INDIA | BUNDI

Radha and Krishna under parasol
India, Bundi 
c. 18th century
Gouache heightened with gold on paper

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Radha and Krishna under parasol
India, Bundi 
c. 18th century
Gouache heightened with gold on paper
9 1/2 x 6 7/8 in. (24.13 x 17.46 cm.)

Provenance: 
Arthur L. and Genevieve S. Funk collection, acquired January 2, 1970

This sensuous painting depicts Krishna embracing Radha, as they take shelter under a beautiful delicate parasol of leaves. As the lovers gaze deeply into each other’s eyes, cows prance around them, enamored by their passion for each other, while stylized clouds evoke the romantic mood further.
Lord Krishna, one of Vishnu’s many manifestations, is considered to be one of the most popular deities in the Hindu pantheon. His beloved, Radha, came to be known as Krishna’s divine equivalent, while their union is representative of the duality of devotion and desire. In the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, the two are portrayed as equals through the words that Brahma spoke to Radha: “You are the outcome of the body of Krishna and equal to him in every respect. No one can say which of you is Radha or Krishna… he represents the soul of the world and you are its body… it is impossible to make out which architect is at the bottom of this creation. You are eternal like Krishna,” (81).

Illustration from a Ragamala Series: Desakh Ragini 
India, Bundi
c. 18th century 
Gouache heightened with gold on paper

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Illustration from a Ragamala Series: Desakh Ragini 
India, Bundi
c. 18th century 
Gouache heightened with gold on paper
10 3/8 x 6 in. (21.3 x 15.25 cm.)

Provenance:
Property of a diplomat, acquired in India during the 1950’s

Five men test their strength, agility, combat proficiency, and stamina by lifting weights, climbing a column and wrestling. The scene is set against a training ground surrounded by finely detailed trees with a river in the foreground. One of the men discards his equipment to practice a compulsory activity reminiscent of a push up. In the background, hills and valleys appear before a backdrop of red sky with a golden city in the distance.
The Desakh Ragini is the only raga signified by physical strength and prowess, subsequently demanding athletic iconography to demonstrate the significance of the wrestlers’ capabilities. Poetry associated with this imagery describes sights and sounds of the athletic realm that come to be represented in the current painting by the men concentrating on their exercise in order to improve their physical state of being. Scenes like this nearly always depict an acrobat on a column, as this was a segment of the melas, or fairs, that were held in villages across India wherein performers would suspend themselves upside down on a pole to flaunt their strength in defying gravity.

Leaf from a Rasikapriya
India, Bundi
c. 1680
Gouache with gold on paper

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Leaf from a Rasikapriya
India, Bundi
c. 1680
Gouache with gold on paper
11 3/4 x 6 in. (29.8 x 15.2 cm.)

Provenance:
Collection of Francoise et Claude Bourelier, ArtCurial, Paris, 12 May 2015, lot 292
Colnaghi Oriental, Michael Goedhuis, February 18th, 1987

This Bundi illustration to a Rasikapriya, a collection of poems on love written by Keshavdas sometime in the final decade of the 16th century, shows Radha sitting across from Krishna, accompanied by two other maidens. The scene is centered around the beauty of Radha, with the folio numbered 266. Radha and Krishna are inserted into these narratives revolving around love to serve as the nayika and nayak, respectively. The Rasikapriya describes various types of these nayikas and nayaks regarding appropriate treatment of their emotions, moods, and lovemaking, to name a few. The artist takes special care here in rendering the intricate details of the painting – the fountain and fish, the floral styling, the open architectural space, and the flowing garments and fine jewelry of the figures all serving as a testament to the artist’s skill.

Prince Kishen Singh of Bundi Hunting
India, Bundi
c. 1750
Opaque watercolor on paper

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Prince Kishen Singh of Bundi Hunting
India, Bundi
c. 1750
Opaque watercolor on paper
Folio: 8 x 11 1/4 in. (20.3 x 28.6 cm.)
Image: 7 x 10 1/2 in. (17.8 x 26.7 cm.)

Provenance: 
Sotheby’s Indian and Southeast Asian Art, New York, September 20, 2005, Lot 130 

Along with a company of hunters, Prince Kishen Singh strategically attacks a tiger from atop his mount, as only well trained hunters would. An inscription in Devanagari identifies the figure riding the horse as the Prince. Rajput princes were known to pride themselves in marksmanship, one reason why hunting scenes became a popular means of portraiture in Bundi, as well as the neighboring region of Kotah. Stark green backgrounds are common in Mughal portraits of noblemen on horseback, an element borrowed in the present example. The painting is still distinctly Bundi, however, employing fragile botanicals at the forefront of the image, with contrasting diagonal lines adding to the impact of the scene. For another similar Bundi hunting scene, see R. K. Tandan, Indian Miniature Painting, 1982, fig. 112.

Rao Raja Bishan Singh Watching an Elephant Fight
India, Rajasthan, Bundi 
c. 1800 – 1810
Opaque pigments heightened with gold on paper

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Rao Raja Bishan Singh Watching an Elephant Fight
India, Rajasthan, Bundi 
c. 1800 – 1810
Opaque pigments heightened with gold on paper
14 3/16 x 12 3/4 in. (36 x 32.5cm.)

Provenance:
From a Private European Collection

This scene depicts Rao Raja Bishan Singh watching an elephant fight from a balcony in the top right hand corner of the painting. The dramatic depiction of the tumbling elephants and figures is heightened by a strong diagonal composition and the juxtaposition of the enclosing walls.

Elephant combats were described by the French physician François Bernier during his time in India:

“A wall of earth is raised three or four feet wide and five or six [feet] high. The two ponderous beasts meet one another face to face on the opposite sides of the wall… The riders animate the elephants either by soothing words, or by chiding them as cowards, and urge them on with their heels, until the poor creatures approach the wall and are brought to the attack. The shock is tremendous and it appears surprising that they should even survive the dreadful wounds and blows inflicted with their teeth, their heads, and their trunks. There are frequent pauses during the fight; it is suspended and renewed, and the mud wall being at length thrown down, the stronger more courageous elephant passes on and attacks his opponent and, putting him to flight, pursues and fastens on him with such obstinacy that the animals can be separated only by means of cherkys, or fireworks, which are made to explode between them.” (Desai 1985, p. 53).

This painting is a later re-working of a drawing by the “Master of the Elephants” that is now in the Alvin O. Bellak Collection (Mason 2001, no.65, pp.158-9). The artist identified by Welch as the “Master of the Elephants” came to the Rajput court from the Deccan in the later half of the seventeenth century as part of the general migration of artists during the Mughal campaigns in the region. His fluid line and dynamic compositions successfully combined Mughal and earlier Bundi elements, developing a distinctive Kotah style that went on to influence artists for over a century. For a further discussion of the development and re-attribution of many of these elephant drawings and paintings at Bundi and Kotah, see Beach 2008 & Beach 2011.

Rao Raja Bishan Singh (1773–1821) ruled the state of Bundi from 1804 to 14 May 1821. His close alliance with the British brought him into conflict with the Maratha Empire and Pindaris who continually ravaged his state and forced the kingdom to pay tribute up to 1817. Consequently, Bishan Singh made a subsidiary alliance with the British East India Company on 10 February 1818, which brought him under its protection. He was responsible for the creation of the pleasure palace of Sukh Niwas on the outskirts of Bundi.