The Elephant Meghabaran Goes on a Rampage Kishangarh, circa 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 shares a drink with Radha Kishangarh Circa 1800
Krishna shares a drink with Radha Kishangarh , circa 1800 Opaque watercolor 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.
A Portrait of a Prince with a Falcon
A Portrait of a Prince with a Falcon
Kishangarh, 18th century Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper 9 x 5 3⁄4 in. (22.9 x 14.6 cm.)
The Collection of Helen and Joe Darion, New York, acquired from Lawners by February 1968 (no. 41).
The present portrait may have been a noble commis- sion to demonstrate status, as the inclusion of a falcon in the composition makes reference to the archetypal prince’s skill in hunting. This enigmatic portrait and others like it were typical of Kishangarh, particularly around the lifetime of the artist Nihal Chand (c. 1710- 1782), whose training in the imperial Mughal work- shops at Delhi helped him create a popular new style of portraiture that combined Mughal naturalism with the traditional romantic and poetic idealization previously beloved in Kishangarh. The signature Kishangarh style began to develop under the patronage of Raj Singh (r. 1706-1748), and reached full-fledged actualization under Sawant Singh (r. 1748-1764). As the present painting dates to the latter part of the eighteenth century, it stands as an example of this Mughal-infused style at its most evolved.
A Maiden Approaches a Nobleman Kishangarh
A Maiden Approaches a Nobleman Kishangarh, circa 1740 Ink drawing with gouache and gold on paper 10 ½ x 8 ¼ in. (26.7 x 21 cm.)
Provenance: Doris Wiener Gallery.
A naturalistically depicted elder nobleman seated against a bolster puffs from the metal tip of a winding hookah stem, his eyes half shut with a sheathed sword and shield laid out before him. A beautiful young maiden looks intently out from behind a screen, coyly hiding part of her body as if trying to be careful not to be seen. Her angular face with its pointed nose and chin, pursed mouth, almond-shaped eye and high brow, and black hair tied back with three curls placed over her cheek remind the viewer of Bani Thani–a poetess and courtesan, considered the epitome of idealized Kishangarh beauty.
The scene could be the old man’s intoxicated dream–a glimpse into the memory of a past love, now elevated to perfection in the noble’s thoughts. Conversely, the maiden could be taking the position of the archetypal seductress, a universal subject serving as a trope of the older man’s desire for a youthful woman.
This is an enigmatic scene often found in paintings from Kishangarh and particularly from the period of the artist Nihal Chand (ca. 1710-1782), whose training in the Imperial Mughal workshops at Delhi helped him create a popular new style that combined Mughal naturalism with the romantic, poetic idealization beloved at Kishangarh. The signature Kishangarh style began to develop under Raj Singh (r. 1706-1748), and reached full fledged actualization under Sawant Singh (r. 1748-1764). As the present painting dates to the mid-1700s, we know it was executed under one of these rulers’ reigns. As such, it is a delightful example of the evolution of Kishangarh painting during the century. This idyllic, amatory manner so-valued within the realm is well suited for the depiction of bhakti, the ecstatic longing for the divine often anthropomorphized as Radha’s love for Krishna.
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Asia Week NY 2020
2020 EXHIBITIONS & OPEN HOUSE
Open House Weekend:
Saturday and Sunday, 11am-5pm, By Appointment Only
(By Appointment Only)
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.