, especially the section on Krishna. A popular composition to the Goddess, the Devimahatmya, was also often illustrated. Paintings of the epics were to be savored privately or also used as aids for storytellers in grand performances of the popular stories.
Kings and the ruling nobility were always invested in documenting their rule and their royal endeavors. To this end ateliers were set up and artists were employed or at times taken as precious war booty. These artists were to accompany their lords on warring campaigns as well as leisurely hunting escapades, all the while creating visual documentation of their mastersâ€™ activities. Paintings were assigned monetary value and were often given as tribute or diplomatic gifts to other nobles.
First and foremost I would like to thank Dr. Robert J. Del BontĂ for his excellent research and writing of the painting entries. I also like to extend my gratitude to Dr. John Seyller for deciphering the Indian agate seals and following people for their contribution to this catalogue: Erica Calegari, Ina Nouel, and Azita Ghassemi.
1 VASANT RAGAPUTRA OF HINDOLA raga
from a Ragamala series, numbered 41 Bikaner or Popular Mughal, ca. 1610
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 8 7/8 x 11 3/4 in. (22.5 x 29.8 cm) Painting 6 x 9 in. (15.1 x 22.7 cm)) Kshemakarna (also known as Mesakarna) wrote verses describing musical modes in 1570 and this comes from the earliest series illustrating his poetry. He describes far more musical modes than the usual set of 36 with six ragas each with five raginis or wives. Added to these are eight sons, putras, for each of the ragas. Vasant means Spring and this son of Hindola raga is shown as a blue-skinned Vishnu-like figure holding a flower and large horn. He stands amidst blossoming trees and playful birds against a warm yellow background. He is accompanied by three women who play instruments; the figure on the left plays a dhollak, a doublesided drum, while the two to the right play manjira, small hand cymbals, and a small tambura, a stringed instrument used to create a tonic resonance to accompany singing or other instruments. Celestial figures are in the clouds in the gesture of namaskara or salutation. The one on the right with his body covered with eyes is the god Indra. Pairs of birds and black bees are often used to suggest romance and ragamala iconography is almost exclusively oriented in that direction.
For an article on the set, see: Joachim Bautze, "Iconographic Remarks on Some Folios of the Oldest Illustrated Kshemakarna Ragamala", in Exploration in the History of South Asia: Essays in Honour of Dietmar Rothermund, New Delhi: Manohar, 2001, pp. 155-62. Published: Harsha V. Dehejia, A Festival of Krishna, New Delhi: Lustre Press, Roli Books, 2008, p.401. Ludwig Habighorst, Moghul Ragamala, Ragaputra Edition, Koblenz, 2006, p.86, no.41. Ludwig Habighorst, Blumen – Bäume – Göttergärten, Ragaputra Edition, Koblenz, 2011, p.23, fig.7. Ludwig Habighorst, Der Blaue Gott, Ragaputra Edition, Koblenz, 2014, p.57, fig.22.
2 PATMANJARI ragini
from a Ragamala series, attributed to Jai Kishan Rajasthan, Malpura, ca. 1756
Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper Folio 15½ x 11½ in (39 x 29 cm) Painting 11½ x 7¼ in (29 x 18.5) cm Provenance: Published in T. Falk & B. Lynch, Images of India, Indar Pasricha exhibition catalogue, London 1989, n. 29. And Sotheby’s London, 29-30 April 1992, lot 270 This painting represents a very distinctive style with its highly decorated surface, text written in gold and silver against a black background, and its delicate floral border. The group is noted for tall, attenuated and mannered figures, a bright color scheme with sharp contrasts, and fine detailing. The iconography is a bit peculiar for Patmanjari ragini. It is usually associated with a much older musical mode called Desvarati or Vairari, which consistently depicts a woman stretching her arms upwards in position of yearning for her absent lover. The poetry above by Govinda describes the ragini as having a beautiful body. Her garland feels like burning coals, although in the image she does not wear one. She obviously has taken it off and handed it to her sakhi who holds it and is described as impatient. As in so many paintings in the catalogue, the absence of the lover makes for a distraught woman. Ebeling briefly discussed the known folios from this set in 1973 and pointed out that one now in San Diego is a bit different — it is numbered and rather than have the text lines alternate colors, the colors alternate according to the verses. This painting matches that organization as do a few others that have since come to light. 8
We can now say that there were actually two Ragamala sets made around the same time, since a Dipak raga in the Fogg (1963.73) and one in Philadelphia (1994-148420) display the alternate set-ups with the two colors. The iconography and the text are identical. The sets are well known with examples in many museums: the San Diego Museum of Art, the Fogg Museum at Harvard, the Victoria and Albert in London, Fondation Custodia in Paris, the Walters Gallery in Baltimore, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and a number of private collections. The illustration of Asvari ragini from the series, formerly in the collection of Eric Schroeder of Cambridge, MA, and now in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, bears a colophon with the name of the artist Jai Kishan and the date VS 1813/AD 1756-57. For a short discussion of the set, see: Klaus Ebeling, Ragamala Painting, Basel, Paris and New Delhi, 1973. p. 212. I thank Heidi Pauwels for taking a look at the inscription and suggesting some interpretations.
3 SHISHIRA ritu
Possibly from a Barahmasa series Rajasthan, Mewar, Udaipur, ca. 1710-20
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 15½ x 11½ in (39 x 29 cm) Painting 13½ x 9¼ in (33 x 23.5 cm) Shishira ritu or season runs from late December to early February when the heat has relaxed. The text suggests that it is a magical time when peacocks dance, flowers bloom, and men are wooed by their ladies. Elegant elements of the painting appear to agree with depictions with its abundance of flowers and the strutting peacock towards the top. Even the fish and lotuses at the bottom right appear to dance. Much of the poetry concerns separation and is often voiced from the point of view of the lady and her yearning for her lover. The tone of the poetry is very close to what we see in ragamala works, as well as Bihari Lal’s Sat Sai and Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, and Keshav Das’ Rasikapriya seen elsewhere in this catalogue. The hero of the painting sits in a pavilion to the left surrounded by female attendants and musicians. His paramour is in the pavilion to the right surrounded by her retinue. Kamadeva, the Hindu god of love, perched in a tree above the rooflines shoots an arrow towards his beloved.
This painting is probably from a Barahmasa series (a series depicting the twelve months; barah is twelve and masa is month) although word masa for month does not appear in the inscription, while the word ritu does: it refers to an earlier set of six seasons. The six seasons often were described in literature as seen in a "Rtusamhāra" Ritusamhara written by the legendary Sanskrit poet Kalidasa. Later they were each split in half to form twelve to correspond to the twelve months. Curiously the text at the top is also numbered as 21. Other paintings from this series are known. One published in Hugo Munsterberg’s book is labeled as Vasanta, the season right after Shishira, and is numbered 27. The figures of the hero all agree with each other. Perhaps the poems being illustrated break the months into further divisions offering subtle differences in the tone of each part of the month. For a painting from the same series, see Hugo Munsterberg, Art of the India and Southeast Asia, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1970, p. 157
4 THE CLEANSING POWER OF LOVE OF KRISHNA
from a Sat Sai of Bihari Lal series Rajasthan, Mewar, Udaipur, 1719
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 10 x 8 1/2 in (25.4 x 21.5 cm) Bihari Lal’s Sat Sai is named for the roughly 700 verses composed by him in the early 17th century. On the whole, the Sat Sai of Bihari Lal has to do with lovers, referred to as Nayakas and Nayikas, and sometimes involves the god Krishna and his most important paramour, Radha. A few verses are included in praise of Bihari Lal’s patron, Jai Singh of Jaipur (born 1611, reigned 162167), who probably commissioned the entire work. What Radha said to her companion: Wonderful indeed is my love-lorn mind; the more it’s drenchedin Krishna’s dark blackness the purer it emerges! Strangeness lies in fact that although the nayika’s mind is drenched in black color, it comes out white! Shyam ranga means both “love of Krishna” and “black color.” The artist cleverly suggests the cleansing power of the love of Krishna by depicting a dhobi or washer man at the bottom. The figures at the right could depict Bihari Lal himself reciting his poetry. The full divine form of Krishna is illustrated at the top with him in the full guise as Vishnu with four arms carrying his usual attributes, the shankha, padma, cakra, and gada – conch, lotus, discus (here a golden quoit, a ring thrown in games but also sharpened and used in warfare) and a club. Translation of the text above from: Krishna P. Bahadur, trans., Bihari The Satasai, New York, 1990, his no. 23.
