The Goddess Lakshmi India, Chamba c. 17th-18th century Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper Folio: 7 3/4 x 10 2/3 in. (19.7 x 27.1 cm.) Image: 6 3/4 x 9 1/3 in. (17.1 x 23.7 cm.)
Provenance: Collection of Sven Gahlin
This Chamba School miniature portrait depicts Lakshmi, the Hindu mythological goddess of wealth, prosperity, good fortune, and purity. The Pahari School, which refers to the artwork originating in rural Himalayan mountainous regions of India in 17th-19th centuries, is the umbrella genre of which the Chamba School is a subcategory. Chamba is an area located at the northern tip of India upon the Ravi River. Situated between two mountain ranges in the Himalayas, the region has been protected through history from foriegn invaders, making it an area where the arts have been preserved tremendously and produced without major interruption.
With great emphasis on miniature paintings, the Pahari and Chamba Schools commonly depict gods, goddesses, and scenes from Hindu holy texts. Lakshmi, who is consort to the god Vishnu, is featured in several of these texts–most prominently in the mythological story of the Churning of the Milky Ocean, which chronicles her fallout with the world of the gods and rebirth. Offended by the arrogant actions of the warrior god, Indra, Lakshmi removed herself from the world of the gods and ascended into the cosmic Milky Ocean. Upon her absence, the world descends into chaos and is overcome by demons, until the gods come together and churn the Milky Ocean for one-thousand years until she returns. Lakshmi’s reentry into the world of the gods, in which she emerges atop a lotus flower, signifies her rebirth and the restoration of good fortune on earth. Thus, the lotus is associated with Lakshmi and is representative of glorious existence and freedom.
Within the present image, Lakshmi sits in a meadow, cross-legged, between two flowering plants.
Distinguishable by certain features and her characteristic lotus iconography, Lakshmi is portrayed as a beautiful young woman with long hair, four arms, and a three-point crown, as she holds and sits atop lotus flowers. Her second left palm is open in varada mudra, the Hindu hand gesture representative of compassion and charity. She also possesses a third eye, which is believed to be the source of her wisdom and representative of immortal consciousness.
Lakshmi is the subject of many traditional portraits, though she is primarily depicted in the fully frontal cross-legged pose. This image however, departs from the conventional frontal approach for Lakshmi portraiture, as this Chamba school artist renders her in a three-quarter view, signifying her regal status.
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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.