INDIA | KISHANGARH

Krishna shares a drink with Radha
North India, Kishangarh 
c. 1800
Gouache Heightened with Gold on Paper

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Krishna shares a drink with Radha
North India, Kishangarh 
c. 1800
Gouache Heightened with Gold on Paper
12 1/4 x 10 in. (32 x 25.5 cm.)

The couple meets at dusk on a terrace overlooking a canal as a boat passes in the background. This tender scene illustrates the divine love that permeates between Radha and Krishna. Radha is often considered to be Krishna’s favorite gopi who was brought away from the other cowherdesses to be alone with him; here, they stand around the lovers, fanning them with a fly whisk and giving offerings. The gopis are not overcome with jealousy towards Radha, as they are grateful and filled with joy whenever they are privileged to be in Krishna’s presence. Radha does not have her own drink, preferring to share what belongs to Krishna. She tugs sensuously on Krishna’s robe, not only signaling her affection for the god, but also her status as his beloved. Meanwhile, across the river, crowds enjoy a palace garden, oblivious to Krishna’s gathering of cowherdesses nearby. Sawant Singh – poet, patron of the arts, and ruler of Kishangarh during the mid-18th century – encouraged the signature Kishangarh style through his patronage. Some of these paintings depicting his own poems, the present example likely one of these illustrations. This scene is reminiscent of an earlier work in the collection of the National Museum in New Delhi that was inspired by the poetry of Sawant Singh, wherein Krishna presents flowers to Radha in the presence of the Gopis (Illustrated in M.S. Randhawa, Kishangarh Painting, 1980, pl. 4.). For more on Kishangarh painting, see V. Mathur, Marvels of Kishangarh Paintings, 1999.

The Elephant Meghabaran Goes on a Rampage
India, Kishangarh
c. 1800
Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper

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The Elephant Meghabaran Goes on a Rampage
India, Kishangarh
c. 1800
Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper
8 1/4 x 8 in. (21 x 20.2 cm.)

A large elephant named Meghabaran has broken free of his restraining chains and chases his frightened handlers up into the branches of a tree while his mahouts try to subdue him with a goad and swirling fireworks. In the middle distance tiny figures of riders on swaybacked horses are seen galloping to the hunt accompanied by runners, while on the crest of a nearby hillock, a nobleman holds court beneath a canopy. Behind the hillock emerges a procession led by a tame elephant and in the farthest distance figures are seen climbing up the path of a steep hill toward what appears to be the indomitable Kishangarh fortress built by Maharaja Roop Singh, whose name is inscribed on the verso of the painting.

The painting is remarkable for its panoramic composition incorporating several different scenes within a receding perspective, a convention that had its origins in earlier Mughal prototypes. The elephant, with his elongated body bedecked with bells and his face decorated with henna, is boldly executed in the distinctive, exaggerated Kishangarh style favored throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries. His powerful, robust form is deftly juxtaposed with the miniscule, delicately rendered figures in the background. As Stuart Cary Welch remarks, “… at Kishangarh, the most striking representations tend to be the mysterious and unique ones,” S.C. Welch, Indian Drawings and Painted Sketches, New York, 1976, p. 118.

Krishna and Radha celebrating the Holi
India, Kishangarh
c. 19th century
Gouache heightened with gold on paper

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Krishna and Radha celebrating the Holi
India, Kishangarh
c. 19th century
Gouache heightened with gold on paper
15 3/4 x 11 3/4 in. (40 x 30 cm.)