A PAINTING OF CHAITANYA WITH ATTENDANT FIGURES
A PAINTING OF CHAITANYA WITH ATTENDANT FIGURES
A PAINTING OF CHAITANYA WITH ATTENDANT FIGURES
A PAINTING OF CHAITANYA WITH ATTENDANT FIGURES
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A PAINTING OF CHAITANYA WITH ATTENDANT FIGURES

INDIA, BENGAL SCHOOL, LATE 19TH CENTURY

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A PAINTING OF CHAITANYA WITH ATTENDANT FIGURES
INDIA, BENGAL SCHOOL, LATE 19TH CENTURY
15 1/8 x 21 ¾ in. (38.4 x 55 cm.)

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Hannah Perry
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Lot Essay

The Bengal School of painting is generally recognized as having formally begun in 1905, following the division of the province of Bengal by Lord Curzon, the Viceroy and Governor-General of India at the time. Calcutta, and more specifically the Government School of Art under the leadership of the influential art historian E.B. Havell, became the spiritual and conceptual home of the celebrated Bengal School. The rise of the Bengal School, directed by pioneering artists like Abanindranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose, cannot be explained as linear evolution but represents a beguiling coalescence of several different approaches in a region that underwent enormous social, political, economic and ideological change, first under the East India Company and then the British Raj, until India’s independence in 1947.
One of the practices that preceded and influenced its formation was what is known as 'Early Bengal School painting' today, one of the most critical and intriguing styles to have flourished in the region during the late 19th century. Painters of the Early Bengal School synthesized Eastern and Western traditions to create an aesthetic that was distinctive from any other movement or style of the time. These artists, who remain largely anonymous to this day, were trained in oil painting and Western academic realism. However, instead of using their new skills to paint Western subjects, they coopted them to depict mythological and religious scenes in a novel style. Working at the same time as the famous Raja Ravi Varma, renowned for mastering oil painting in the Academic Realist manner, these artists also showed great skill in their handling of oil paint, albeit in a very different way. What differentiated the Early Bengal School artists was their hybridizing of local or vernacular subject matter to portray iconic mythological scenes. In their work, Company School painting, Kalighat patas, court painting and Western academic realism comingled to give rise to a vigorously syncretic, unmistakable aesthetic. These paintings represent Bengali artisans' creative answer to History Painting, pioneered by French Neoclassical painters in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The present painting depicts the fifteenth century Bengali saint Chaitanya in his divine form. In this six-armed form, he holds the flute with his blue arms to invoke Krishna, a bow and arrow with is raised green arms to represent Rama, while his lowered arms hold a staff and water pot to signify Chaitanya’s position as a renunciate. He is flanked by two devotional figures, a nobleman and a sadhu.
Chaitanya is commonly depicted as a subject in Kalighat painting. Another Early Bengal School oil painting of the subject sold at Christie’s New York, 21 September 2005, lot 235A.

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