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THE MOSCATELLI COLLECTION OF RAGAMALA PAINTINGS (LOTS 1-29)“My first encounter with Indian miniatures was during a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London when one miniature in particular caught my attention: although painted in the 17th century, the miniature seemed timeless in its aesthetics and overall concept. The depiction of the landscape merely consisted of a flat colour with a line at the top to indicate the horizon. In the lower register, a line of a different colour delineated the ground on which a building and some figures were standing in profile. There was no attempt of suggesting a perspective or three-dimensionality. This rendering has no comparison in European paintings of the period. Simplicity made the small miniature extraordinarily powerful and very attractive to me. From the time of that visit to the V, I started to look at Indian miniatures with great interest and reverence. I was connecting back with my Italian roots finding a certain similarity between the Sienese Primitives and some Indian miniatures: the strange perspective, the colourful buildings, the use of different registers occupied by figures to tell different stories, the two dimensional modelling. Like Maharajas, ragamala paintings are uniquely Indian phenomena and I was attracted by the fact that so much in ragamala paintings revolves around the relationship between the lover and beloved, often a metaphor for the relationship between the human and the divine.I decided to collect ragamala paintings as I was able to assemble beautiful paintings from different Indian art schools, maintaining a theme, an order. As many of the best ragamala paintings are already in public collections and museums, collecting was an enticing challenge. I acquired my first painting as early as the mid 1980s and kept adding to the collection since then. Since then, many sets of ragamala paintings have come to light. The so-called Bilaspur or Chamba ragamala, is one such example in my collection (lot 22 and lot 23). This collection is not meant to represent a comprehensive listing of ragamala painting. Whilst it has been the subject of a fascinating scholarly publication in 2011 and two exhibitions at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London in 2012, it is primarily a patient and careful gathering of Indian works of art." - Claudio Moscatelli Ragamala or ‘Garland of Ragas’ is the visual depiction of the classical Indian musical form of the raga. In his preface to the catalogue of the exhibition of The Claudio Moscatelli collection of Ragamala paintings, the Director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery Ian A.C. Dejardin stresses that it is ‘one of the first exhibitions of its kind in England to focus exclusively on this complex and beautiful genre of Indian miniature painting, involving painting, poetry and music’. Three of the best-known scholars in the field contributed to the exhibition catalogue whose insightful notices have supported the present catalogue notes: Catherine Glynn, Anna L. Dallapiccola and Robert Skelton. Whilst Ragamala painting flourished from the second half of the 15th century until the second half of the 19th century, it enjoyed much popularity throughout India in the 17th century and 18th century, particularly in the Rajput courts of north India. They developed in the Pahari region a particular lyrical and poetic quality as described by A.K. Coomaraswamy’ "Here if never, and nowhere else in the world, are colours used with greater understanding in regard to their emotional aspect. What Chinese art achieved for landscape is accomplished here for human love" (R.K. Tandan, Pahari Ragamala, Bangalore, 1983, p.23). In her discussion of the Moscatelli paintings, Glynn notes that they ‘seem at first glance to be carefully constructed and artfully controlled, yet they capture moments of great passion, pain and power. [..] the underlying sentiments evoke excitement and terror, loss and longing, victories and defeats’ (Glynn, Dallapiccola, Skelton, 2011, p.32). Each raga belongs to a family: Bhairav, dedicated to Shiva, Malkos, Hindol, Megh, Dipak and Shri. Ragamala paintings bring together poetry and classical music. Each raga's essence is captured and symbolised by a hero or heroine, a colour or a scene, and thus a mood, ranging from melancholy and longing to peacefulness. They also have subsets, identified as family members such as the raginis, or wives of the ragas or their sons, the ragaputras. They thus identify at what time of the year or of the day the musical mode must be played and the deity they are dedicated to. According to the 5th-7th century treatise Brihaddeshi ‘a raga is called by the learned that kind of sound composition which is adorned with musical notes [..] which have the effect of colouring the hearts of men’ (Glynn, Dallapiccola, Skelton, 2011, p.14). Two popular Ragamala formats exist, that of Damodara Mishra’s musical treatise Sangita Darpana (circa 1625) which counts six ragas, each with five wives, resulting in a group of thirty-six melodies. Together with the verses accompanying the ragas, it is known as the Painter’s system. An expansion of the Painter’s system give forty-two paintings in each Ragamala set. Popular in the Pahari region is the Kshemakarna classification defined by the court priest Kshemakarna at Rewa in Madhya Pradesh between 1509 and 1570. A vast body of literary texts on love and devotion, as well as the imagery of Baramasa ‘twelve-months’ cycles or the romance of Krishna and Radha influenced artists. With time, ragamala painting evolved and ‘human beings and human passions became the focus of ragamala painting’ (Glynn, Dallapiccola, Skelton, 2011, p.18). Gathered over three decades, this representative group demonstrates not only the passionate collecting and astute eye of a discerning collector, but also gives some insight into this fascinating genre of Indian painting. FOLIO 86 FROM THE EARLIEST KSHEMAKARNA RAGAMALA


Opaque pigments heightened with gold on paper, Ganesh, Brahma, Shiva, other gods and devotees praise Vishnu in a grove, three lines of black devanagari script above, numbered "86" in lower right corner, the reverse with folio number in black devanagari
8 5/8 x 11 ¾in. (21.8 x 29.9cm.)
Hosains, London, 1996.
C. Glynn, R. Skelton, A. L. Dallapiccola, Ragamala, Paintings from India from the Claudio Moscatelli Collection, London, 2011, cat. 15, pp. 68-69
Ludwig V. Habighorst, Moghul Ragamala. Gemalte indische Tonfolgen und Dichtung des Kshemakarna, Koblenz, f.86, p.47
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 25 January 2012 - 27 May 2012.
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, 22 October 2011 - 8 January 2012.

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Beatrice Campi
Beatrice Campi

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Lot Essay

The epithet shankara, meaning ‘auspicious’ or ‘causing happiness’, is usually associated with Shiva, the Destroyer in the Hindu trinity in his role as Chief of the Rudras, or storm gods. However in this case he is represented as Vishnu, the Preserver, being praised by fellow deities including Shiva in his five-headed manifestation as an ash-covered ascetic, with tiger skin dhoti, garland of skulls and cobra necklace, the four headed Creator, Brahma, the elephant-headed Ganesha on the left and Indra, Vedic king of the gods, in the centre. Interestingly, the verse does not describe him as Vishnu but merely mentions his appearance - his splendid garment, crown, ornaments, lotus-like eyes and holding a piece of betel. Following the migration of this ragaputra to the Punjab Hills as Shankara bharana, the subject is depicted as Shiva being worshipped in his aniconic phallic form, the linga. Unsurprisingly, the Pahari painters, without access to Kshemakarna’s verses or painted models from the Deccan, associated the name with Shiva and saw that as a clue to representing this ragaputra.

For a note on these paintings, please see the following lot.

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