5 THE NAYIKAâ€™S BEAUTY
Folio from a Sat Sai of Bihari Lal series
Central Indian, Madhya Pradesh, Datia, ca. 1760 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 8 1/2 x 9 1/2 in (21.5 x 24.5 cm) This painting and the following catalogue entry are from a well-known set from the Central Indian center of Datia. What her companion said to her: What need have you of ornate adornments? You look charming as it is, your brow marked with just a bindi, your lips stained with red betel-juice, your eyes darkened with lamp-black, and your hair glistening with perfumed oil. The Sat Sai is cast from a number of points of view covering all sorts of romantic situations. One of the two sakhis flanking the nayika addresses her. She has probably been fussing about her appearance in anticipation of her loverâ€™s arrival. Her friend is reassuring her about her appeal. Similar to the preceding painting, the pastel shades are subtly juxtaposed against one another. The setting is quite plain with its flat shapes, but the sharp angle of the white marble terrace adds tension to the whole. Translation of the text above from: Krishna P. Bahadur, trans., Bihari The Satasai, New York, 1990, his no. 586.
6 A LOVER’S QUARREL
Foliorom a Sat Sai of Bihari Lal series
Central Indian, Madhya Pradesh, Datia, ca. 1760 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 8 3/4 x 9 1/2 in (22 x 24.5 cm) What he said to her: Although you’re speaking sweetly gazing lovingly and your eyebrows are not knit in anger; your affected deference, dear girl, makes me more and more apprehensive each moment! A nayika with her two friends approaches a nayaka on a terrace. Bolsters spread on a carpet separate the lovers. Here the male nayaka is actually chastising the lady nayika. Her sakhis appear to be shock listening to the nayaka’s comment. The carpet with bolsters suggests that they will reconcile and it awaits their romantic dalliance. The composition consists of horizontal bands for the lower foreground, the terrace itself, and a marble pavilion flanked by high walls. The pastel colors are quite pleasing. ,Translation of the text above from: Krishna P. Bahadur, trans., Bihari The Satasai, New York, 1990, his no. 259.
7 PROSHITAPATIKA NAYIKA, A HEROINE WHOSE LOVER HAS GONE AWAY
Folio from a Rasikapriya of Keshav Das series (Quintet or Five Treasures, also known as Panj Ganj) of Nezami Punjab Hills, Himachal Pradesh, Kangra, ca. 1820 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 11 5/8 x 8 3/8 in (29.5 x 21.5 cm) Painting 9 x 5 7/8 in (23 x 15 cm)
A list of Keshav Das’ nayikas includes the sixth of eight general categories, one called Proshitapatika. She is the one whose husband has gone off and failed to reappear on the stated day. She sits despondently hunched over and is consoled by a sakhi or confidant. According to verses on the back of this painting, the husband apparently had stayed away a day longer than planned and the nayika has been harsh to him. The poetry is recited by her sakhi who tells the nayika that her life is fulfilled by his return. Why is she so mournful, her stubbornness is tougher than wood, why does it not burn? The sakhi sits with upraised hands clearly lecturing the stubborn princess. She clearly is mending fences.
The terrace setting is commonly seen in Indian paintings from all over India, with a pavilion to one side and a distant view to the other. An elaborate garden with fountain separates the figures from the viewer. I thank Heidi Pauwels for taking a look at the inscriptions on the reverse and suggesting some interpretation from Keshav Das’ verses from the Rasikapriya. For a complete translation of the text see Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, The Eight Nāyikās, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2000, pp. 21-22.
8 UTKA NAYIKA, THE ANXIOUS OR EXPECTANT HEROINE
Folio from a Rasikapriya of Keshav Das series
Punjab Hills, Himachal Pradesh, Kangra or Guler, ca. 1825 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 11 1/4 x 8 5/8 in (28.5 x 22 cm) Painting 7 7/8 x 5 1/4 in (20 x 13.5 cm) Inscribed: Mugdha utka nayika
The nayika repines on her bed longing for her lover. Much Indian poetry concerns lovers in a wide variety of situations and separation was a very popular theme. The word mugdha in the inscriptions at the top of the painting lets us know that this is a young inexperienced or naĂŻve woman. Her sakhi or friend listens to her and consoles her. The cool palette effectively conveys the time of day. The severe angle of the bed and the few patches of bright orange add a sense of agitation. The moon bursting over the mountain with a star studded sky and the candles on the terrace giving off fountains of light, suggest that she will stay awake all night longing for her lover. Nayikas of the class called Utka usually are depicted alone in the forest, but there are other situations where we see these young women anxiously awaiting their lovers at home. The text on the back describes her as having paced in the place of her tryst, here perhaps a house in the usual forest. A second verse refers to the moonrise, comparing it to her face. I thank Heidi Pauwels for taking a look at the inscriptions on the reverse and suggesting some interpretation from Keshav Dasâ€™ verses from the Rasikapriya.
9 UTKA NAYIKA, THE ANXIOUS OR EXPECTANT HEROINE
Folio from a Rasikapriya of Keshav Das series attributed here to Harkhu of Guler
Punjab Hills, Himachal Pradesh, Chamba, ca. 1810-20 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 10 1/8 x 7 7/8 in (25.7 x 20 cm) Painting 8 x 6 1/4 in (20.2 x 15.8 cm) The depiction of a nayika seated in a pavilion accompanied by her friend or sakhi is a very popular composition. The despondent nayika is hunched over and her sakhi offers her some pan? to distract her from her despondency. The nayika is distraught, her lover has gone away and she anxiously awaits his return. This particular paining is very close in detail to a painting that was painted by Harkhu and illustrated in an article by Jagdish Mittal. Note the way the bottom folds of the nayika’s skirt are handled. Harkhu and his brother Chhajju who painted in a similar style were the sons of the artist Nikka who in turn was a son of the famous Pahari artist Nainsukh. Nikka and his brother Ranjha were also painters at the court of Chamba. For a discussion of the work of the two brothers see Jagdish Mittal, “Harkhu and Chhajju: Two Guler artists at Chamba,” in Vishwa Chander Ohri and Roy C. Craven, Jr, eds., Paintings of the Pahari School, Bombay: Marg publications, vol. 50, No. 1, September 1998. A very similar work is illustrated there, figure 2, p. 117. It is also in John Seyller and Jagdish Mittal, Paintings in the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art, Hyderabad: Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art, 2014, no. 87, pp. 252-53
10 KRISHNA ADORNS RADHA WITH A TILAK
Folio from a Gita Govinda of Jayadeva series
Punjab Hills, Himachal Pradesh, Mandi, ca. 1830 Ink, and opaque watercolor Folio 10 3/4 x 7 7/8 in (27.3 x 20 cm) Painting 8 3/4 x 5 3/4 in (22.4 x 14.6 cm)
Jayadeva’s twelfth century Gita Govinda (Song of the Cowherd) is an important work contributing to the development of the Bhakti tradition in Hinduism, which focuses on a personal relationship with the god Krishna. In Jayadeva’s verses, which would have been sung, the relationship between Radha and Krishna is a metaphor for the devotee’s direct engagement with the divine. In an idyllic pastoral setting, Krishna and Radha meet on the bank of a stream. Apparently Radha has been carrying pots of milk in a wicker basket and Krishna has met up with her. The vetra or cowherd's stick on the ground suggests that he has left his work hoping for a romantic tryst. Here, in an idyllic pastoral setting, Krishna places the tilak or bindi on Radha's forehead. The gesture is reminiscent of a Brahman priest acknowledging a devotee’s offering to the god. The sinuous vine wrapping around the tree implies their union, while the two ducks in the water also mimic the meeting of the two lovers or the soul’s union with the godhead.
Radha speaks to Krishna: Make a mark with liquid deer musk on my moonlit brow! Make a moon shadow, Krishna! The sweat drops are dried. She told the joyful Yadu hero, playing to delight her heart. Text from Barbara Stoler Miller, ed. and trans., Love Song of the Dark Lord, New York: Columbia University Press, 1977, 12th Part, 24th song, verse 16, p. 124.
11 A LOVING COUPLE ENTERTAINED BY MUSICIANS
Folio attributed to Muhammad Faqirullah Khan
Mughal, Uttar Pradesh, Farrukhabad, ca. 1760-1770 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Painting 9 x 12 1/2 in (23 x 31.7 cm)
This painting comes from the eastern area of the Mughal territories, probably from Farrukhabad, another capital of the Lucknow rulers. Although not inscribed, this painting can be attributed to a known artist, Mohammad Faqirullah Khan based on stylistic similarities to his known works. The long attenuated figures with elongated faces as seen in this painting was a hallmark of his work as well as the way the landscape in the background is painted with fine shades of green and yellow. The lovers recline on a charpoi or bed with one of the man’s hands wrapped around his paramour and the other cupping her left breast. They gaze intently into each other’s eyes. Two attendants stand to the left and a group of female musicians sit on the terrace. Two play instruments; one plays what must be a two-ended drum or dholak. The other holds a tambura, a typical stringed instrument used to create a drone to accompany the singer who lifts her arm captivated by her own song. Another painting attributed to Muhammad Faqirullah Khan, dated to 1760-70 and painted in Farrukhabad, is now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2005.159). See: Stephen Markel, ed., India’s Fabled City. The Art of Courtly Lucknow, Los Angeles: Los Angeles County museum of Art, 2010, cat. 25, p. 73-74.
