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Illustration from a Manuscript of the Bihari Satasai

Asian Art

MEDIUM Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
DATES early 18th century
DIMENSIONS with frame: 16 x 13 1/2 x 1/2 in. (40.6 x 34.3 x 1.3 cm) image: 9 13/16 x 7 11/16 in. (25 x 19.6 cm)  (show scale)
INSCRIPTIONS The inscription at the top can be transliterated as follows: Avata jata na janiye, tejahim taji siyarana / gharahim jamval laum ghatyau, kharo dinamana / 612 The translation of this verse is: As the short days of the Pus month denuded of warmth and hardly noticed Is the welcome made to the man who stays with his in-laws. Translation by Krishna P. Bahadur in Bihari: The Satasai (London: Penguin Books, 1990). In this translation the verse is listed as 702, p. 307. Bahadur comments on the verse, noting that Pus is the winter month, corresponding to December-January, when the days are shortest. The verse refers to the frosty reception a husband receives at the home of his wife's parents, and the brevity of the ideal visit to one's in-laws, but Bahadur notes that commentators have interpreted the verse with a more romantic meaning: "A woman can't show indifference and keep away from her lover for long in the winter month of Pus. Her indifference is as shortlived as the welcome a man gets when he stays too long with his in-laws." (Bahadur p. 396, translating Dr. Desarajasingha Bhati's Hindi commentary to the Bihari Bhasya 1978).
CREDIT LINE Bequest of Dr. Bertram H. Schaffner
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Page from an illustrated manuscript of the Satasai (700 Verses), a romantic/devotional poem written in Braj Bhasa (a regional variant of Hindi) by Bihari in the early 17th century. The image is divided into four quadrants defined by architecture. In the upper left quarter, the romantic heroine -- dressed in a red blouse and golden skirt -- sits talking with her confidante (sakhi). In the upper right quarter, a standing man appears twice, once speaking with a seated woman -- not the heroine or her friend -- and once facing away from her. In the lower left quarter, two women speak with each other outside -- neither appears to be the sakhi -- and in the lower right quarter, the heroine appears again seated with her confidante, this time in a dejected posture with the sakhi gesturing as if making an important point. Scenes like that in the lower right are a common feature of the Satasai, in which the romantic heroine suffers terribly when she does not see her beloved and must be comforted by her friend. Often the heroine initiates the separation, which is her way of punishing her lover for infidelity. The confidante scolds and cajoles her, encouraging her to swallow her pride and end her suffering. The text at the top of the page is a verse from the Satasai. Its relationship to the image below is not immediately evident, because it deals with the cold reception a man receives at the home of his inlaws. However, traditional commentators on the verse have related it to a woman's inability to withhold her love from her husband, noting that she can bear the separation for about the same period that he can bear a visit to his in-laws. If we follow this interpretation of the verse, then we might see the lower right quadrant as an image of the suffering woman and the upper right quadrant as her mate, first speaking with his mother-in-law and then leaving. This page may be from a dated manuscript of the Satasai, made in Mewar in 1719. However, many pages associated with that manuscript are in a slightly different style. It is likely that the prolific atelier of Mewar produced many copies of the Satasai and that this is from a different series.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Illustration from a Manuscript of the Bihari Satasai, early 18th century. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, with frame: 16 x 13 1/2 x 1/2 in. (40.6 x 34.3 x 1.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Dr. Bertram H. Schaffner, 2010.48.19 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2010.48.19_PS4.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 2010.48.19_PS4.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2012
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 <em>Illustration from a Manuscript of the Bihari Satasai</em>, early 18th century. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, with frame: 16 x 13 1/2 x 1/2 in. (40.6 x 34.3 x 1.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Dr. Bertram H. Schaffner, 2010.48.19 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2010.48.19_PS4.jpg)