A PAINTING FROM A MAHABHARATA SERIES: THE PANDAVA CAMP
A PAINTING FROM A MAHABHARATA SERIES: THE PANDAVA CAMP
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THE JOHN C. AND SUSAN L. HUNTINGTON COLLECTION
A PAINTING FROM A MAHABHARATA SERIES: THE PANDAVA CAMP

INDIA, PUNJAB HILLS, KANGRA, ATTRIBUTED TO PURKHU, 1800-1820

细节
A PAINTING FROM A MAHABHARATA SERIES: THE PANDAVA CAMP
INDIA, PUNJAB HILLS, KANGRA, ATTRIBUTED TO PURKHU, 1800-1820
Folio 13 X 18 1/4 in. (33 x 46.4 cm.)
Image 12 3/8 x 17 5/8 in. (31.4 x 44.8 cm.)
来源
C.L. Bharany, London, 31 December 1973.
The John C. and Susan L. Huntington Collection, Columbus, Ohio.

荣誉呈献

Tristan Bruck
Tristan Bruck Specialist, Head of Sale

拍品专文

Lots 434 through 436 of this sale belong to a large format Mahabharata series attributed to the Kangra court artist Purkhu. Owing to the patronage of Maharaja Sansar Chand (r. 1775-1823) and the artistic direction of Purkhu (active c. 1780-c. 1820), Kangra is remembered as a great center of Pahari miniature painting. A skilled portrait artist, Purkhu is lauded for his distinguished and individualized portraits within his works, often noted for veering towards journalistic goals over idealized or fantastical qualities. His works documenting the public and private life of Sansar Chand are thus unsurprisingly rigorous in their attention to detail, and one can assume, loyalty to accuracy. Notwithstanding, Purkhu’s works on religious themes have proved his capability for innovation and passion, creating large series on the Harivamsa, Shiva Purana, Ramayana, Kedara Kalpa, Gita Govinda, and the present Mahabharata series.
The two battle scenes in this group, lots 435 and 436, represent the chakravyuha, a military formation resembling a spiraling labyrinth of artillery men meant to disorient and trap their opponent. Notably difficult to penetrate, only a handful of skilled warriors would have been able to counter the strategy . According to the Mahabharata, Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu learnt of the chakravyuha in his mother’s womb. Throughout gestation, he learned how to penetrate its many layers, but sadly, never heard how to escape. When the Kaurava army formulated the chrakravyuha attack against the Pandavas, only Abhimanyu was present. He fought his way through six tiers of the spiral, defeating many high ranking members of the Kaurava clan. However, once he reached the center, the surviving Kaurava commanders all attacked him simultaneously, ultimately exhausting and killing the young warrior. The death of Abhimanyu is narrated in the seventh book of the Mahabharata, canto 47.
In lot 434, Arjuna, among his army and other Pandavas, are visited by the sage Vyasadeva, to whom the authorship of the Mahabharata is credited. Vyasadeva is delivering horrifying news to the Pandava camp, as Arjuna and his soldiers all shield their eyes in defiance of reality. It is possible the sage is reporting on the horrifying death of of the sixteen-year-old Abhimanyu, or possibly a later event where they learn of Krishna and Balarama's departure from this earth.
When writing on the chakravyuha painting from the N.C. Mehta collection, Khandalavala references a folio from the series in the collection of the National Museum, New Delhi, bearing an inscription referencing Sansar Chand and dating the work to 1803. The referenced folio, however, is apparently unpublished and has not been referenced elsewhere. A further page from this series is illustrated in W.G. Archer, Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills, London, 1973, p. 225, no. 61. Archer points out that upon visiting with Maharaja Sansar Chand and viewing his painting collection in June and July of 1820, the explorer William Moorcroft (1767-1825) noted that ‘the principal portion consists of representations of the performances and prowess of Arjoon and the adventures of Krishna.” Aligning with the association to Sansar Chand, the series as a whole demonstrates strong characteristics from the workshop of the Kangra artist Purkhu. The large format of the painting, the principal figures being bigger than the less important ones, the distinctive heavy beards and large moustaches and the red and white Devanagari inscriptions hovering over each figure are all hallmark features of the artist’s atelier. A Garhwal Darbar stamp apparently on the reverse of a page from the series has perhaps contributed to similar scenes from this series having been attributed to the Garhwal school. However, it is quite apparent stylistically that the work stems from the Kangra kalam, and it has been speculated the series was brought into the Tehri Garhwal collection as part of the dowry of the two daughters of Sansar Chand, who wed Raja Sudarshan Shah of Tehri Garhwal.
The chaotic and disorienting nature of the chakravyuha is highlighted by the changing colors of the backgrounds on every page. The intense battle continues on this series for many folios known to the market and public collections. A similar battle-field scene with Abhimanyu as protagonist is published in K. Khandalavala, Pahari Miniature Paintings in the N.C. Mehta Collection, two are in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (acc. nos. F2003.34.16.1 and F2003.34.16.2), and several have come to market at Sotheby’s New York, 15 December 1978, lot 180, Sotheby’s New York, 26 March 2013, lot 129, and more recently at Christie’s London, 1 May 2019, lot 117, which realized a price of GBP 32,500. Additional scenes with Arjuna in a tented encampment similar to lot 435 have sold at Sotheby’s New York, 14 December 1979, lot 224 and Sotheby’s New York 22 March 1989, lot 168. An additional painting from this series recently sold at Christie’s New York, 21 September 2021, lot 461, for $112,500.

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