Narasimha Disemboweling Hiranyakashipu Punjab Hills, probably Chamba, circa 1650 Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper 5 7/8 x 9 3/4 in. (14.9 x 24.8 cm.)
Provenance: Sotheby’s London, 8-9 October 1979, lot 156.
In return for propitiating Brahma, Hiranyakashipu is granted a boon: that he cannot be killed by man or animal, that he cannot be killed inside or outside, day or night, on the ground or in the sky, by weapons ani- mate or inanimate. Hiranyakashipu became empowered with arrogance as a result and sought to strike down his own son Prahlad for his devotion to Vishnu. In order to circumvent the protective power of this boon and save Prahlad, Lord Vishnu incarnated as the half-lion, half- man Narasimha, emerged from a pillar within the palace at dusk, and destroyed Hiranyakashipu by disembowel- ing him with shear force, lifting him atop his knee to do so. In the present depiction, an unusual image of Vish- nu (identifiable by his peacock-feathered crown and the chakra he is spinning) appears between the small figure, Prahald, and the female figure on the far left. The mortal figures hold their hands in reverence beside him.
The fantastic parable of Narasimha is illustrated here in a simply-designed composition, with bold colors and great precision. The floral elements, rich in detail yet quite still, as well as the manner in which they are arranged to fill gaps in the composition are somewhat telling of this painting’s origin. Each of these qualities is shared by an eighteenth-century Chamba painting at the Victoria and Albert Museum depicting Rama, Sita and Hanuman (acc. IS.33-1949).
Vishwa Chander Ohri references another amazing depiction of Narasimha at the Musee Guimet in his discussion of the present work (acc. M.A. 4968): “Both of them appear to be the work of one artist. The style of these paintings shows a later development from the pictures of the Rasika-priya in the popular Mughal style of the Jahangir period. Though rich yellow and orange are used for the garments, the color scheme and style of these pictures are different from those of the Basohli paintings. Naturalism of the Mughal style is apparent from the manner in which the lion-head of the deity is drawn in these works, but the stylisation in the d[e]pic- tion of other figures, shows a change from the Mughal style. The female figures in these pictures possess affin- ity with those seen in the wood reliefs of the Brahmaur State-Kothi; the proportions of the figures in the works done in two different mediums (paintings and wood re- liefs) are similar” (p. 21). Of the Guimet example, Amin Okada comments that while it is stylistically ambiguous, it is most likely from Chamba, around the middle of the seventeenth century (see. Amin Okada, “Uni Illustra- tion insolite du Narasimhavatara,” La Revue du Louvre et des Musees de France, October 1985, no. 4, pp. 285- 88). What is clear and indisputable, is the quality and uniqueness of these two rare compositions.
Leaf from the Dasavatara Series: Vamana, the Dwarf Incarnation of Vishnu Attributed to the Master Artist Mahesh of Chamba (active c. 1730-1770) circa 1740
Leaf from the Dasavatara Series: Vamana, the Dwarf Incarnation of Vishnu Attributed to the Master Artist Mahesh of Chamba (active c. 1730-1770), circa 1740 Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper Image: 6 ½ x 9 ½ in. ( 16.51 x 24.13 cm.) Folio: 7 ⅞ x 10 ⅞ in. ( 20 x 27.63 cm.) Inscribed in takri characters on upper red border and verso
Provenance: From a Private New York Collection. Former collection of Terence McInerney. Acquired February 25th, 1980, Invoice no. 43450, Greater India Company, Inc. (original invoice available upon request).
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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.