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Simon Ray: Indian & Islamic Works of Art

India (Bundi), circa 1780
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold
Height: 25.3 cm
Width: 20 cm

Stamped on the reverse with an owner’s mark: Kumar Sangram Singh of Hawalgar

On a terrace bordered with lush vegetation a young languid woman smokes a hookah while a colleague massages her foot. An attendant stands behind holding a fan.

“… within a densely vegetated landscape evocative of the paintings of Le Douanier Rousseau, a young woman surrenders her left foot to a masseur. The space between the big toe and the second toe is considered by the Indian masseur as a reflexology zone of great importance. This painting may illustrate the dancing girl Kamakandala who suffers from being separated from her lover the handsome musician Mahdavanala who has been exiled by a jealous king. The theme of the suffering of separation has been expressed by poets, musicians and painters in their Ragamalas”.

This painting is typical of the style that was adopted at Bundi in the second half of the eighteenth century. This style is called the “white palette” characterised by paleness, with outlines of the faces contoured and shaded with shadows as if in the halo of the moon, and influenced by Mughal artists coming from Delhi or Lucknow. (See W. B. Archer, Indian Painting in Bundi and Kotah, London, 1959).

For another illustration f the same theme, see the famous painting in the Galbraith collection, published in J. K Galbraith and M. S Randhawa, Indian Painting: The Scenes, Themes and Legends, Bombay, 1968, pp. 84-86, fig. 15. This painting will be published many times later by Stuart Cary Welch. The authors Randhawa and Galbraith associate this subject with the popular folk tale of Mandhavala and Kamakandala, written in 1527 by Ganpati Kayastha, very often illustrate by the artists of Rajasthan.

Kamakandala is playing the vina or lute and has such fascinating power over the women that the king exiled him after strong demands of the husbands in the country. In his exile he comes to hear about Madhavanala, a favourite of the Raja who had to exhibit her skill at a feast at court. Dressed as a vagabond, Kamakandala was refused entry by the guards so he had to follow the concert from behind the jali screen.

Jean Soustiel and Marie-Christine David, Miniatures Orientals de L’Inde-2, Exposition Galerie J. Soustiel, Paris, May-July 1974, no. 48.
R. Sigalea, La Medecine Tradionelle de l’Inde, 1995, pl. VII.

all text & images � Simon Ray: Indian & Islamic Works of Art

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