Punjab Hills, Guler
Attributable to a Master of the first generation after Nainsukh
Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper
Folio: 6 7/8 by 10 5/8 in. (17.5 by 27 cm)
Image: 6 1/8 by 10 in. (15.6 by 25.4 cm)
Verso inscribed with two lines of Devanagari at center
American Private Collection
Based on the great lyric poem by Jayadeva, the Gita Govinda tells the tale of Krishna and Radha’s volatile romance. The emotional range of the story is vast, paralleling the universal experience of love; the main characters face desire, hope, pride, disappointment, anger, and reconciliation.
An image from the alluring second Guler Gita Govinda series of circa 1775, this scene represents a disconsolate moment in the love story. Rumors of Krishna’s unfaithfulness have reached Radha who is deeply wounded by them. She broods in despair while he, despite his dalliances, pines for her and the perfect union they had found in the bower. Here, beautiful Radha sits with her back to Krishna, rejecting his overtures, and stubbornly gazing at the ground in a melancholy manner. Both her confidante who stands in front of her, and Krishna who kneels behind, extend their hands towards Radha in an appeal, yet their efforts appear to be in vain.
Noteworthy in this series, in particular, is the manner in which nature parallels the mood of the moment. Here, one lone tree blossoms in a hopeful manner, yet the remainder of the landscape appears barren. In the background, bright orange clouds and an orange-tinged hillside suggest a setting sun. Even the branches of the left-most tree droop and weep, as if reflecting Radha’s sadness in each leaf.
For other paintings from this series see Dye III, The Arts of India, Richmond, 2001, p. 350, no. 151; Mason, Intimate Worlds, Indian Paintings from the Collection of Alvin O. Bellak, Philadelphia, 2001, pp. 192-194, nos. 82 & 83; Archer, Indian Painting from the Punjab Hills: A Survey and History of Pahari Miniature Painting, 1973, vol. II, pp. 205-208, nos. 33(i)–33(vii); Goswamy and Fischer, Pahari Masters: Court Painters of Northern India, 1992, pp. 320–331, nos. 130–137; Sotheby's, New York, March 22, 2002, lot 52; Sotheby's, New York, September 16, 2010, lot 85; and Sotheby's, New York, March 24, 2011, lot 91.