10. The Goddess Kali
Mandi, North India
c.1810; Attributed to Sajnu
Opaque watercolors heightened with gold on paper
12 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. (31.8 x 24.2 cm.)
The goddess depicted in a classical stance after her killing spree, the third eye surmounts her tongue struck out in between protruding fangs, clad in a belt of decapitated hands and a necklace of severed heads as jagged hair runs down her shoulders. The manifestation of destruction and barrenness is seen brandishing a curved sword (kharga), holding a decapitated head, with a foot over Shiva's body. Jackals and vultures surround the scene smelling death in the blood- saturated air. The illustration is centered in an octagonal medallion, the spandrels embellished with gold scrolling foliate tendrils, in black borders with scrollwork, wide pink margins containing further depictions of her emanations, cusped cartouches above and below with a vulture and a rat.
The distinctive elaborate margins of this work with cusped cartouches containing attendants of Kali and associated animals are similar to those found on a painting of Raja Isvari Sen of Mandi worshipping Shiva attributed to artist Sajnu, (W.G. Archer, Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills, London, 1973, fig. 46, p. 275).
“Painting at Mandi, a relatively large kingdom in the Punjab Hills, did not really get underway until the middle of the eighteenth century. It reached an apogee of creativity during the reign of Raja Isvari Sen, who was under the cultural sway of painting mad Kangra and Guler, the two kingdoms which supplied a number of Isvari Sen’s favorite artists. His leading court painter was Sajnu, originally from Kangra or Guler. Sajnu, like Nainsukh and the Basohli Master of the Early Rasamanjari before him, did much to transform the style of painting everywhere in the Punjab Hills. Early nineteenth century Pahari painting was greatly influenced.”
- McInerney, Terence; Kossak, Steven; and Haidar, Navina. Divine pleasures: painting from Indias Rajput courts. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016 pg. 238. Print.
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