We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Krishna as the divine cowherd (red border)

circa 1820


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Other Title
    Alternative title
    Place where the work was made
    Bikaner Rajasthan India
    Rajput circa 1500 - 1947 → India
    circa 1820
    Media categories
    Miniature , Painting , Watercolour
    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

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    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.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    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. cat.no. 2.22 - 2.25 (one of a set of four paintings; Acc.no.s 103-106.1986)