• Indian and Southeast Asian Art auction at Christies

    Sale 2300

    Indian and Southeast Asian Art

    23 March 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 186

    A painting from the Harivamsa


    Price Realised  


    A painting from the Harivamsa
    North India, Kangra or Guler, circa 1820
    Depicting Krishna in a yellow dhoti at center and his companions cavorting with women in the Jamuna River, their discarded clothing on the riverbank and an orange cloud above, several figures identified by inscription, the verso with an inventory number within a Royal Mandi Library cartouche
    Opaque pigments and gold on wasli
    15 3/8 x 18¾ in. (39.1 x 47.6 cm.)

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    The Harivamhsa (An Account of the Dynasty of Hari [Vishnu]) is a work of three chapters appended to the great epic, the Mahabharata. The first chapter contains an account of the creations and the genealogy of the Yadavas, the family of Krishna and Vasudeva descended from their Aryan ancestor, Yadu. The second chapter describes the life of Krishna and his affairs with the gopis, where many of the stories are similar to those in the Bhagavata Purana. The last chapter deals with prophecies of the present age (Kali Yuga) and other matters unconnected with the title of the work.

    The principal figures in the present scene can be identified by the devanagari inscriptions above their heads. The blue-skinned Krishna at lower center stands with his arm around his future third wife Satyabhama, who shyly turns her head away. His first wife Rukmini is further to the right, swimming in unison with a male companion. Moving counterclockwise, the tall white figure at upper right is Balarama, Krishna's brother accompanied by Revati and speaking to the great sage Narada who holds his invention, the vina.

    The figures standing in close embrace at top centre are Arjuna, the Pandava prince, and Subhadra, Krishna's sister, who elope after they obtain Krishna's permission and blessing. The graceful gopi who sits waist deep in the water at upper left and is surrounded by other chattering milkmaids is Kakaman. Below her are a group of three wading figures, two of whom are identified as Usha and Aniruddha. Aniruddha is the the grandson of Krishna and was kidnapped by Usha, daughter of the demon king Banasura, who has fallen in love with Aniruddha after seeing his face in a dream.

    To the lower left corner is the lilac figure of Pradyumna, son of son of Krishna and Rukmini, and his wife, Mayavati, an incarnation of the Goddess Rati who is the personification of desire and passion and one of the wives of Kama, the god of love. The male figure to the bottom center with two female companions is Uddhava, Krishna's friend, devotee and messenger. The final identified man at lower right is Sanva.

    The figures frolic with carefree delight in the river, the gently undulating waves echoing their movements as they glide through the water. Their partial undress made translucent by the water, and their sensual gazes as they intertwine limbs, creates an erotic mood in this painting.


    Royal Collection, Mandi, India

    Pre-Lot Text