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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

The Romantic Rajput Paintings

  • The Depraved Hero

    Slide Notes

    Rajput painting is the painting of Rajputana and Bundelkhand, and the Panjab Himalayas region in India. The known examples range from the late sixteenth into the nineteenth century. Historically, Rajput paintings are reduced wall painting, thus having swift and fine lines, with enamel or stained glass colors used to establish the planes but never blended to produce effects.

    How do the characters look? Observe the intricate details on the clothing and the beautiful body image of the characters. This painting exemplifies the vast majority of Rajput paintings, which depict a world populated by idealized men and women in scenes either of romantic love or courageous action. 

    (Source: History of Indian and Indonesian Art by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy)

    Details

    Adhama Vaishika Nayaka (The Depraved Hero)

    1660–70

    Dimensions

    Overall: 22.6 x 32.3cm (8 7/8 x 12 11/16in.) Other (Image only): 26.2 x 17.3cm (10 5/16 x 6 13/16in.)

    Medium

    Opaque watercolor, silver, gold, and beetle wing on paper

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.2782

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Woman Drinking Wine

    Slide Notes

    The unfinished painting in the collection illuminates the process of how Rajput paintings are made. 

    A Rajput artist begins by selecting a piece of paper and executing a sketch or under-drawing either in red or black. Next, a thin coat of white pigment is added, through which the under-drawing can still be seen. The artist repeats and refines the drawing using a brush, and begins to add color and ink in layers, often turning the page over to burnish it. This creates a dense, shiny surface.

    Details

    Woman Drinking Wine

    early 19th century

    Dimensions

    Overall: 29.2 x 19.6 cm (11 1/2 x 7 11/16 in.)

    Medium

    Stencil: ink, opaque watercolor and charcoal on paper, pricked for pouncing

    Classification

    Drawings / Watercolors

    Accession Number

    17.3045

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Nala and Damayanti in Three...

    Slide Notes

    This unfinished painting shows early steps of the Rajput painting. Colors are powerful in Rajput paintings, as shown in this painting, a few layers of ink are already able to transform the sketch. 

    The colors of Rajput painting were extracted from multiple sources, including minerals, plants, conch shells, beetle wings and sometimes precious stones and metals. The preparation of ink could be a lengthy process that takes weeks. 

    (source: https://www.boundless.com/art-history/textbooks/boundless-art-history-te...)

    Details

    Nala and Damayanti in Three Amorous Scenes

    about 1790–1800

    Master

    Dimensions

    Overall: 33.4 x 22.3 cm (13 1/8 x 8 3/4 in.) Image: 33.4 x 22.3 cm (13 1/8 x 8 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Opaque watercolor and ink on paper

    Classification

    Drawings / Watercolors

    Accession Number

    17.2404

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Two Women In the Woods at Night

    Slide Notes

    What time of the day is captured in the painting? Does the lighting seem realistic?

    A characteristic of the Rajput painting is the lack of depth and light source. The Rajput color is always flat, and a night scene is lighted as evenly as one in full sunlight. In this painting, the light source is indicated by the silver border of the clouds, and we can guess that there is a moon present behind. In many other paintings, the light sources are often indicated by accessories such as candles or torches.

    Details

    Two Women in the Woods at Night

    about 1670–75

    Dimensions

    27 x 17.8 cm (10 5/8 x 7 in.)

    Medium

    Opaque watercolor, gold, silver and beetle wing on paper

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.3203

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Radha Offers Pan to Krishna

    Slide Notes

    The inspirations for Rajput paintings come from literature of South Asia—from the early Sanskrit epics to later poetry in vernacular languages. Painters transformed texts into images whose actions and settings were intended to convey intense emotional, spiritual or physical states.

    Men and women in the Rajput paintings often have romantic interactions. This painting shows Radha offering a pan to Krishna. Raha is a goddess and a milkmaid and Krishna is the god of compassion. Krishna is renowned for his erotic dalliance with the milkmaids, particularly his affection for Raha. Because of the devotion Raha displayed in the relationship, Radha and Krishna are often remembered in one single term "Radha-Krishna". In addition, the relationship of longing from afar that exists between the milkmaid and Krishna has now for many centuries been seen as a metaphor for the pinning of the soul for union with its Lord. 

