AN ILLUSTRATION TO A DASAVATARA SERIES: VARAHA KILLING THE DEMON HIRANYAKSHA
AN ILLUSTRATION TO A DASAVATARA SERIES: VARAHA KILLING THE DEMON HIRANYAKSHA
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AN ILLUSTRATION TO A DASAVATARA SERIES: VARAHA KILLING THE DEMON HIRANYAKSHA

ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE MASTER AT THE COURT OF CHHATTAR SINGH, CHAMBA, PUNJAB HILLS, NORTH INDIA, CIRCA 1700

Details
AN ILLUSTRATION TO A DASAVATARA SERIES: VARAHA KILLING THE DEMON HIRANYAKSHA
ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE MASTER AT THE COURT OF CHHATTAR SINGH, CHAMBA, PUNJAB HILLS, NORTH INDIA, CIRCA 1700
Opaque pigments heightened with gold on paper, the avatara trampling the yaksha and retrieving the Earth as a goddess Bhudevi from the primordial waters, in thin black margins and black rules, with red borders, the reverse numbered 7 in black ink
8 ¼ x 10 1/8in. (21 x 25.7cm.)
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Lot Essay

Another painting from this series, depicting the Churning of the Ocean, is in the Rietberg Museum, Zurich (acc.no.RVI 1249; B.N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer, Pahari Masters, Court Painters of Northern India, Zurich, 1992, cat.57, pp.146-147). In their discussion of the Zurich painting, Goswamy and Fischer note that the artist gives great attention to the rendering of the demons; a quality that clearly appears in the present depiction of the struggle between Varaha and Hiryanaksha. Another painting from the same workshop is in the Brown and Wonner collection (Goswamy, op.cit., p.146).

The works attributed to the Master at the Court of Chhattar Singh of Chamba belong to a formative period of styles in Chamba, for which there is little documented evidence. He was active under the reign of Chhattar Singh (1664-90) and that of his successor Raja Udai Singh (1690-1720) but unfortunately none of his paintings appear to be signed or dated. One of his key works is a portrait of Chhattar Singh surrounded by young men in the National Museum, Delhi (Goswamy, op.cit., fig.36, p.130). Another portrait was offered at Christie's, London, 26 May 2016, lot 76.

Whilst the construction of our painting appears simple, it is carefully done: Varaha's foot tramples the demon's body, the demon's sword blade passes through his right arm whilst his left passes through his horns. His right hand holds his long white beard and tongue, completing what looks like a figure-of-eight. A number of fish and a makara float on the water as to witness the scene more carefully. The use of gold leaf applied on Varaha's jewels clearly shows that it was an expensive painting, executed with great attention to detail. The green background and grey ocean with white patterns, parallel lines and dotted foam crests are characteristic of the Master's work and he particularly excelled in suggesting rounded body forms: see for instance Hiranyaksha's delicately painted knees.

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