Krishna with three milkmaids under a tree, accompanied by Balarama Kotah, circa 1760

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Lot 103
Krishna with three milkmaids under a tree, accompanied by Balarama
Kotah, circa 1760

Sold for £ 6,062 (US$ 7,960) inc. premium
Krishna with three milkmaids under a tree, accompanied by Balarama
Kotah, circa 1760
gouache and gold on paper, border with stylised scrolling floral motifs in gold on an orange ground
285 x 210 mm.

Footnotes

  • It is possible that the painting is an oblique reference to the toll of milk curds, in poetry called dan-lila, exacted by Krishna and the gopas on Radha and sixteen thousand gopis as they travel though a narrow gorge towards the city of Mathura to sell their curds at the market. They are teasingly denied passage unless a tax of curds is paid. The tight pictorial space created by the mountain looming behind evokes the narrow passage in which Krishna sets up his toll booth.

    The festive depiction of the figures and animals also suggests that this painting may commemorate the Festival of Cows, the Gopashtami utsava, which takes place in the late autumn on the 8th of the month of Katrika Shukla. This festival marks the promotion of Krishna from herder of calves to full cowherd. On this day the cows are worshipped and their bodies, horns and hooves painted with auspicious red henna and adorned with jewels.

    The painting shares an identical red floral border with eight miniatures in an album at the Bodleian Library in Oxford (MS. Douce Or. b.3) which depict the main incarnations of Vishnu, suggesting that it may be from the same Dasavarata series. The Bodleian pictures include Narasimha, Parashurama and Buddha, but also Brahma seated on his hamsa goose. The present picture would however take its place in the Dasavarata group as Krishna is the eighth avatar of Vishnu.

    A final possibility is that this painting may be from a Ragamala series as the iconography of the dan-lila is sometimes used for Gujari Ragini. A verse quoted in K. Ebeling, Ragamala Painting, 1973, p. 146 reads: Its time is two hours after sunrise./Three fair-faced damsels are bringing water from the River Jumna./Kisandeo (Krishna) having obstructed their way, he makes jokes with them and does not allow them to proceed.
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