Radha & Krishna

Title: Radha & Krishna
Artist: Unknown
School: Kangra
Dimensions: 23x21cm
Price: £ 135.00

This magnificently executed portrait of Radha and Krishna is reminiscent of Kishangarh’s master artist Nihal Chand who has to his credit some of the universally acknowledged and hailed world masterpieces. Only two of the paintings attributed to Nihal Chand have inscribed on them Nihal Chand’s name. One of these two paintings, now with Maharaja Braj Raj Singh of Kishangarh, portrays the heads of Radha and Krishna. The other one, reported by Dickinson and Karl Khandalavala, is also a portrait of Radha. In its portrayal of Radha and Krishna this miniature has unique resemblance with Nihal Chand’s Radha and Krishna and gives a feel of the art of the great 18th century Indian master. It has still greater resemblance with a mid 18th century Kishangarh portrait of Radha and Krishna, now with Philadelphia Museum of Art, attributed again to Nihal Chand by Stella Kramrisch.

The female figure in this portrayal, in exact resemblance of Nihal Chand’s Radha, has the same elongated face, arched eye-brows, lotus-like eyes tinged in pink, though not so much as those of Nihal Chand’s Radha, sharp nose, thin sensitive lips and a pointed chin. Her jet-black hair waves with a tendril-like caress over the curve of the cheek and ends in a shapely silhouette. Her face, framed within the curls of her ebony hair, is delicate and refined and her eye-brows curve like a bow. From her head to toe she has been adorned with precious jewels and ornaments and gold embroidered wrap. Save that it is taller, has deeper complexion and is differently adorned and attired, the male figure that is Krishna, too has been cast with similar features and figure. The reason is obvious. Instead of rendering beautiful figures the Kishangarh artists conceived and created their own ideal of beauty and cast their figures, male or female, under its parameters with the result that in most cases male and female faces are almost alike and the distinction is sought elsewhere, in colour of their complexion, garments, ornaments or body structures.

The Samskrit love poetry has conceived of “Padmakshi’ or ‘Rajiv-lochana’ ideals of beauty, that is, someone who has eyes that resembled lotuses. Both Radha and Krishna in this miniature have lotus-like eyes. Besides, it is only a huge lotus that serves as their seat. He has tugged on his belt a lotus that relates him to Rajiv-lochana Vishnu who is known to always carry in one of his four hands a lotus. The couple in their amorous disposition and most private moments and mood, is seated on a white terrace. Composed with utmost subtlety of line and colour, this miniature represents most truly the classical art tradition of medieval India.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specialises on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.