12 AMBIKA (DEVI) FIGHTS NISHUMBHA
Folio Number 42 from a Devimahatmya series
Punjab Hills, Himachal Pradesh, Guler, ca. 1780 Ink, and opaque watercolor Folio 7⅞ x 11½ in (20 x 29 cm) Painting 6½ x 10⅛ in (16.5 x 25.5 cm)
In the Devimahatmya the demon Shumbha tries to get the lovely goddess Ambika to become his wife and she challenges him and his brother Nishumbha to war. The demon army confronts her and there are a number of battles. After killing terrible demons, here Ambika mounted on her lion is actively fighting powerful Nishumbha, Shumbhas’s brother. Weapons fly back and forth creating a pattern in the space between the warring figures. Her arrows with their curved heads deflect the more common kind which Nishumbha shoots, while she manages to send many discusses, faintly outlined as doughnut shapes, towards her demon foe. Ambika’s weapons reflect those of many gods, whose shaktis or female powers she embodies. She holds Brahma’s lota or pot; Vishnu’s gada and shankha, his club and conch; Shiva’s parashu and trishula, axe and trident; as well as a sword and bow and arrow. For a discussion of the text and translations in both Italian and English see: Alessandro Passi (ed.), Devi-Mahatmya: Il ms. 4510 della Biblioteca Civica “Vincenzo Joppi” di Udine, Udine: Società Indologica “Luigi Pio Tessitori,” 2008. The story is told in Adhyaya V (12), pp. 306-08. I thank B.N. Goswamy for informing me that there is an incomplete set of paintings dating from the same period in the Chandigarh Museum, which have similar compositions and uncolored borders. There are also related drawings in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and other museums such as Brooklyn, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles.
13 AMBIKA (DEVI) CONFRONTS SHUMBHA
Folio Number 45 from a Devimahatmya series
Punjab Hills, Guler, ca. 1780
Ink, and opaque watercolor Folio 7 ½ x 11 ½ in (20 x 29 cm) Painting 6 ¼ x 10 1/8 in (15.8 x 25.5 cm) Continuing the story of the Goddess’ exploits after dispatching Nishumbha, suggested by catalogue number 12, she finally confronts Shumbha. Ambika is the embodiment of the female powers of a large number of gods, a combination essential to kill a series of powerful demons. She becomes the separate female counterparts of these gods and shortly after Nishumbha is killed, all of these manifestations return into the body of the single goddess. Against Shumbha Ambika stands alone. The artist has created a charming device to depict this. Not only does she hold some of the attributes of these gods, but also a few of their heads and hands pop up from her shoulders. Observing from left to right, we see the sixheaded Karttikeya, the four-headed Brahma, a Shiva covered with light blue-gray ash from the cremation ground and the blueskinned Vishnu. Between her arms we also find the man-lion Narasimha and the boar Varaha (two of Vishnu’s incarnations) on her right and another head and hands (Kali?) to her left. She now can confront the last of her assailants, the all-powerful king of the Daityas Shumbha.
For a discussion of the text and translations in both Italian and English see: Alessandro Passi (ed.), Devi-Mahatmya: Il ms. 4510 della Biblioteca Civica “Vincenzo Joppi” di Udine, Udine: Società Indologica “Luigi Pio Tessitori,” 2008. This story of Devi’s final fight against Shumbha is told in Adhyaya V (13), pp. 309-10. I thank B.N. Goswamy for informing me that there is an incomplete set of paintings dating from the same period in the Chandigarh Museum, which have similar compositions and uncolored borders. There are also related drawings in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and other museums in Brooklyn, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles.
14 BHARATA TAKES HIS LEAVE OF HIS WIFE MANDAVI
Folio from a Ramayana series
Mandi, ca. 1845
Ink and opaque watercolor on paper Folio 7 ½ x 11 ½ in (20 x 29 cm) Painting 6 ¼ x 10 1/8 in (15.8 x 25.5 cm) Simply inscribed sri raja bharatha ji “Lord king Bharata” above the principal figure. In the Ramayana Rama’s brother Bharata was supposed to rule the kingdon in Rama’s absence during his fourteen-year exile. This was due to a boon given by their father to Bharata’s mother Kaikeyi. But Bharata was very uneasy with the arrangement and first asked Rama to return to Ayodhya. Rama refused to return and in lieu of Rama himself Bharata set up Rama’s sandals at the foot of the throne to symbolize Rama’s rule. Rarely depicted in the many Ramayana series of paintings is the scene where Bharata leaves the capital for the duration of Rama’s exile and goes to live in a hut in Nandigrama on the side of a river. There he lived the life of an ascetic with matted locks (Ramayana, Book II, chap. 115. v. 23). He eventually is described in a rather disgusting state according to Valmiki’s text (Ramayana, Book VI.chap. 25.v. 29-33). Here barefoot he takes his leave of his wife Mandavi wearing only a lungota or loincloth and a leopard skin, a hunter’s trophy, over his shoulder along with a jhuli or pouch. He still wears jewelry when he departs and it is unclear who is accompanying him. One could suggest his brother Shatrughna, but he is not mentioned in the text. A very similar painting in the San Diego Museum of Art (1990.1144) depicts Raja Gopi Chand disguised as an ascetic arriving at a house by a lake. It is extremely close in detail of dress for both the ascetic figure and the ladies, who have similar pronounced gestures. 32
15 THE LIBERATION OF KING NRIGA
Folio from a Bhagavata Purana series
Madhya Pradesh, Malwa, ca. 1700
Ink, opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper Painting 8 x 14 1/2 in (20.3 x 37 cm) In the past King Nriga had accidentally given a cow to two different Brahmanas and one of them cursed him. He was turned into some sort to lizard or chameleon and would only recover his real appearance once he was touched by Krishna. Years later, the gopas or cowherder friends of Krishna were playing and found a well. Wanting a drink they discovered the well was dry and had entrapped poor Nriga. They tried to lift him with ropes as seen at the bottom right of the painting, but couldnâ€™t manage to lift him. Once they alerted Krishna he was able to effortlessly lift up the poor creature. Here he is depicted as a rather strangely shaped animal, part crab and lizard-like. In the central register Nriga regains his original form and lies down in thanks touching Krishnaâ€™s feet. In the top register he folds his hands in reverence and then ascends to heaven in a celestial vehicle or vimana.
As is usual in so many of the paintings from these Bhagavata Purana paintings from Malwa, the action often does not go in a straight line. Basically the action goes from the bottom up, but the two scenes of the gopas trying to lift the animal and the later one of Krishna arriving and saving the animal happen simultaneously in the painting. Many folios from this manuscript are scattered in public and private collections. They are easily recognizable because of the sprays of gold lines that enliven the backgrounds.
16 KRISHNA’S CHILDHOOD AND VISHNU FIGHTS AS DEMON
Folio from a Bhagavata Purana series
Rajasthan, Mewar, ca. 1725
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 10 1/2 x 16 1/2 in (26.5 x 41.5 cm) It is unclear what story from the Bhagavata Purana that this illustrates. The inscriptions on the few Mewar series from this period scattered amongst many collections are not from the actual Sanskrit test. The inscriptions are often rather cryptic in tone. In the pavilion we see the two brothers Krishna in Yashoda’s arms to the right and Balarama on Rohini’s lap to the left. Nanda, Krishna’s stepfather stands to the left. He is clearly mentioned in the text at the top. The fight between Vishnu and a demon in the main section of the painting is surprising. Having both the child Krishna and a scene that is possibly from his
maturity in the same painting is rare. It is clear in the Bhagavata Purana that Krishna takes the form of Vishnu at times described with four-arms. But those scenes are in the second half of Book X of the long text while the childhood stories leading up to Krishna killing his evil uncle take place in the first half of Book X. The addition of what can be seen and three more different colored Vishnus floating above the fight scene is also rather surprising. My thanks to Neeraja Poddar for identifying this rare scene.
