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A painting from a Dashavatara series: Vamana
A painting from a Dashavatara series: Vamana


A painting from a Dashavatara series: Vamana
India, Mandi, circa 1820-30
The dwarf avatar of Vishnu standing before the seated royal couple as they pour water from a golden vessel to welcome him, with a prince standing behind the king and demon attendants all around, the scene set outside under a silver tent, enclosed in blue and silver floral border with pink speckled margins, with text, a folio number and collector's stamp on the verso
Opaque pigments, gold and silver on paper
6¼ x 8 5/8 in. (16 x 21.9 cm.), image
9 5/8 x 11 7/8 in. (24.6 x 30.1 cm.), folio
Royal Mandi Collection, inv. no. 1259
Private Collection, London, acquired in 2007

Lot Essay

Vamana, the fifth avatar of Vishnu, presented himself as a dwarf beggar to King Bali to thwart the ambitious sovereign from taking over the heavens. When giving alms, Bali granted Vamana any wish he desired. Vamana asked for all the land he could cover with three steps and the king agreed. Immediately Vishnu changed into a giant and covered the earth and sky with two steps and then asked Bali where he should place his last step. Knowing he had been bested, Bali offered his head to Vishnu, who immediately sent the king to the netherworld. This painting shows the moment just before King Bali grants the wishes. It includes a number, "46," on the verso which may correspond to a folio number within the series. Compare with a similar painting from Kangra, circa 1780, which sold at Christie's New York, 21 March 2008, lot 718.
This and the following two paintings (lots 9-11) all come from a dispersed series of the Dashavatara (literally, "ten avatars"), which illustrates the ten major incarnations of Vishnu, who appears on Earth from time to time to restore balance, grant liberation to the deserving, and destroy evil.

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