The Celestial Musician, Narada Bikaner, circa 1630-1640 Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper 10 1⁄8 x 7 1⁄2 in. (25.7 x 19.1 cm.)
Provenance: From an important European collection.
In Hindu mythology, Narada is revered for both his sage advice and his notorious mischievous ways, creating some of vedic literatures most humorous tales. He is known as a master of the Veena, and is frequently depicted with one, as he is in the present scene.
A Maharishi on a Terrace Bikaner, circa 1700 Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper Image: 10 x 7 1/4 in. (25.4 x 18.4 cm.) Folio: 12 x 9 1/4 in. (30.5 x 23.5 cm.)
Provenance: Private American collection.
When Sage Vyasa meditated for a great length of time with no respite, the gods began to worry that he would become even more powerful than them. In an attempt to break the Sage’s concentration, Indra sent Menaka, an Apsara, to tempt Vyasa into abandoning his meditation. Menaka is seen wading in a sheer garment through the water towards Vyasa, hoping to break his concentration. The Sage, however, rejected her advances and cursed her instead.
All sought Vyasa’s advice because of his wealth of knowledge and wisdom. He grew up in forests near the river Saraswati, eventually becoming a teacher and priest. He is credited with compiling the Vedas, writing 18 major Puranas, and executing the Mahabharata, collection of epic poetry revered as moral law and historical cannon. When creating the Mahabharata, he dictated the story to Ganesh, who served as a scribe to complete the text.
This work is reminiscent of Bikaner painting towards the end of the 18th century, as the Mughal influence is not as strong as it is in works dating towards the beginning of the century.
A Commemorative Portrait of Maharaja Rai Singh Bikaner, 19th century Opaque water-based pigments with gold on board Image: 5 x 4 1/3 in. (12.7 x 11 cm.) Folio: 10 x 7 3/4 in. (25.4 x 19.7 cm.)
Provenance: Collection of the Maharaja of Bikaner, 1964, according to inventory seal verso (no. 4724).
Maharaja Rai Singh (r. 1571-1611), the sixth raja of Bikaner after its founding by Rao Bika in 1488, is depicted here almost as a sort of icon, haloed and regal. Rai Singh held high rank as a general in the armies of the Mughal Emperors Akbar and Jahangir, winning large tracts of Mewar for the Mughals. For his exemplary service, he was awarded the jagirs of Gujarat and Burhanpur, and constructed the Junagar Fort in Bikaner during his reign.
Portrait of a Prince India, Bikaner, 19th century Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper 8 x 4 1/2 in. (20.3 x 11.4 cm.)
Provenance: An important collection of Indian Miniature Paintings from a private Toronto Estate.
This portrait captures a strong, individualistic and aristocratic image of a prince in the Bikaner style from the 19th century. The portrait is depicted in fine lines and brushstrokes against a plain background instead of the typical Bikaner miniature style of court and nature scenes. The aureole around his head is painted elaborately in pure gold, which is regal, divine and emblematic of the royal portraiture during the time period. The prince is portrayed wearing an exquisitely detailed outfit covered in floral motifs. The portrait depicts the royalty and aristocracy of the prince with the fine artistic skills of the artist. The close ties with the Mughal are emulated in the portraits commissioned by the Bikaner princes.
The Pandavas and Krishna Bathe in the Jamuna From a dispersed Bhagavata Purana series, scene from Book X chapter 75 Ascribed to Kayam (Qayam) India, Bikaner circa 1750
The Pandavas and Krishna Bathe in the Jamuna From a dispersed Bhagavata Purana series, scene from Book X chapter 75 Ascribed to Kayam (Qayam) India, Bikaner, circa 1750 Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper Folio: 11 1/2 x 14 3/4 in. (29.2 x 37.4 cm.) Image: 9 x 12 in. (22.8 x 30.4 cm.)
Among India’s rich historic and religious texts, the Bhagavata Purana evolved to be one of the most influential pieces of literature in the Hindu library, serving as the basis for subsequent worship, performance, and debate. Written to inspire devotion to Krishna between the 8th and 10th centuries, the text includes narratives of the deity’s birth and childhood, time among the cowherds, his affinity for the gopis and their unfaltering devotion to him, and the attempts by his uncle Kamsa to end his life.
One of the most important moments in the Krishna legend is when he kills Shushupala at a religious ceremony conducted by Yudhisthira, the eldest of the five Pandava brothers. After the ceremony they all bathe in the Jamuna River. We see a series of events in this painting. In the foreground Krishna and the Pandavas with their single joint-wife Draupadi and other women cavort in the river. The artist includes some charming touches with figures disrobing at the water’s edge. Musicians play, adding a festival atmosphere to the vignette in the foreground. Later in the story, the Kauravas with their army arrive at the palace to the left. Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas, jealous of the splendor of his cousin’s palace is tricked by magic. He first thinks the floor is water and lifts his garment. Then what he takes for a door turns into water and he falls in. This scene is depicted on the terrace of the palace while Krishna and Yudhisthira sit in court within.
This rare leaf was painted by an artist working in Bikaner, a major center of painting within Rajasthan in the 17th and 18th centuries. The cinched waists of the figures is characteristic of Bikaner painting, as are the different levels that add depth to the composition. Naval Krishna has pointed out that there were at least five Qayams in the genealogical tree of the Umrani Usta painters of Bikaner. He refers to this group of folios as from the fourth Bikaneri Bhagavata Purana.
A thank you to Daniel Ehnbom for identifying the scene and Naval Krishna for his thoughts on the artist. For a genealogy of the artists see: Naval Krishna, “The Umarani Usta Master Painters of Bikaner and Their Genealogy,” In: Andrew Topsfield (ed.), Court Painting in Rajasthan, Mumbai: Marg Publications, 2000, pp. 57-64.
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Asia Week NY 2020
2020 EXHIBITIONS & OPEN HOUSE
MARCH 12-21 God/Goddess
Open House Weekend: March 14-15 Saturday and Sunday, 11am-5pm, By Appointment Only
Hours Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm (By Appointment Only)
Opening Party Thursday, March 12, 6-8pm, By Appointment Only
GALLERY TALK by Laura Weinstein: A Brief Introduction to Indian and Himalayan Art Tuesday, March 17, 10:30am Canceled.