NEW YORK - Few cultures celebrate the varied moods and nuances of love as comprehensively as India. Our visual and performing arts traditions through the ages are rife with the imagery of love and of lovers. The pangs of separation, the tremulous wait for the tryst, the bliss of union are described in detail in kavyas (poetic anthologies) and represented with tenderness and immediacy in Indian paintings. Love in Indian poetry, music, dance, painting and mythology is a sensory and divine experience to be enjoyed in its fullest!
The blue-skinned God Krishna and his consort Radha personify the ideal lovers in Indian poetry and art and are represented time and again in various states of courtship and lovemaking. In poetry as in painting, what is unsaid is to be imagined and enjoyed as much as what is stated or seen.
In the current painting of mid-18th century date from Rajasthan we see Krishna furtively gazing at Radha through an open window. The springtime scenery is a metaphor for the budding love between the two. She is aware of his gaze upon her but keeps her eyes away. The peacocks perched upon the tree branches set a gentle, romantic mood.
KRISHNA WATCHES A MAIDEN STANDING ON A SWING, CIRCA 1760. ESTIMATE $2,000–3,000.
Radha’s companions or sakhis are key facilitators of the trysts between the lovers. In this mid-19th century painting from the Kangra Hills of North India we see Radha at lower left trying to stealthily slip out to meet her beloved whilst her confidante, seen in the center, passes on a message to Krishna about the location of their rendezvous. Cows graze contentedly on the rolling hills in the background creating a peaceful bucolic setting.
"She wears his peacock feather and he dons her lovely delicate crown
She sports his yellow garment and he wraps himself in her beautiful sari
How charming the very sight of it,
The daughter of Vrsabhanu (Radha) turns into Nanda's son (Krishna) and Nanda's son becomes Vrsabhanu's girl".
One of the tenderest descriptions of the love play of Radha and Krishna is their exchange of clothes. In this lush forest setting by the riverbank with the trees aflame with flowers and the waterlilies in full bloom the lovers are lost in their own world. In exchanging their garments they become one another, a metaphor for the ideal union between two people.
The slow languor of awakening in each other’s arms after a night of passion is expertly portrayed in this very fine early-19th century painting, also from the Kangra Hills. As the first crimson light of dawn breaks across the hills the lovers stir on their bed and begin to adjust their disheveled garments. The viewer is left to guess and delight in the sense of joyous union that preceded this scene.
A FOLIO FROM THE RASIKA PRIYA OF KESHAV DAS: SURATAVICHITRA MADHYA NAYIKA. ATTRIBUTED TO SAJNU, CIRCA 1810. ESTIMATE $15,000–20,000.
These and other paintings on offer in our sale of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art transport us to a world of divine beauty and grace where love overshadows and triumphs over all obstacles.