Here we see a youthful Krishna dancing with his arms outstretched on one head of the serpent Kaaliya. He stands within a vibrant golden mandorla. Crowds of onlookers - his young companions, gopas, gopis and village elders watch in amazement - standing to the left and right. Below in the River Yamuna the naga wives of the serpent Kaaliya implore Krishna to spare their husband - offering tributes of lotus blossoms. Pairs of birds fly across the brilliant jade-green ground. Above in the swirling clouds Brahma, Shiva and Parvati, Kings, Devas and a Rishi shower blessings on the scene below. The clouds tinged with vibrant vermilion red. A lapis blue sky above.
The present folio belongs to a Bhagavata Purana series first attributed to “The Early Master of the Court of Mandi” by Catherine Glynn in two groundbreaking articles in 1983 and 1995 (Catherine Glynn, "Early Painting in Mandi" Artibus Asiae 44/1, 1983, pp. 21-64 and Catherine Glynn, "Further Evidence for Early Painting in Mandi" Artibus Asiae 55 1995, pp. 183-190). This scholarship dated the series to the mid-seventeenth Century and identified the hand of the artist who was responsible for introducing and developing a style directly influenced by Mughal painting. These mannerisms are notable. They include the highly Mughalized naturalism in the portraiture of several of the onlookers, particularly the realistic depiction of the village elders - perhaps portraits of Mandi nobility. The overall composition and color palette featuring the brilliant jade green ground and extremely vibrant lapis/ultramarine sky tinged with vermilion are also noteworthy. The particular shaded facial types of several of the females are similar to - but distinct from - faces seen in Bikaner paintings. Our present painting is surely one of the liveliest and most impressive works known by the artist. Another painting from the same Bhagavata Purana series in the Kronos Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art may be considered a companion folio.
For more discussion on the artistic development of The Early Master at the Court of Mandi see Stella Kramrisch "Painted Delight: Indian Paintings from Philadelphia Collections" Philadelphia Museum of Art 1986 no. 113; and Stuart Cary Welch, A Flower From Every Meadow, New York, 1973, cat. 33, p. 65. Also see Sotheby's London, October 19 2016, lot 5.
We would like to thank Mitche Kunzman for his assistance with the identification of this painting.
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