Krishna fluting, folio from a Dasavatar series

Beneath an arched bower exploding with blossoming creepers and flowers, Krishna, charmingly poised on one foot, entertains attentively adoring gopis with music from his flute. The painting’s vibrant colors, particularly the vivid red ground, and the ardently focused gazes of the lotus-eyed gopis attest to the powerful currents of emotion connecting the blue-skinned Krishna and his devotees. As an allusion to his divine status, the artist represented Krishna standing upon an open lotus flower that rests on a marble throne inlaid with precious gems. The vines encircling the tree trunks are a visual instantiation of a well-attested metaphor for the relationship between a woman (vine) and her lover (tree).

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Maker(s)
Artist: Attributed to the Master of the Court of Mankot (active early 18th century)
Historical period(s)
ca. 1730
Medium
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions
H x W (painting): 22.2 Ă— 14.6 cm (8 3/4 Ă— 5 3/4 in) H x W (overall): 26 Ă— 20.3 cm (10 1/4 Ă— 8 in)
Geography
India, Uttarakhand state, Mankot
Credit Line
Purchase and partial gift from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection — funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S2018.1.60
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Painting

Keywords
flute, Gopi, India, Krishna, music, Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection
Provenance

Raja Dhruv Dev Chand of Lambagraon, descendant of the Kangra rulers

Sharma, Delhi [1]

To 1984
Kapoor Galleries, Inc., New York, New York [2]

From 1984 to 2002
Paul F. Walter (1935-2017), New York, New York, purchased from Kapoor Galleries, Inc., New York, New York in 1984 [3]

2002
Sale, New York, Sotheby’s, Important Indian Miniatures from The Paul F. Walter Collection, November 14, 2002, lot 65: “Illustration to a Dasavatara series” [4]

From 2002 to 2018
Catherine Glynn Benkaim, Beverly Hills, California, purchased at auction, Sotheby’s, New York, “Important Indian Miniatures from The Paul F. Walter Collection,” November 14, 2002, lot no. 65: “Illustration to a Dasavatara series” [5]

From 2018
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, partial gift and purchase from Catherine Glynn Benkaim [6]

Notes:

[1] According to Catherine Benkaim.

[2] See Sotheby’s auction catalogue from the sale in New York. Sotheby’s, Important Indian Miniatures from The Paul F. Walter Collection, November 14, 2002, lot 65: “Illustration to a Dasavatara series.”

[3] See note 2. See also Pal, P., American Collectors Asian Art, (Bombay: Marg Publications, 1986), pp. 205-206.

[4] See note 2.

[5] See note 2.

[6] See Acquisition Consideration Form, object file, Collections Management Office.

Previous Owner(s)

Sharma
Raja of Lambagraon
Ramesh Kapoor
Catherine Glynn Benkaim
Paul F. Walter 1935-2017

Description

Beneath an arched bower exploding with blossoming creepers and flowers, Krishna, charmingly poised on one foot, entertains attentively adoring gopis with music from his flute. The painting’s vibrant colors, particularly the vivid red ground, and the ardently focused gazes of the lotus-eyed gopis attest to the powerful currents of emotion connecting the blue-skinned Krishna and his devotees. As an allusion to his divine status, the artist represented Krishna standing upon an open lotus flower that rests on a marble throne inlaid with precious gems. The vines encircling the tree trunks are a visual instantiation of a well-attested metaphor for the relationship between a woman (vine) and her lover (tree).

Label

This folio is one in a series (dasavatara) illustrating the ten avatars of Vishnu. Krishna is the eighth incarnation of Vishnu; his exploits are described in the Mahabharata, the tenth book of the Bhagavata Purana, and numerous other poems and poetic treatises from the Gita Govinda to the Sur Sagar.

Published References
  • Joan Cummins. Vishnu: Hinduism's Blue-Skinned Savior. Exh. cat. no. 106, p. 94.
  • American Collectors of Asian Art. Bombay. no. 2, p. 208.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
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