Krishna Plays his Flute

Uniara or Bundi, Rajasthan, circa 1750
Opaque watercolours and gold on paper
29.5 x 22 cm

Kirshna plays his flute amongst a verdant landscape. An inscription on the upper border names the central devotee as ‘Kunwar Sukh Lal ji’, who ‘stands with folded hands’. He clasps his hands in worship while a cowherd watches from beneath a nearby tree. Both hold flowers as offerings to the deity. Krishna himself is defined by his characteristic blue skin and flute; he holds a lotus flower in reference to his association with Vishnu and is adorned with garlands and pearls. The inscription tells us that two rupees were given to the artist ‘Dhanna’ by ‘Nachche Rao’.

Particular delight has been taken in the depiction of the animals. First to engage the viewer are the cows that gather at the waters edge. A jovial troupe, they kick their heels and shake their heads in response to Krishna’s presence. Others occupy themselves with more mundane tasks, sipping the river’s silver waters and reaching for their mother’s milk. Two elegant peacocks gather to witness Krishna’s divine play, while birds perch and beat their wings in the tree above. A mischievous monkey, wrapped around the narrow trunk of a radiant palm, stops to gaze at Krishna’s glory. The time is sunset, evoked by the vibrant orange sky and gold of the setting sun.

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Kirshna plays his flute amongst a verdant landscape. An inscription on the upper border names the central devotee as ‘Kunwar Sukh Lal ji’, who ‘stands with folded hands’. He clasps his hands in worship while a cowherd watches from beneath a nearby tree. Both hold flowers as offerings to the deity. Krishna himself is defined by his characteristic blue skin and flute; he holds a lotus flower in reference to his association with Vishnu and is adorned with garlands and pearls. The inscription tells us that two rupees were given to the artist ‘Dhanna’ by ‘Nachche Rao’.

Particular delight has been taken in the depiction of the animals. First to engage the viewer are the cows that gather at the waters edge. A jovial troupe, they kick their heels and shake their heads in response to Krishna’s presence. Others occupy themselves with more mundane tasks, sipping the river’s silver waters and reaching for their mother’s milk. Two elegant peacocks gather to witness Krishna’s divine play, while birds perch and beat their wings in the tree above. A mischievous monkey, wrapped around the narrow trunk of a radiant palm, stops to gaze at Krishna’s glory. The time is sunset, evoked by the vibrant orange sky and gold of the setting sun.

Uniara is a small state bordering Jaipur, Bundi and Kota. Closely allied to Jaipur, the rulers of Uniara were members of the Naruka clan, a subsidiary branch of the Kacchawaha dynasty of Amber. Painting at Uniara flourished under the patronage of Sardar Singh I (d.1777), who commissioned a significant Bhagavata Purana in the Rao Raja Rajendra Singh Uniara Collection. The colophon states that the manuscript is the work of the artist Mira Bagas and completed in 1759.

The style of painting at Uniara during this period shows considerable influence from the neighbouring state of Bundi. Differences may be found, however, in the peculiarities associated with the style of Mira Bagas, evident here in the particular vitality of the animals and landscape features. This painting is related stylistically to a work by Mira Bagas entitled ‘Utka Nayika’ (Woman Waiting for her Lover), dated c. 1760 and published by Milo Beach in Rajput Painting at Bundi and Kota, 1974. (fig. 54, p. LIII).

 

Reference:
Milo Beach, Rajput Painting at Bundi and Kota (Ascona: Artibus Asiae, 1974).

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