17 FIGURES ON PARADE. VERSO, SOLDIERS GREET A KING AND HIS RETINUE
Folio from a Marathi version of the Mahabharata loose leaf series
Maharashtra, Pinguli, ca. 1850
Opaque watercolors on paper Painting 16 3/4 x 11 3/4 in (42.5 x 30 cm) Paintings of this type were first collected at Paithan and often are designated by that term. They clearly relate to the Chitrakathi, painter/storytellers who used these largest paintings to illustrate the stories that they told. The stories would be told accompanied with music in performances that lasted for hours. These itinerate storytellers were active in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. John Seyller and Jagdish Mittal in one of the catalogues of the Mittal collection suggest Pinguli in southern Maharashtra. Due to similarities of the figures to some of his examples I am following their attribution. In one example in the Victoria and Albert Museum they suggest Sawantwadi the name of the taluk in the same district (Sindhudurg) as Pinguli, but some distance from that town. Some examples with watermarked paper dating to 1835 and 1841 give the whole tradition a terminus post quem. Various dates have been suggested extending into the early 20th century. The bold style with monumental figures and bold eyes clearly derive from the leather puppet theater tradition of the region. These paintings were executed on two sheets of unprimed paper that was glued together. Often dealers have separated the two sheets as is the case with another example in the catalogue. The great majority of the paintings are horizontal in 38
nature, so the one side of this example is much rarer. Various tales were illustrated with these bold paintings exhibited against a wooden support, then turned over as the story continued. Clearly soldiers have come to visit the larger seated kingly figure. The man behind him is possibly his son and the female figures his two wives. The elaborate pavilion underscores the importance of the king. In the rarer vertical composition the same characters stride out on parade carrying shields and weapons perhaps going to war. horse-headed figure accompanies the king and an odd looking figure with a Mohican haircut carries a red banner decorated with a crescent moon and sun? What again may be the kingâ€™ son rides in a chariot and one of the women acts as charioteer. See: John Seyller and jagdish Mittal, Deccani Paintings, Drawings, and Manuscripts in the Jagdish and Kamala Mittal Museum of Indian Art, vol. II, Hyderabad: Jagdish and Kamala Mittal Museum of Indian Art, 2018, pp. 296-331. Also see: A.L. Dallapiccola, South Indian Paintings: a Catalogue of the British Museum Collection, London: The British Msueum Press, 2010, pp. 278-95.
18 A WEDDING SCENE
Folio from a local version of the Ramayana? loose leaf series
Maharashtra, Pinguli, ca. 1850
Opaque watercolors on paper Folio 11 1/2 x 16 1/2 in (29.3 x 42 cm) Seyller and Mittal as well as Dallapiccola cited in the last catalogue entry refer to the stories that are told by the Chitrakathis. It appears to be a very particular stories that each of the clans have to have in their repertoire. They include a Marathi version of the Mahabharata and versions of part of the Ramayana amongst a few other local tales. In a nearly symmetrical composition and woman and man extend their arms to each other in what must suggest their wedding. The father of the bride lifts his hand in benediction as does the woman on the right behind the bridegroom. Behind this family group, larger figures complete the assembly. The one on the left is a rather odd looking creature, possibly a rakshasa, a demonic figure. The demons tend to take a great variety of forms. They figure prominently in the Ramayana, so perhaps this represents some wedding from that long epic. See: John Seyller and jagdish Mittal, Deccani Paintings, Drawings, and Manuscripts in the Jagdish and Kamala Mittal Museum of Indian Art, vol. II, Hyderabad: Jagdish and Kamala Mittal Museum of Indian Art, 2018, pp. 296-331. Also see: A.L. Dallapiccola, South Indian Paintings: a Catalogue of the British Museum Collection, London: The British Msueum Press, 2010, pp. 278-95.
19 SIX PORTRAITS OF QUTB SHAHI, MUGHAL, AND PERSIAN NOBILITY
Folio from a dispersed album
Telangana, Golconda, circa 1680s
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Each Folio measures 12 3/4 x 8 1/4 in (32.3 x 21 cm) Towards the end of the 17th century artists at Golconda, the capital of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, artists created a large number of albums depicting both Mughal and Deccani rulers and dignitaries for Europeans visiting the city. These albums all must predate the fall of the city to the Mughals in 1687. Pauline Lunsingh Scheurleer in the reference cited below listed seventeen albums that went to the Netherlands. Unbound examples in many public and private collections are probably from such albums—muraqqa‘s. All but one of these paintings have inscriptions in nasta‘liq. Scheurleer discusses the Witsen Album consisting of 46 portraits now in The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, which is the only known album with labels in Portuguese. Other examples have Dutch, French, and Italian labels. Rijksmuseum portraits that are quite close to our examples are in rectangular frames. While another set of paintings in oval frames is found in one of the albums in the British Museum (1974,0617,0.11.1-26).
Each of these portraits is carefully painted with elaborate fabrics and jeweled swords, daggers, and often holding flowers in a standard pose. Where the British Museum set has subtle gold foliate decoration around the oval our examples are much more elaborately decorated. It was a much more luxurious muraqqa‘. Each has a floral oval border and set against a striking boldly colored rectangle with its own lighter colored decorated border finished by a border having large gold florets. Muraqqa‘s were usually organized so that similar pages would face each other: one would find two pages of calligraphy, two portraits, and two paintings of other themes facing each other. Detailed information about each portrait on following pages. References: Lunsingh Scheurleer, “Het Witsenalbum: zeventiende-eeuwse Indiase portretten op bestelling,” Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 44, 1996, no.3, pp. 167-254 with an English summary: “The Witsen Album: 17th-century Indian portraits to order,” pp. 266-270. The museum also has the album on-line. An on-line article on these albumscan be found at: http://www.journal18.org/issue6/effigies-in-transit-deccanportraits-in-europe-at-the-turn-of-the-18th-century/
19a MIRZA AHMAD, VERSO WITH A CALLIGRAPHY PANEL
Labeled in nasta‘liq as Mirza Ahmad The Persian Mirza Nizamuddin Ahmad, eldest son-in-law of Sultan Abdullah Qutb Shah, was his Vizier with the title of Ayn-ul-Mulk. The Dutchman Daniel Havart who was with the VOC on the Coromandel Coast from 1674 to 1686 spent a lot of time in Golconda and published his memoirs in 1693. In it he claimed Mirza Ahmad had twelve thousand troops and managed to have 52 children by a variety of women, not one child by his wife. He is not among the portraits of the muraqqa‘ noted in the British Museum with the figures in ovals, but he does appear in two other muraqqa‘s: seated in 1974,0617,0.2.26 and standing full length in 1974,0617,0.4.36.
He wears a simple white jama with a subdued patka or sash, which matches his turban. He sports a brown shawl with a narrow decorated border and extends his hands in a prayerful gesture. The calligraphic panel on the reverse is decorated with a three couplets of poetry in bold nastaâ€˜liq further inscribed with two couplets within vertical could-from panels.
19b SHAH SHUJA, VERSO WITH PAINTING OF TWO CAMELS IN COMBAT
Labeled in nastaâ€˜liq as Sultan Shuja Shah Shuja (1616-61) was one of the sons of Shah Jahan. After the war between the four brothers which ended with Alamgir (Aurangzeb) victorious, Shah Shuja went into exile and died in Burma. This painting is extremely close in detail to his portrait in the muraqqaâ€˜ in the British Museum with the portraits in oval frames. As befits a Mughal prince, Shah Shuja is elaborately dressed. He also has a khatar or punch dagger at his waist and a jewel encrusted sword. He has strings of large pearls around his neck, on his wrists, and decorating his elaborate turban.
The reverse is decorated with two camels in combat. Depiction of camels, usually a camel and his retainer as well as two camels fighting were a popular subject in Persian Art from the fifteenth century on and by transmission enjoyed popularity in Mughal and Deccani courts. Here the camels are painted with fine detailed hair and realistic posture. The addition of gold and lapis blankets on their backs adds sumptuousness to the rather pale composition. Several related panels are various museum and private collections, notably a painting of two camels fighting in Saint Louis Art Museum (3:1942), a drawing of two camels fighting with a retainer struggling in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (45.174.20).
19c ABDULLAH QUTB SHAH, VERSO WITH A CALLIGRAPHY PANEL
Labeled in nastaâ€˜liq as Abdullah Qutb Sha Abdullah Qutb Shah (r. 1626-72) did not have a happy reign. The seventh ruler in the line of the Qutb Shahi Sultans he was defeated by the Mughal emperor Alamgir (Aurangzeb) and confined to the fort of Golconda. His second daughter did become the principal wife of Alamgirâ€™s eldest son Muhammad Sultan Mirza, but nothing came of it. Abdullah is depicted in three quarter view, actually rare for important personages in Mughal and Deccani painting. Few others including the earlier Mughal Emperor Akbar are depicted this way. He also does not have the common beard, rather only a mustache and long sideburns.
He wears an elaborate brocade jama and is wrapped in a strikingly turquoise colored shawl. This color juxtaposed against the background and contrasting with the purple of his turban is quite striking. The painting in the British Museum is virtually identical, but the direction is reversed. The reverse has a calligraphy panel composed of several couplets of nastaâ€˜liq poetry in praise of Abdullah Qutb Shah and giving a date of his ascension as 1035 A.H.
19d ABUL HASAN QUTB SHAH, VERSO WITH A CALLIGRAPHY PANEL INSCRIBED MIR ‘ALI
Labeled in nasta‘liq as Abul Hasan Qutb Shah Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, often referred to as Tana Shah (r. 1672-87) became Sultan at the death of his father-in-law Abdullah Qutb Shah. Tana Shah means “Child Saint” and he was given that name by his Sufi teacher when he was young. There is evidence that Mirza Ahmad also in this catalogue was the intended heir to the throne. When Abul Hasan became delinquent in payments to the Mughals Golconda was captured and he was imprisoned at Daulatabad Fort many miles to the north for the remainder of his life. The Qutb Shahi domains then came under the rule of the Nizams who were at first vassals to the Mughals but later declared their independence and ruled a vast Empire until the establishment of the modern Indian state.
