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Krishna as the divine cowherd (red border)

circa 1820


Unknown Artist


Krishna is one of the best known of the Indian gods, and certainly he was one of the favourite heroes of the Rajasthani court artists. Krishna means "dark-skinned one," so he is always painted blue. According to mythology he grew up in the countryside as a cowherder, playing the flute, flirting with the milkmaids (known as 'gopis') and mischievously stealing their clothes as they bathe in the river. In this painting, however, Krishna is depicted rather like the Greek god Pan. Seated on a blossoming lotus that rises out of the swampy water, he mesmerises the two cows that look on with his enchanting flute-playing. This painting is one of a series of four paintings from the collection of the Maharaja of Bikaner. It is quite possible that such a painting may have been presented to the Maharaja by a court artist on a festival such as Krishna Jayanti, the celebration of Krishna's birth.

Haema Sivanesan, Look, March 2001, pg. 21.


Other Title


Alternative title


Place where the work was made

Bikaner Rajasthan India


circa 1820

Materials used

opaque watercolour with gold on paper


17.2 x 10.8 cm image; 24.9 x 15.9 cm sheet

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Bequest of Mr J. Kitto 1986


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Carol Cains, Krishna: love and devotion, 'Krishna the cowherder', p6-9, Victoria, 2007, 6-9. General reference

Haema Sivanesan, Look, 'Indian painting', pg. 20-21, Melbourne, Mar 2001, cover (colour illus.), 5 (colour illus.), 20, 21 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on the cover is a detail of this work.

Haema Sivanesan, Indian painting, 'Indian Painting', verso of poster., Sydney, 2001. 2.22 - 2.25 (one of a set of four paintings; 103-106.1986)