Wedding ceremony, folio from a Ramayana

Artist: Attributed to the Early Mandi Master (active ca. 1635-1660)
Historical period(s)
ca. 1640-1650
Mandi School
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W (image): 31.2 × 47.5 cm (12 5/16 × 18 11/16 in) H x W (sheet): 33.6 × 49.5 cm (13 1/4 × 19 1/2 in)
India, Himachal Pradesh state, Mandi
Credit Line
Purchase from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Manuscript folio

elephant, India, marriage, palace, Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection, Ramayana
Provenance research underway.

Beginning around 1600, the Rajput rulers of the Hindu kingdoms of northwest India became allies and feudatories of the Mughal empire. India was already home to traditions of painting that had been associated with kingship since ancient times. Kings were expected to patronize the arts. However, Rajput patronage of painting truly burgeoned as the Hindu courts became part of a new cultural imperium that valued fine manuscript paintings on paper. In fact, commissioning and collecting paintings played a key role in the formation of a shared courtly culture that transcended differences of place and religion. Manuscripts, paintings, sketches, and painters circulated throughout the north and central Indian courts, giving artists numerous sources upon which to draw. Paintings from this period evince that artists across north India were familiar with multiple stylistic conventions--local, Imperial, Deccani, and European--as well as multiple genres and literary texts. Some Rajput courts encouraged continuity with pre-Mughal painting traditions. Others, like Mandi, a small kingdom located in the Himalayan foothills of northwest India (in the modern state of Himachal Pradesh), adapted Mughal techniques and subjects.

In the third decade of the seventeenth century, paintings in an elegant style incorporating imperial naturalism and finish were produced at the Mandi court. Art historians have linked the emergence of this refined style to politics. Mandi rajas were well networked. They first entered into a political alliance with the Mughals around 1600. During the reigns of Jahangir and then Shah Jahan, Mandi Rajas Hari Sen and his son Suraj Sen, patrons of the Mughal-inflected style, were connected both to the imperial courts and to neighboring kingdoms in the Pahari hills.

Published References
  • John Guy, Jorrit Britschgi. Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India, 1100-1900. New York. 51 (b), 108.
  • Catherine Glynn Benkaim. Early Painting in Mandi. series 1, vol. XLV Zurich. figs. 14, 15.
  • Masters of Indian Painting. Exh. cat. Zurich. 408, 416, figs 6, 7.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
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