Dressed in a similar manner as his father-in-law Abdullah also in the catalogue, Tana Shah fills the oval dramatically. Portraits of him prove that he was a large man. His stomach clearly bulges outwards above his bejeweled belt. One hand grasps a sword and the other a khatar or punch dagger. The reverse has a calligraphy panel composed of two couplets in bold nasta‘liq on a gray marbled paper, inscribed Mir ‘Ali. Mir ‘Ali Heravi was perhaps the most prominent calligrapher of 16th century composed numerous qit’a or calligraphic pieces which were highly prized by the Safavid and Mughal patrons.
19e SHIVAJI, VERSO WITH A CALLIGRAPHY PANEL BY MUHAMMAD BAQIR
Labeled in nasta‘liq as Siva or Shiva The Maratha ruler Shivaji (1627-80) was a member of the Bhonsle Maratha clan and was an important military figure during the period when these muraqqa‘s were being produced. He was noted for conflicts with the rulers of the nearby Islamic Sultanate of Bijapur as well as with the Mughals. Like the Qutb Shahi Sultans in the catalogue he was arrested by Alamgir, but managed to escape from Agra and later made peace with the Mughals. Shivaji is almost always found in these muraqqa‘s. He was obviously an important figure to the Europeans that were commissioning these albums.
The painting in the British Museum is virtually identical, but the direction is reversed. Dressed in a decorated white jama Shivaji stands in a popular pose, extending his one hand out holding a flower. His turban is rather subdued, but he is clearly dressed expensively. He wore his hair in a distinctive fashion and with his hooked nose he is very easy to identify. The reverse has a calligraphy panel composed of two couplets in bold nastaâ€˜liq on a gray marbled paper, inscribed Muhammad Baqir.
19f A PERSIAN NOBLE, VERSO WITH A PAINTING OF GUJARI RAGINI Unlike the other portraits in this group the full-length figure stands in a rectangular, not an oval frame. This suggests that it is being copied from another group of paintings. This is probably intended to be Shah Abbas II (1632-66, r. 1642-66) since he and another Persian ruler Shah Suleiman are included in a number of the muraqqaâ€˜s. However it does not match those portraits. Although both Shah Abbas II and Shah Suleiman are depicted as thinner in other known portraits, our Persian noble resembles them and wears a similar elaborate brocade garment. His turban is clearly not a Mughal or Deccani type and similar ones are found in many Persian paintings.
On the reverse Gujari ragini sits upon a purple lotus on a terrace under a tree holding a vina . She points upwards gesturing towards birds. As is common in ragamala paintings a pavilion is to one side, here to the right. In this instance it is highly ornamented. Its floral white marble dado is decorated with inlayed colored stones. The niches above house various ceramics and even a dish of red fruit.
20 EQUESTRIAN PORTRAIT OF JAWAN SINGH
Jawan Singh is identified in an inscription on the reverse. Rajasthan, Mewar, Udaipur, late 1820s
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 19 x 13in (48.4 x 33.1cm) Painting 16 x 9Âž in (40.6 x 24.7cm) Clearly painted around the same time as the two hunt scenes following since Maharana Jawan Singh appears to be the same age, he is depicted in a formal equestrian portrait. The elaborate golden nimbus surrounding his head, including the important emblem of crescent moon and star within it, suggests that this was painted after he has become the Maharana. After all, the two hunting scenes date from before he began his reign, his father Bhim Singh only died in 1828 and Jawan Singh ruled for the next ten years. Unlike the plainer green hunting costume of the other two portraits Jawan Singh is more sumptuously dressed and bejeweled. His horse sports equally elaborate adornments: his mane braided with golden jewels ends in three tiers and sports leafshaped pendants with emeralds and pearls. Small retainers carrying staffs walk in front of the king and turn back to bask in his glory. One strider behind the horse carries a large cauri or yak-tailed fly-whisk. Two others walk behind, one carrying a large red umbrella and another a staff. Again the high horizon allows for the Maharana to be boldly juxtaposed against a flat background.
21 MAHARANA JAWAN SINGH WITH COURTIERS
Ascribed here to Ghasi
Rajasthan, Mewar, Udaipur, ca. 1827 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 9 1/8 x 6in (23.1 x 15.5cm)
The long inscription at the top of the painting is very difficult to read since it is written against a dark background. This is clearly a painting by Ghasi from the same series as the similar painting of Jawan Singh hunting birds. Here we find an equally formal depiction of the outcome of a boar hunt. Three of the courtiers that accompanied the Maharana on his hunt stand rigidly with their hands in namaskar greeting him, while two other figures stand behind him. All of the figures are armed with muskets. Where a peregrine falcon was used in the other painting to hunt birds, clearly something far more lethal is needed to hunt boars, which are pretty vicious in their own right. Again hieratic scale is used to underscore the superior position of the king. The dead boar lies rigidly at the bottom of the composition distinctly shot at least the three times. The large tree behind Jawan Singh and with the plain grey/blue ground below the high horizon to the right makes the figures stand out effectively.
22 MAHARANA JAWAN SINGH WITH RAWAT DULE SINGH AND SIRDAR SINGH
Ascribed to Ghasi
Rajasthan, Mewar, Udaipur, dated V.S. 1884 / 1827 A.D. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 7 3/4 x 5 1/4 inches Painting 10 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches
Two inscriptions, both front and back, give much information, the back being the longer of the two. They tell us that Jawan Singh hunts cranes in the early morning. Standing behind him is ‘his brother’ Sirdar Singh and Rawat Dule Singh. Standing in front is the falconer Masti Ram. It goes on to say that it is by the artist Ghasi and painted in V.S. 1884 / 1827 A.D. There is also a Mewar inventory number. Maharana Jawan Singh came to power on the death of his father, Bhim Singh and reigned for ten years (1828-1838). He was an avid patron of the arts and a sensualist like his father. One artist that he patronized was the artist Ghasi, who we know also worked for an important British political agent and resident named Colonel James Tod. This painting displays many fine details, the limited palette is deceptive.
Paintings memorializing the everyday activities of the king are known and this painting is typical of simpler day-to-day activities and serves historical importance (it is labeled as the 12th painting in a series). Other paintings show him with his friend Rawat Dule Singh (the Thakur of Asind) and the figure referred to as ‘his brother’ in the inscription, Sirdar [or Sardar] Singh (of Bagor), was not his actual brother, but became his successor as Maharana. Sirdar Singh reigned for four years until his death in 1842. He, in turn, was succeeded by his own brother Sarup Singh. Jawan Singh holds a hunting peregrine falcon on his gloved hand and a dead crane is at his feet. All wear green, the color of hunting costumes. Although a seemingly casual document of the day’s events, there is a strict formality to the whole and the thin crescent moon with a small star in its center subtly adds importance to the figure of the Maharaja. For a discussion of his life and the art of his period see: Andrew Topsfield, Court painting at Udaipur, Zurich, , pp. 245 ff., and p. 252 for Sirdar Singh.
23 THE KING SIDDHARTHA AT HIS TOILET
Folio 29 from a Kalpasutra loose-leaf manuscript
Rajasthan or Gujarat, late 15th century
Ink, opaque watercolor, and washes on paper Folio 5 3/8 x 11 ½ inche Painting 4 3/8 x 9 ¾ inches The Kalpasūtra is the most often copied and illustrated text revered by the Shvetambara Jaina sect. It begins with the life of Mahavira, the last of a line of twentyfour Jinas followed by short life events of three other Jinas. This is followed by a few other topics. It is not a separate entity as such, being part of a larger work, but over time it acquired importance and was often produced as a separate text. The text is ascribed to the authorship of the sage Bhadrabāhu (fl. 300 BC). Among all of the texts composed by the Jainas, the Kalpasutra is illustrated most often and was commissioned by pious Shvetambara Jainas, including both laymen and laywomen and monks as well. This event comes near the beginning of the story of Mahavira’s life. It illustrates his father Siddhartha, not to be confused with the name of the historical Buddha. Siddhartha hears that his wife Trishala has had fourteen auspicious dreams and that an important son will be born to them. He goes to the gymnasium for exercise. Servants dress him in luxurious clothes after he is bathed, his hair shampooed and groomed.
Most extant Kalpasutras are simply illustrated with paintings. The rest of the folio is essentially bare, but a few, usually referred to as Deluxe or in the Opulent Style, have elaborately decorated folios. The text is written in gold against a burgundy colored ground. The whole is enlivened with floral motifs and surrounded with an intricate blue border. The gold circle in the center harks back to when manuscripts were made of palm leaves and strings would be strung to keep the folios in order. Rectos typically have the one circle and the verso would have three.
