- Other Titles
- Matsya, the fish avatar of Vishnu
The god Narrayon, as an incarnation of a fish
- Place where the work was made
- Media categories
- Painting , Watercolour
- Materials used
- watercolour with silver paint on paper
- 42.5 x 27.3 cm
- Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
- Purchased 1959
- Upper Asian gallery
- Accession number
- Artist information
Works in the collection
Images such as this are known as Kalighat paintings, after the famous Kalighat temple in Kolkata (Calcutta) dedicated to Kali, the fearsome goddess of time and death. From around 1830, distinctive, quickly painted souvenirs were produced in large numbers for visitors who flocked to the temple. The images were intended to aid domestic worship and typically illustrate Hindu deities. Later, mass-produced prints replaced Kalighat paintings.
Images of Vishnu in one of his ten incarnations or avatars were particularly prevalent. This painting shows Vishnu as his first avatar, Matsya the fish. Vishnu took the form of a fish to save humankind and the ancient texts during an enormous flood. As part of the enterprise Matsya killed the conch demon and when he blows into the conch shell, the balance of
the earth is restored.
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Indian Folk Paintings and Textiles, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 29 May 2004–04 Jul 2004
Trash or Treasure: Souvenirs of Travel, Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney, 25 Jun 2008–30 Jun 2009
In one drop of water, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Jun 2019–21 Feb 2021
Correspondence, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Sep 2022–2024
Referenced in 7 publications
Rachel Barnes, Guardian weekly, 'Indian inklings', pg. 26-27, Manchester, 08 Mar 1994. General reference
Kate Brittlebank, TAASA Review, 'Unexpected Connections: An Australian Kalighat Album Reunited', pg. 4-5, Sydney, Jun 2006, 5 (colour illus.).
Kate Brittlebank, TAASA Review, "Postscript: Kalighat's Missionaries', pg. 23, Sydney, Dec 2006.
Kate Brittlebank, Journal of the History of Collections, 'Anthropology, fine art and missionaries: The Berndt Kalighat album rediscovered', pg.127-142, Oxford, May 2008.
Elizabeth Fortescue, The Daily Telegraph, 'Indian history through art', pg. 91, Sydney, 28 May 2004, 91 (illus.).
Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Folk Paintings and Souvenir Pictures', Sydney, 2003, 48 (colour illus.).
Jill Sykes, Look, 'Artworks from India under the British Raj...', pg.30, Sydney, Jul 2010, 30 (colour illus.).
Lucy Thompson, 1890-1951, Adelaide/South Australia/Australia, purchased in Kolkata between 1890 and 1913.
Hans Heysen, pre 1953, Hahndorf/South Australia/Australia
Stefan Heysen, Jun 1959, Hahndorf/South Australia/Australia, by descent
David Jones' Art Gallery, Sydney, 24 Jul 1959, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 July 1959
Other works by Kalighat style
See all 8 works