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3. Lakshmi massaging the foot of Vishnu
Kangra school, India
Circa 1810-20
Opaque pigments and gold and silver on paper
Painting: 23.3 by 15.8 cm., 9 1/8 by 6 1/8 in.
Folio: 28.5 by 21 cm., 11 1/8 by 8 ¼ in.
Lakshmi massaging the foot of Vishnu

Provenance: Private collection, Canada.

"Vishnu or Narayana, looking as young and resplendent as his avatar Krishna, sits crowned and enthroned on a green throne seat. His four arms carry the usual attributes of Vishnu – mace, lotus, conch and discus. Lasksmi crouches before him reverencing his left foot – his right is raised up and placed on the throne in the traditional posture of royal ease adopted by divinities, maharaja-lilasana. Vishnu’s posture is a somewhat daring exercise in converting to a perspective view from the side, a composition always seen from the front in earlier sculpture and painting. Behind the throne stands a young woman with a chowrie and the white cloth signifying royalty. The divinity is here treated exactly like a raja, enthroned on a terrace with dishes awaiting his pleasure. Two baluster columns enclose the scene, their linking arch half hidden by a textile blind, while instead of a landscape there is beyond the terrace a gold ground sky streaked with orange and with rolling clouds.

This painting is a later version of an original of 1765-70 formerly in the collection of Gloria Katz and Williard Huyck, sold at Sotheby’s, New York, 22 march 2002, lot 49, and now in the Benkaim Collection, Los Angeles. Portraits or scenes viewed through an arched opening had become a commonplace of Guler painting from the 1750s. A portrait of Raja Govardhan Chand smoking a hookah, circa 1750 (Archer 1973Guler 24), employs exactly the same type of pillar and capital with acanthus leaf moulding as does our painting here. A golden sky frames the figures with rolling coloured clouds and garish streaks above, while a rolled up blind closes the scene at the top. The vividly coloured sky is also found in Basohli painting at this time (Archer 1973, Basohli 25-26) and reflects influence from Mughal painting both from Delhi and Avadh, possibly brought back to the hills after Nainsukh’s pilgrimage with his new patron Raja Amrit Pal of Basohli to distant Puri in 1763. A lady smoking a hookah on a terrace has exactly the same kind of arched format and background as ours (Losty 2012, no. 17). For an almost identical painting from the Galbraith Collection, see Welch & Beach 1965, no. 77."

Archer, W.G., Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills, London, 1973
Losty, J.P., Indian Painting 1600-1870, exhibition catalogue, New York, Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch Ltd., London, 2012

Welch, S.C., & Beach, M.C., Gods, Thrones and Peacocks, New York, 1965
Brooklyn Museum

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