Folio from the Rasikapriya of Keshavadas, section 1, verse 1
Rajasthan, Mewar, Udaipur, ca. 1710
Ink, gouache, and gold on paper Folio 13 ¼ x 9 ⅝ inches Painting 12 x 8 ¼ inches Provenance: Collections of Claus Virch and Nasli Heeramaneck
Many if not most works in Indian literature begin with a salutation to Ganesha as the god of beginnings. In this case it is the first verse of the popular Rasikapriya composed in 1591 by Keshavadas (fl. 1580-1601). Normally one finds paintings having to do with Krishna’s love of Radha and other scenes of romantic dalliance and it is rare to actually find this crucial first painting from a set of paintings illustrating his poems. Harsha V. Dehejia’s massive work on the text doesn’t even include an example of Keshavadas’ dedication to the elephantheaded god. The painting has Ganesha seated on a terrace holding a parashu or axe and a dish of modaka cakes, his favorite sweet. His third and fourth hands hold an akshamala or rosary and white flower, probably a padma or lotus. Perhaps his two wives are the figures holding cauris or yak-tail fly-whisks to either side and his miniscule vahana or vehicle, the rat, lies in the foreground. His parents Shiva and Parvati mentioned in the verse sit in a bower in the background as if in their hilltop abode on Mount Kailasa. Their vahanas, Nandi the bull and the lion, flank the pair. Here as mentioned in the verse, Ganesha sports the crescent moon associated with his father. The last element mentioned in the verse, 66
his large stomach is quite obvious as is the first “one tooth” — he had broken one of his tusks in one of the stories associated with his legend. Numbered 1, the inscription starts with Shri Ganeshaya namah followed by the Keshavadas verse: To Him of one tooth, a storehouse of knowledge, destroyer of Kama, son of Shiva, he who gives pleasure to Parvati, abode of bliss, to whom the whole world venerates, who holds the moon on his head, who bestows happiness on everyone, who spreads radiance, superior to everyone, who has the best attributes, divine in every way, who removes worldly fears of his devotees, who holds nine treasures, protecting the weak, of a large stomach, salutations to that Ganesha from Keshavdas. Translation of the text above from Harsha V. Dehejia, Rasikapriya: Ritikavya of Keshavdas in Ateliers of Love, New Delhi, 2013, 1.20, p. 50. Another painting of this verse with a different beginning to the text before the verse itself is published in Narmada Prasad Upadhyaya and Harsha V. Dehejia, Paintings of Bundlekhand, New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd., 2016, p. 38 where the painting is misidentified as from Malwa, but is actually from Amber. It depicts Ganesha and his consort with Keshavadas standing before him in veneration. My thanks to Heidi Pawels for originally recognizing this as a verse by Keshav Das.
25 THE VENERATION OF VISHNU
Folio 57 of a Sarangdharapaddhati series
Rajasthan, Udaipura, ca. 1690-95
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 11 x 9 ¾ in (28 x 24.5 cm) Painting 9 ½ x 8 ¼ in (24 x 21 cm) Vishnu sits on a lotus cushion atop an elaborate jewel-encrusted golden throne amidst all the trappings of royalty. He is surmounted by an gilded umbrella and a spectacular nimbus radiates from the halo behind his head. Two attendants stand to one side holding cauris or yaktail fly-whisks. Five courtiers stand to the left in poses of prayerful adoration with there hands in namaskara. They conjure up memories of Mughal figures in formal court scenes. Two others stand below and one appears to be in the act of reciting the poem written above. The painting is from the Sarangdharapaddhati described by Topsfield as a compilation of didactic or descriptive poems taken from poets writing in Sanskrit. These aphorisms cover a wide range of subject matter. Sarangdhara was a bard from Ranthambhore and he compiled this text in 1363. He is also noted for his own compositions, particularly the Hamir Hath about the heroic Hamir Dev Chauhan and his fight with the Muslim Sultan of Delhi Ala-ud-din Khilji, a story that has been cherished in Rajasthan for centuries. For a short discussion of the text and folios from this dispersed series, see: Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at Udaipur, Zürich: Artibus Asiae Supplementum XLIV, , pp. 98-99. Also see Joachim Bautze, Lotosmund und Löwenritt, Stuttgart: Linden Museum, 1991, pp. 197-201, catalogue numbers 84-87.
26 MAHARANA SARUP SINGH WORSHIPS JAGANNATHA RAI Rajasthan, Udaipur, 1840-50s Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 14 1/8 x 10 7/8 in (36 x 27.5 cm) An important temple in the capital city of Udaipur is the Jagdish Mandir, which is dedicated to a Krishna image called Jagannatha Rai (Lord of the World). Maharana Jagat Singh I built the temple and it was completed in 1651. Here Maharana Sarup Singh (reigned 1842-61) worships this important icon. The sculpture is most likely related directly to the Charbhuja image set up in 1444 during the reign of Maharana Kumbha (1433-1468) in a temple in Garhbor village north of Udaipur. Although not seen in this heavily dressed sculpture, these images depict Krishna with four arms, carrying the usual weapons associated with Vishnu. Unlike Shri Nathji, they transcend narrative and function more as representations of the god Vishnu.
The festival being celebrated is Dussehra, a celebration of good over evil. Many images are dressed for that occasion with shields and swords and other weapons, so that the god can combat evil. This is even done for the Shri Nathji image at Nathadwara. Where Shri Nathji is worshipped widely, this sculpture of Jagannatha Rai is more localized and is an auspicious, potent image for the Mewar ruling family. A number of paintings featuring other Maharanas worshiping this sculpture are known. For a painting of Shri Nathji depicted with weapons for Dussehra, see Joachim K. Bautze, “Time of the Maharajas as Reflected in Indian Painting from Kota,” in Figurations of Time in Asia: Morphomata, vol. 4, Dietrich Borschung and Corinna Wessels-Mevissen, eds., Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag and Cologne: the Internationales Kolleg Morphomata, University of Köln, 2012, plate 15.
27 KRISHNA FLUTING, VENUGOPALA Central India, Madhya Pradesh, Datia, ca. 1760 Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, pearls, and semi-precious stones on paper Painting 11 3/4 x 8 7/8 in (29.8 x 22.5 cm) Krishna is often depicted as Venugopala, playing his flute (the venu), as protector of the cows (go-pala). Here the mannered physiognomy of Krishna is very tall, as are the male figures to his left. Recession into space is suggested by the horizontal bands of land, vegetation, and river that back the main figure. He stands on an elaborate base that is topped by a lotus form. Actual jewels and pearls encrust the throne and figure of Krishna, while the four attendants wear pearls, creating a sumptuous effect. There is a rather varied palette to the whole with intricate colored floral designs at the ends of his sashes, while his main garment is a bright vermillion adorned with a gold pattern. Krishna wears a crown known as a kirtimukuta. The male attendants carry camaras or yak-tail fly-whisks, a sign of the divinity of the figure of Krishna although the gopis and gopas were unaware of his divine nature.
The mannered style of the figures is somewhat hard to place but there is a similar painting in an album in the Bodleian Library (Douce Or. a.3), which is accompanied only by male devotees and a cow. There are another nine paintings from the same group in the album and they indicate that this highly mannered style is from Datia in Central India.
28 TANTRIC DEVI SEATED ON SHIVA Punjab Hills, Kangra, ca. 1820 Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Painting 8 Â˝ x 6 Âź inches A Devi or Goddess sits upon the prone body of the god Shiva. She holds a broom, a pair of scissors, a gold jewel-encrusted lota or pot, and an equally decorated kapala or skull cup. This panoply is a bit surprising as is the form of the goddess herself. There are many Tantric goddesses and they have never been fully separated into specific accurate titles. Goddesses who are seen with the prone Shiva are usually fierce figures standing on him while this Devi is seated, beautiful and benign. She could represent a Tara-like goddess, one who cuts the ties that bind us to ignorance and prevent us from freeing ourselves so that we can release our souls. The ash-covered body of Shiva represents the cremation grounds where the soul can be liberated. It is clear that Shiva is still alive: he lifts one hand holding a damaru, a small two-headed drum, a common attribute of the god. The goddess sits in a regal rigid pose and the whole setting is ornate and calmness pervades the scene. Below the canopied and carpeted dais two cranes approach a hint of a river or stream.
29 A PRIEST OF SHRI NATHJI Rajasthan, Nathadwara, ca. early 19th century Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper Folio 9 1/2 x 6 1/4 in (24 x 16 cm) Provenance: Peter Cochrane, London A priest presumably from the temple at Nathadwara is shown seated in prayer on a carpet leaning against a bolster. His right hand is in a prayer sock (gomukhi) and he is probably keeping track of his prayers by counting beads. Although the overall effect is one of quiet asceticism, he is adorned with a great deal of elaborate jewelry, underlining the great wealth of the religious center. He wears rings, bracelets and armlets and luxurious necklaces. His ear ornament is a wonderful echo of the overall roundness of the forms. His dhoti fans out in an elaborate fashion. The cusped arch consisting of decorated marble adds even more to the sumptuous quality of this sensitive portrait.
