16.4 x 16.6cm image; 19.5 x 19.0cm sheet
The 'ragamala' is a linked series of paintings based on the classical Indian musical form of the 'raga'. This richly sensual gouache is a classic of the genre, part of an early 'ragamala' from a princely state in the Punjab foothills of the Himalayas. The Basohli school, named after the region in which it flourished, specialised in poetic and lyrical subjects such as this: a pair of courtly lovers in a garden setting. Their tryst is set against a stylised and theatrical background of flaming orange, a colour favoured in Basohli practice. The aristocratic musician plays the 'vina', a traditional stringed instrument, while his consort offers him a betel leaf concoction. The sumptuous effect has been heightened with minute fragments of insect wings on the costumes.
Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 293.
Within a flaming orange and smouldering yellow frame, two lovers totally concentrate on each other, the intensity of their absorption hypnotic. The young hero ('nayaka'), seated cross-legged on the 'chowkis' platform, is dressed in a long, pleated white 'jama' with a broad side sash, a turban adorned with feathers and pearl strings, and anointed with aromatic paste, various pendants and jewellery. The heroine ('nayika') wears a diaphanous, full-length muslin outer garment known as 'peshwaj' colourfully striped brocade trousers, and a finely woven 'odhni' dropping naturally from her head. Her palms and fingers are dyed red in henna and she is lavishly bejewelled. The jewellery of both lovers is copiously studded with glowing iridescent fragments of beetle wing, which enhances the luxurious aura of the scene. He plays the 'rabab' with a plectrum while she offers him some 'paan', the popular refreshment of a betel leaf wrapped around a mix of lime, spices crushed areca nut and condiments. The painting is an icon to the joys of love ('sringara'), a dominant theme of ragas, and an outstanding example of the Basohli style of painting.
Basohli was a small fortress town in the Punjab hills in northern India. The various hill states were ruled by Rajput princes belonging to the aristocratic 'kshatriya' caste. The painting of this region, produced in the court ateliers of the various hill states, is referred to as Punjab Hills, or Pahari, painting. The beginnings of Pahari painting can be traced to the state of Basohli during the reign of Raja Kirpal Pal (1678-1695). This strikingly beautiful painting, from a recently discovered ragamala series, can be dated to between 1707 and 1715, on the basis of costume details, thus placing its production in the court atelier of Kirpal Pal's equally cultivated and admired son, Dhiraj Pal (1695-1725) (Tandan, 1983), and making it a significant document in our growing understanding of early Pahari painting.
Jackie Menzies, 'Dancing to the flute: music and dance in Indian art', AGNSW, 1997. pg. 294-296.
R.K. Tandan (Author), Pahari Ragamalas, Bangalore, 1983. fig.no. 12
Pratapaditya Pal (Bangladesh; United States of America, b.1935) (Author), Pratapaditya Pal (Bangladesh; United States of America, b.1935) (Editor), Dancing to the flute: music and dance in Indian art, Sydney, 1997, 294, 295 (colour illus.), 296. cat.no. 192 See 'Further Information' for text.
'Asian Art - India, South-East Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan' by Jackie Menzies, pg. 173-228., Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 1992 1992, 1992, cover (illus.).
Bruce James (Australia) (Author), Edmund Capon (England; Australia, b.1940) (Director), Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, Domain, 1999, 293 (colour illus.).
Look Aug 2000, Aug 2000, 13 (colour illus.). Information for Asian Art course.
Haema Sivanesan (Australia) (Assistant Curator), Indian Painting, Sydney, 2001. cat.no. 2.6
Ewen McDonald (Australia) (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, Sydney, 1994, 179 (colour illus.).
'Focus on India' pg. 31., Look Feb 2004, Feb 2004, 31 (colour illus.).
'Asian Collections in the Art Gallery of New South Wales' by Edmund Capon, pg. 76-79., Orientations Sep 2000, Sep 2000, 79 (colour illus.). fig.5
'Mughals and Maharajas: The Miniature Paintings of Courtly India', The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales 2003, 2003, 13 (colour illus.), 40 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 13 is a detail of this work.
Look Mar 2012, Mar 2012, 43 (colour illus.).
Great gifts, great patrons, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 17 Aug 1994–19 Oct 1994.
Dancing to the flute: music and dance in Indian art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 12 Jun 1997–24 Aug 1997.
Indian Painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 06 Apr 2001–11 Jun 2001.
Intimate Encounters: Indian paintings from Australian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 22 Feb 2007–04 May 2007.