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Leaf from a Dispersed Bhagavata Purana Series

Asian Art

The artist Manaku introduced new methods of representing landscape elements and spatial depth to the conservative pictorial traditions of the Punjab Hills. Here, he uses a curved hillside rather than the traditional flat horizon line and disperses overlapping figures on a slope to add to the sense of dimensionality. The blue-skinned figure on the right is Krishna, an avatar (or incarnation) of the Hindu god Vishnu. He is about to rescue his childhood companions, who have fallen ill from drinking the water of a poisoned river.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolors and gold on paper
  • Possible Place Manufactured: Guler, Punjab Hills, India
  • DATES 1760–1765
    DIMENSIONS Sheet): 11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in. (30.2 x 40.3 cm) Image: 9 3/16 x 13 3/16 in. (23.3 x 33.5 cm)  (show scale)
    INSCRIPTIONS Inscription: On reverse identifies the book and verse from the text depicted. Several lines of inscription in devanagari script in black and red are rendered. Numbers identify the Book, chapter, verse, and the number of the illustration in the text.
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Amy and Robert L. Poster
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Leaning on his staff at the right, Krishna observes the seven expressionless poisoned cowherds and four motionless cattle arrayed in a single flat plane across a lifeless landscape. At the top, a band of value and a wide expanse of yellow streaked with red, blue, and gold, and a band of stylized clouds indicate the sky; gray waters are shown in the foreground. This narrative scene from the Bhagavata Purana [(Bk. 10, Ch. 15, vv. 48-50)] illustrates an episode in Krishna's life when the hero miraculously restores to life his boyhood friends, the cowherds, and their cows, which in this scene are shown dying from drinking the dark brown, poisoned waters of the Yamuna. There were many Bhagavata Purana sets painted in the Punjab Hill states. This page is from the so-called "fifth Bhagavata Purana series" (Archer 1973: vol. 1, p.49-51 and vol. 2 Basohli no. 22.) Archer points to the sparse and open compositions as indicative of the transitional phase of Guler-Basohli style painting, reflecting the influence of Mughal painting of the 1750s. In catalogue: Scene from the 10th and 11th Chapter of the "Bhagavata Purana" (which describes Krishna's life among the cowherds) showing the Blue God Krishna (at right) with the cowherds (gopas) and cows lying on the shores of the Ganges which had been poisoned. It is an episode in which Krishna miraculously revives the gopas and cows. Condition: Excellent. Arrived unmatted.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Indian. Leaf from a Dispersed Bhagavata Purana Series, 1760–1765. Opaque watercolors and gold on paper, Sheet): 11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in. (30.2 x 40.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Amy and Robert L. Poster, 82.227.2 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 82.227.2_PS2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 82.227.2_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2008
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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