30 TWO SADHUS Tamilnad, Tanjore or Chenai (formally Madras), early 19th century Ink, opaque watercolor, and washes on paper Folio 16 x 11 3/4 in (40.6 x 30 cm) Painting 14 Âž x 10 Â˝ inches In various Indian centers local artists were commissioned to create sets of paintings of groups of people. Often these were done for European travelers. Early rulers of the Deccan were popular at Golconda as seen elsewhere in the catalogue. These were executed in the Indian style of the time. In the 19th century paintings done for Europeans are often grouped into what is called Company School painting. The styles vary depending on the center at which the sets were painted. In the Punjab architecture, Sikh figures, and different occupations were popular subjects. In Delhi the Mughal line was popular as were Mughal buildings. In Tamilnad one finds large groups of occupations, sometimes husband and wife pairs. Sadhus, Hindu holy men, were very often painted. Here two Vaisnava (followers of Visnu) sadhus are depicted. The yellow and white lines in vertical groups of three identify their affiliation.
They probably reflect two distinct groups. Each clad simply in a lunghota, a g-stringlike garment. One may find the fact that the one on the left holds a sword with a shield over his shoulder odd, but militaristic bands of sadhus were quite common. The sadhu on the right has a tiger skin over his shoulder, a common feature since sadhus often wandered in the jungles and forests throughout India. Looking directly at the viewer, he smokes a small hookah. These paintings usually have very low horizons, here dotted with white temples and are set against variegated skies. The rudimentary hints at cast shadows are also a common feature.
31 CARVED WOOD PANELS
Wood with Polychrome and gesso remnants
Deccan, Bijapur or Golconda, c. 17th century
Larger panel 65 x 17 ¼ inches Smaller panel 5 x 14 ¼ inches Provenance: Collection of Paul F. Walter, sold Sotheby’s New York, March 26, 2003, lot 137
Two exquisite architectural wood panels of complex design possibly inserts from a door complex. Each panel is similarly carved in high relief with flowering vines issuing from a festooned vase twisting and wrapping symmetrically around a central cypress-treelike stem. The lower branches issue elaborate leaves with grape-leaf motif which themselves issue small grape-like bunches. The vase at bottom of each panel is carved in a fish scale pattern and further decorated with flowering stems and leaves with two dragon-headed
tendrils flanking each side. Lastly each vase wears a beaded collar around its neck. The motif of flowering vases was commonly utilized in the Bijapur in the painted frescos of palaces, notably Asar Mahal c. 1647, as well as on illuminated manuscript pages. A decoupe vase from an album page from Bijapur or Golconda, c. 1630-40 is similarly decorated with flowers and leaves and wears a collar with dragon-headed tendrils to its sides, see Navina Najat Haidar and Marika Sardar, Sultans of Deccan India 1500-1700 Opulence and Fantasy, the Metropolitan Museum of Art 2015, Cat. 54, Page 132 and Fig. 51, page 120.
32 POLYCHROME CERAMIC TILE
Stonepaste with polychrome under a clear glaze
Qajar period, Iran, circa 19th century
Ink, opaque watercolor, and washes on paper Measures 14 x 11 inches (35.5 cm x 28 cm) Provenance: Midwestern US Private collection prior to 2003 A large format tile depicting a young lady wearing a formal dress and staring at the viewer solicitously while carrying a bottle in one hand and a cup in another presumably filled with wine. The background is formal with two large columns and further blossoming branches flanking the scene. In the foreground amidst the plants are a resting cat and two foraging partridges. Life-size paintings of stylized court beauties and female acrobats adorned palaces and homes of the nobility in the 19th century Iran. Although unusual, this tile was clearly modeled after those large paintings.
33 POLYCHROME CERAMIC TILE
Stonepaste with polychrome under a clear glaze
Qajar period, Iran, circa 19th century
Measures 13 Â˝ x 10 inches 34 x 25.5 cm Provenance: Midwestern US Private collection prior to 2003 A large format relief-molded tile depicting a Persian beauty wearing a formal dress, jewelry and a crown on her head while casting her gaze to one side. She holds a peach in her right hand, a sexual connotation and a sign of her desirability. The background is formal and lush at the same time. Rolled curtains, much like a theatrical stage, frame the scene. Flowering branches, vases full of flowers and scattered fruit fill the scene. Life-size paintings of stylized court beauties and female acrobats adorned palaces and homes of the nobility in the 19th century Iran. Although unusual, this tile was clearly modeled after those large paintings.
34a POLYCHROME CERAMIC TILE
Stonepaste with polychrome under a clear glaze
Qajar period, Iran, circa 19th century
Measures 13 Â˝ x 10 inches (34 x 25.5 cm) Provenance: East Coast US Private Collection A large relief-molded tile depicting a horseman elaborately dressed, perhaps a prince offering a fruit to a large bird flying overhead. The bird is perhaps Simurgh, the mythical bird of the ancient Persians. The horseman and the birds are painted across a lush landscape of oversized flowers and a hamlet in distance. The top is a bold band of scrolling arabesque. A similar tile is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (83.1.67).
34b POLYCHROME CERAMIC TILE
Stonepaste with polychrome under a clear glaze
Qajar period, Iran, circa 19th century
Measures 13 Â˝ x 10 inches (34 x 25.5 cm) Provenance: East Coast US Private Collection A similar tile to 34a with a slightly different color arrangement.
35a POLYCHROME CERAMIC TILE
Stonepaste with polychrome under a clear glaze
Qajar period, Iran, circa 19th century
Measures 10 Âž x 8 Â˝ inches (27.3 x 21.5 cm) Provenance: East Coast US Private Collection A small relief-molded tile depicting a couple seated amidst flowering branches and tress. The male plays a string instrument while his paramour raises her arms in gesture of dancing. A bottle, presumably holding wine and two cups await for them. In the above panel two birds perched on a flowering scroll alludes to the love scene below. A similar tile is in the Art Institute of Chicago (1939.2233).
35b POLYCHROME CERAMIC TILE
Stonepaste with polychrome under a clear glaze
Qajar period, Iran, circa 19th century
Measures 10 Âž x 8 Â˝ inches (27.3 x 21.5 cm) Provenance: East Coast US Private Collection A similar tile to 35a with a slightly different color arrangement.
36 REVERSE PAINTED GLASS MIRROR
Silvered glass, polychrome and wood
Rajasthan, India, c. 1880s; Colonial Exhibition of 1886
Measures 18 ½ x 16 ½ x 1 ¼ inches (47 x 42 x 3.2 cm) Provenance: Colonial Exhibition of 1886, Alwar Durbar, Rajputana, UK private collection A reverse painted glass mirror of rectangular form. The central cusped medallion of silvered (mirrored) flowers against a red background holds a raised small rectangular mirror. The silvered background is further decorated with rows of scrolling red flowers and green leaves. The wooden panels are gessoed and gilded. The back is lacquered in red and has an ink inscription along the top reading as: “From the Colonial Exhibition 1886”, “India no. 4020 RAJ”, “Exhibited at Ulwar (Alwar) Durbar, Rajputana”.
37 GOLD AND SILVER DAMASCENED CHARGER
Steel with gold and silver Punjab, India, c. 19th century
Measures 18 Âź inches in diameter Provenance: UK private collection An impressive Koftgari steel charger decorated with an overall design of a floral arabesque lattice pattern damascened in silver with delicate gold cloud-form scrolls filling the space in between. Within well of the charger is a circle of three poetry couplets in bold nastaâ€™liq damascened in gold. Large numbers of damascened boxes survive from this period, however chargers of impressive size such as this one are rather rare suggesting this was a commissioned piece.
38 GILT COPPER PANDAN AND TRAY Deccan, India, c. 17th century The box measures 5 ½ inches in diameter and 3 ½ inches high The tray measures 11 1/8 inches in diameter Provenance: East Coast US private Collection A rare gilt copper jali or openwork pandan and matching tray of octagonal shape. The box and the tray are perforated with bars terminating at the corners with a cypress tree motif. The octagonal panel on top of the lid is engraved with a large flower head. The lip of the box and lid as well as raised rim of the tray is engraved with a scrolling band of rosettes and leaves. For another perforated gilt copper pandan and tray see Mark Zebrowski, “Gold, Silver & Bronze, from Mughal India”, 1997, page 277, No. 476. A pandan worked in the jail with open slats, although in silver, is published in Mughal Silver Magnificence, XVI-XIXth Century, Antalga, Brussels, 1987, p.141, no.202.