    (Sources:

    History of Indian and Indonesian Art by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy 

    Hindu Art  by T. Richard Blurton)

    Details

    Radha offers pan to Krishna

    about 1725

    Dimensions

    Overall: 19 x 13.6cm (7 1/2 x 5 3/8in.)

    Medium

    Opaque watercolor, silver and gold on paper

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.3201

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Chitra Darshana Nayika

    Slide Notes

    Without any background information, it is challenging for the audience to tell the story behind the painting. This is because Rajput painting illustrates every phase of mediaeval Hundi literature and its themes cannot be understood without a thorough knowledge of the Indian epics, the Krsna Lila literature, music and erotics. The ambiguous facial expressions and the scarcity of clues in the paintings pose a barrier for foreigners to understand the artwork. 

    This painting is called The Heroine Who Gazes at a Picture of Her Absent Beloved. The inscription on the painting is translated as “Tearing at her skirt, vehemently marking her breasts with her nails and biting her lips with her teeth, and crying’When (will he come)?’ Thus regarding her lover depicted in the picture, the babe is afraid that he may be taking his pleasure in the groves.”

    Details

    Chitra Darshana Nayika (The Heroine Who Gazes at a Picture of Her Absent Beloved)

    1660–70

    The Basohli Master

    Dimensions

    Overall: 22.3 x 32.6 cm (8 3/4 x 12 13/16 in.)

    Medium

    Opaque watercolor, gold, silver and beetle wing on paper

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.2786

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • The Hero Who Loves Another Man...

    Slide Notes

    Emotion is central to Rajput painting, often embedded in subject matter and color but not in the facial expressions of the characters. Rasa, however, evokes feelings and emotions. A rasa means "juice, essence or taste", and it connotes an ancient concept in Indian arts about the aesthetic flavor. Each rasa has a presiding deity and a specific color. For example, Karunyam has the connotation of compassion and mercy. Its Presiding deity is Yama, and the color is gray. Adbhutam means wonder and amazement, whose presiding deity is Braham and the color is yellow. 

    What colors do you see in the picture? What emotions do they carry?

    (Source: The Garland Encyclopedia or World Music: South Asia: the Indian subcontinent)

    Details

    The Hero Who Loves Another Man's Wife

    1660–70

    The Basohli Master

    Dimensions

    Overall: 23.5 x 32.8cm (9 1/4 x 12 15/16in.) Other (Without borders): 17.8 x 26.8cm (7 x 10 9/16in.)

    Medium

    Opaque watercolor, silver, gold, and beetle wing on paper

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.2781

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Ravana With His Ministers

    Slide Notes

    Different from the previous paintings that convey compassion and serenity, this painting evokes a sense of turmoil and urgency. The unusual large scale further elevates the tension presented.

    The painting is based on a story in the Sanskrit epic tale called Ramayana, and the hero is Rama, an incarnation of the god Vishnu. Vishnu is one of the triumvirates consisting of three gods who are responsible for the creation, upkeep, and destruction of the world. Vishnu is the preserver and protector of the universe. The painting illustrates him trying to conquer a villain and get back his kidnapped wife. 

    (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/deities/vishnu.shtml)

     

    Details

    Rama Sends a Captured Spy back to Ravana

    about 1725

    Manaku, Indian, about 1700–1760

    Dimensions

    Overall: 61.5 x 83.6 cm (24 3/16 x 32 15/16 in.) Image: 56.7 x 80.3 cm (22 5/16 x 31 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.2746

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Todi Ragini

    Slide Notes

    Unlike the previous paintings, instead of illustrating a story, this painting is establishing a mood of a musical mode. The heroine is in the same condition associated with the musical mode.

    What color scheme is used in the painting? What mood do you think is conveyed?

    Poems are often written directly on the painting's borders. The poetry describes her as "darling, most unhappy in love, like a nun renouncing the world, this Todi abides in the grove and charms the hearts of the does." So the heroine is solemn and melancholic. 

    Details

    Todi Ragini

    about 1640–50

    Dimensions

    Overall: 7/78 x 5 13/16 in. ( 20 x 14.7 cm)

    Medium

    Opaque watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.2378

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia