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A painting from a dispersed Ragamala series: Bhairavi Ragini
A painting from a dispersed Ragamala series: Bhairavi Ragini


A painting from a dispersed Ragamala series: Bhairavi Ragini
India, Chamba, circa 1690
With an elegantly dressed woman seated within a marble pavilion and petting Nandi, whose tail curls in delight, a tree to the right and cypress trees above, all extending into the red borders, the verso with an inscription and collector's stamp
Opaque pigments and gold on paper
7 3/8 x 4¾ in. (18.8 x 12.2 cm.), image
8½ x 6¼ in. (21.6 x 16 cm.), folio
Royal Mandi Collection, inv. no. 2402, by 1841
Private Collection, London, acquired at Sotheby's London, 24 May 2007, lot 3

Lot Essay

This painting is identified as Bhairavi Ragini in the inscription on the verso, and is a beautiful and subtle depiction of the subject. Whereas most depictions of the Bhairavi Ragini show a woman venerating a shivalingam, Nandi provides an alternative representation of Shiva, and the subject is rendered almost as a secular pastoral scene. The composition is nearly identical to that in a drawing published by K. Ebeling, Ragamala Painting, 1973, p. 276, no. 310, in which the architecture and bull also break into the borders. Another inscription further gives the number "16," possibly a folio number from the dispersed manuscript.

This and the following two paintings (lots 6-7) are part of a Ragamala series that was once attributed to the Pahari court of Bilaspur. However, Catherine Glynn in a new study of other illustrations from this same series has re-attributed them to the court of Chamba (C. Glynn, et. al, Ragamala: Paintings from India, 2011, p.34). Another Ragamala painting from a comparable series with similar figures and strong colours is in the Rietberg Museum, attributed to Chamba circa 1700 (inv. RVI 953, op.cit., fig.13, p. 34). This painting and several others in this sale are also interesting in terms of provenance as they bear a stamp on the verso from the Royal Mandi Collection (lots 2-7, 9-11). This Ragamala series was apparently rebound there in 1841. Three further folios from the same series are in the Claudio Moscatelli Collection (op.cit., nos. 7, 8 and 9, pp. 52-57). Nine further paintings from the series, attributed then to Bilaspur, were sold at Sotheby's New York, 29 March 2006, lots 164-173.

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