39 ROUND BIDRI TRAY
Zinc alloy inlaid with brass and silver
Bidar, Deccan, India, c. 17th century
Measures 11 3/8 inches (29 cm) in diameter Provenance: Jourdan-Barry Collection of Indian Art A round heavy bidri tray with a raised rim inlaid in silver and brass with concentering circles of clovers of graduating size surrounding a central roundel. The roundel is composed of a group of rosettes and leafy tendrils encircled by a band of scrolling leaves. Published: Mark Zebrowski, â€œGold, Silver & Bronze, from Mughal Indiaâ€?, 1997, page 250, No. 429.
40 ROUND BIDRI HUQQA BASE
Zinc alloy inlaid with silver
Bidar, Deccan, India, c. Early 18th century Measures 6 1/4 inches in height Provenance: UK private collection A globular bidri huqqa base decorated around the body and neck with cusped panels enclosing large flowering plants within a border of fish. The use of fish motif animated as if swimming upriver to enclose a panel is rather unusual. The flowering plants used for decoration here are commonly found in other mediums such as textiles and woodcarvings in the 17th and 18th centuries.
41 BIDRI HUQQA BASE
Zinc alloy inlaid with silver
Bidar, Deccan, India, c. late 18th century Measures 6 Â˝ inches in height Provenance: French private collection A bell-shaped huqqa base decorated in sheet silver with cutout designs. The body and neck are decorated with a band of poppy flowers. Around the base and below the neck is each decorated with a band of scrolling flower-head and leaf motif. There is a similar huqqa base in the British Museum (1880.229) worked in the same technique and similarly decorated with the poppy flower motif.
42 GILT SILVER ‘ALAM Deccan or Lucknow, India, c. late 18th century Measures 12 x 5 ½ at the widest (30 x 14 cm) Provenance: UK private collection A rare gilt silver ‘Alam or standard shaped as a Khamsa or hand held on a shaft terminating in a tiger-head which serves as its holder. One side of hand is engraved on the palm with Arabic names of ‘Muhammad’, ‘Ali’, ‘Fatima’, ‘Hasan’ and ‘Husain’ or the five immaculate ones in bold naskhi script. The fingers are engraved with scrolling flowers. The background is punched in an overall fish roe pattern. ‘Alams of khamsa form mounted on a pole are often depicted in 17th and 18th century miniature paintings depicting Durbar scenes as well as scenes of gatherings of Sufis and visitors. See the gilt khamsa ‘Alam amongst standards displayed in the painting of Shah Jahan receiving his three eldest sons and Asaf Khan during his accession ceremonies from the Padshahnama manuscript, Bichitr and Ramdas, Mughal in the Royal Collection Trust.
43 GILT SILVER GULABPASH North India or Deccan, India, c. 1800 Measures 5 1/4 inches tall and 4 Âž inches wide Provenance: UK private collection A gilt silver rosewater sprinkler or gulabpash masterfully formed as a pigeon with puffed-up chest and a fanned tail holding a sprig in its beak, which is used as a spout. Zoomorphic containers used for water, rosewater or wine were popular in the 18th century Deccani and Lucknow courts. A related zoomorphic sprinkler of stork with its neck starched out and its associated tray is published in Mughal Silver Magnificence, XVI-XIXth Century, Antalga, Brussels, 1987, p.51, no.24.
44 SILVER SPICE CONTAINER North India or Deccan, India, c. 1800 Measures 7 inches (18 cm) Provenance: UK private collection A silver spice holder formed as a mango branch with 3 mangos and two leaves. The fruit and leaves are hollow and each unscrews to serve as a spice container. A suspension loop at the end facilitates carrying or suspending. A silver gilt Attardan or perfume container fashioned as a mango tree resting on a round tray with each individual mango fruit serving as a hollow container is in the V&A museum (836-1891).
45 PAIR OF GOLD EARRINGS
Gold and lac
Tamil Nadu, India, c. 19th century Measures 2 inches (5.1 cm), 49 grams A pair of gold and lac filled earrings in abstract form, called pampadam, or egg-laying cobra, worn by women of Madurai region for protection and fertility as well as a sign of wealth and respectability. Each piece is constructed of spherical, rectangular, triangular, flat disks, and curved shapes creating a complicated abstract from. The cobraâ€™s head, which also can also be thought of a Garuda head, is surmounted with a pyramid representing the precious jewel or Mani.
46 GOLD AND SILVER DAMASCENED CHARGER
Gold and lac
Tamil Nadu, India, c. 19th century Measures 1 Âž inches (4.5 cm), 43 grams A pair of gold and lac filled earrings in abstract form, called thandatti, representing three levels of the universe, the terrestrial, the astral, and the divine. Each earring is constructed of spherical shapes of different sizes, triangular, and rectangular shapes soldered together to form a layered abstract object. Elements were hollow cast and filled with lac to reduce weight for wearing. These earrings were worn by women of Vellala Nadar cast as a sign of nobility and wealth since childhood.
47 OGIVAL CARNELIAN SEAL OF MUGHAL PRINCE MIRZA HUSAYN BAKHT BAHADUR Mughal India, dated 1265 A.H. 1848 A.D. Measures 1 ¾ x 1½ inch (4.5 x 3.8 cm) widest Provenance: UK private collection Engraved in fine and bold nasta’liq in Persian reading from bottom to top transliterated here: Mirza Muhammad Zayn al-‘Abidin Husayn Bakht Bahadur 1265 ibn Mirza Muhammad Khurram Bakht Mu’azzam Shah Bahadur ibn Mirza Muhammad Jahandar Shah wali ‘ahad Bahadur Son of Shah ’Alam Padshah Ghazi Mirza Husayn Bakhsh Bahadur (b. ca. 1824 – d. after 1891) was a Mughal Prince lacking any significant authority. However, it is interesting that his seal here is shaped and carved in a similar fashion as the royal seals belonging to his greater forbearers, perhaps it was intended to impart a sense of importance to his official dealings. It is also of note that this seal was made nine years before the end of Mughal dynastic rule in 1857.
His family genealogy as follows: Shah ‘Alam II Sahib Qiran (b. Delhi 25 June 1728 – d. 19 November 1806) (r. 1788-1806). He had fifty sons and daughters. Shahzada Mirza Jawan Bakht Muhammad Jahandar Shah wali ‘ahad Bahadur (b. Delhi in 1749 – d. 31 May 1788) (Royal Ark Delhi 13) He was invested as Heir-Apparent and granted the title of Wali ‘Ahad Bahadur on 10 October 1760, fled to Lucknow and thence to Benares. Shahzada Mirza Muhammad Mu’azzam Shah Khurram Bakht Bahadur (b. Delhi 1765 – d. at Benares 21 November 1829) (Royal Ark Delhi 14). I would like to thank Dr. John Seyller for his reading and research of this seal.
48 RECTANGULAR CARNELIAN SEAL OF RAO BAKHT SINGH BAHADUR Bundelkhand, Central India, dated 1225 AH, 1810 A.D. Measures 1 x 13/16 inch (2.5 x 2 cm) Engraved in fine nastaâ€™liq in Persian reading from top to bottom: Shri Rama lala-ji sahai Shri Rao Bakht Singh Bahadur ju dev 1225 Translated as: Lord Rama [grant me] succor Shri Rao Bakht Singh Bahadur ju dev (in the year) 1225 A.H. N.b. lala-ji is an honorific used in invocations to Rama; sahai means help, assistance, or succor. Ju dev is an honorific used in Bundelkhand. It appears in the inscriptions of all the paintings from Bijna, which is nearby. Son of Guman Singh (d. 1792), Bakht Singh, reigned from 1792-1837. Ruler of Chirgaon, one of eight thikanas (or ashtagarhis) of Orchha in Budelkhand. Rao Bakht Singh died in 1841, killed at Panwari after putting up resistance against the British. I would like to thank Dr. John Seyller for his reading and research of this seal. Bibliography Central India State Gazetteer 1907. Statistical descriptive and historical account of the North-Western Provinces of India, ed. Edwin Thomas Atkinson, vol. 1, p. 278
49 WAX SEAL IMPRESSION OF MAHARAO RAM SINGH II Kotah, Rajasthan, India, dated 1895 VS, 1838 A.D. Measures 3 7/8 inches (9.8 cm) A large official wax seal impression of Maharao Ram Singh II of Kota composed of a circular band enclosing a rectangular panel. The circular band contains an English inscription: MUHARAJA DHERJ (Maharajadhiraja) MUHARAW (Maharao) RAJA RAM SINGH BUHADUR 1895 The rectangular panel in devanagari inscription: Sri rabdh natha caranacaj vo ri kitacetasa: rao rajadhiraja sri ram sinhasya mudrika The four cusped spaces in between the rectangle and the outer circle in Persian inscription reading clockwise from 12 o’clock: Ram Singh Bahadur Raja bar… Maharaja dhr… Maharao raja I would like to thank Dr. Robert Del Bonta for his reading and research of this seal.
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A catalogue of Indian Miniature Paintings and Decorative Objects from the 17th to 19th century
Published on Mar 10, 2020
A catalogue of Indian Miniature Paintings and Decorative Objects from the 17th to 19th century