During his career Nandalal Bose completed several murals for public and private buildings, including the massive six hundred square foot mural of the Kirti Mandir in Baroda, which he completed in 1945. He was first exposed to mural paintings, however, several decades earlier, when in 1909, he was one of the artists selected to assist Lady Herringham with a research project at the Ajanta caves. Lady Herringham wished to thoroughly document the frescoes, studying in depth their technique and stylistic elements. Her report was later published in the Burlington Magazine.
Part of the project involved reproducing the fresco images from the caves. These painted reproductions were then displayed at the Indian Society of Oriental Art. Reproducing the frescoes was a task that was of foremost importance to Nandalal Bose, Asit Haldar and Samarendra Gupta, as they were hoping to return to Calcutta inspired by the ancient traditions of Indian Classical Art. Nandalal took particular interest in the ornamentation of the figures in the frescoes, and it is clear that the works he created whilst at Ajanta became part of an important personal visual vocabulary, that later evolved into his own unique style.
The current work is of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani, and forms part of the fresco on the rear right wall of Cave I at Ajanta. For a photographic image of the fresco itself, see, Walter M. Spink, Ajanta: A Brief History and Guide, Bombay, p. 8.