AN ILLUSTRATION FROM THE ‘SHANGRI’ RAMAYANA (STYLE III) – RAMA AND LAKSHMANA SEATED WITH SUGRIVA AND VIBHISANA
PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF CAROL SUMMERS
AN ILLUSTRATION FROM THE ‘SHANGRI’ RAMAYANA (STYLE III) – RAMA AND LAKSHMANA SEATED WITH SUGRIVA AND VIBHISANA

NORTH INDIA, PUNJAB HILLS, KULU OR BAHU (JAMMU), CIRCA 1700-1730

Details
AN ILLUSTRATION FROM THE ‘SHANGRI’ RAMAYANA (STYLE III) – RAMA AND LAKSHMANA SEATED WITH SUGRIVA AND VIBHISANA
NORTH INDIA, PUNJAB HILLS, KULU OR BAHU (JAMMU), CIRCA 1700-1730
Folio 8 5/8 x 12 5/8 in. (22 x 32 cm.)
Image 7 7/8 x 11 ½ in. (20 x 29.2 cm.)

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Lot Essay

This illustration is probably from the Lanka or Sundara Kanda, the fifth book of the Ramayana. It depicts Rama with blue skin, seated with his younger brother Lakshmana. Behind the brothers are Sugriva, the king of the monkeys, and Vibhishana, Rama’s ally and the future king of Lanka.
This series of paintings is known as the 'Shangri' Ramayana because it was once in the possession of the Rajas of Shangri, a branch of the Kulu royal family. Scholars have debated over the origin of this Ramayana series. W.G. Archer initially found Kulu to be the most likely origin. According to the family tradition of Raja Raghubir Singh, the pictures were painted in Kulu during the reigns of Raja Jagat Singh and Raja Bidhi Singh. On the basis of style and date, Archer distinguished four painting classifications within the series. The present folio, which is probably from the Sundara or Lanka Kanda has been executed in ‘Style III.’ Archer describes it as a “style of lush exuberance” and says it was chiefly used to illustrate jungle scenes as well as the adventures of Hanuman and the monkey army in Lanka (W.G. Archer, Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills, 1973, Vol. I, pp. 325-329). B.N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer have, more recently, argued that the paintings should be attributed to Bahu on account of the figurative similarities with Raja Kirpal Dev and Raja Anand Dev of Bahu (B.N. Goswamy and E. Fischer, Pahari Masters – Court Painters of Northern India, Zurich, 1992, pp. 76-81).
For three other folios from the series, executed in ‘Style III,’ see T. McInerney, S. Kossak, N. Haider, Divine Pleasures: Painting from India’s Rajput Courts – The Kronos Collections, (exhibition catalogue), New York, 2016, cat. no. 58-60, pp. 168-173. With the background reduced to a bare minimum, the ‘Style III’ folios have clear narrative action. The dense forms and bright colors derive from the ‘Style I’ illustrations of the Early Bahu Master.
The series was dispersed in 1961. A very substantial proportion of the series, 168 folios, are in the National Museum in New Delhi. Other examples are in a number of collections including the Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi, the British Library, London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Rietberg Museum, Zurich, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the San Diego Museum of Arts (Edwin Binney 3rd Collection), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Portland Museum of Art, as well as in several private collections. Another folio from the 'Shangri' Ramayana series, Style IV, sold at Christie's New York, 20 March 2019, lot 695 for $37,500.

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