Krishna and Radha beside a Pavilion
Page from a dispersed series of the Rasikapriya (Connoisseur's Delights) of Keshavadasa

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Madhya Pradesh, Malwa Region, India, Asia

c. 1660

Opaque watercolor on paper

Image: 8 11/16 × 8 7/16 inches (22.1 × 21.4 cm) Sheet: 10 1/4 × 8 7/8 inches (26 × 22.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Alvin O. Bellak Collection, 2004

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This painting of Krishna and Radha enjoying each other's company in a courtyard is typical of the romantic themes of the Rasikapriya, a Hindi poem of the 17th century which details human sentiments, of which the most important and best described are the sentiments of love. The image retains the characteristics of indigenous Indian painting that typified Malwa production throughout the seventeenth century. Although the composition is divided by patches of primary color and the architecture is flat, the drawing is more elegant in its enhanced details and gracefully elongated figures than earlier works from Malwa.

Additional information:
  • PublicationIntimate Worlds: Indian Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection

    This painting of Krishna and Radha in the courtyard of a pavilion is more typical of Rasikapriya imagery than, for example, Krishna Slays Arishta (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-20). A four-line inscription on the reverse identifies the subject as a sentiment defined in the Rasikapriya’s sixth chapter: Vilasa hava, or the external manifestation of merriment.1 As the text describes, such a state can be brought on by the simplest action--a twinkling glance, a warming smile, or a leisurely stroll. The manifestation of this kind of pleasure is described in the following verses:

    The lustre of your lovely looks,
    And of your
    tika mark, proclaim
    Your eyebrows have turned the abode
    Of playfulness, and filled with shame
    Your eyes are dancing all the way:
    The brightness of your teeth has robbed
    All reason; Shri Krisna’s mind enslaved
    Have you by charming laughter soft,
    And your mouth’s fragrance; though I ween
    He clever is: to captivate
    Shri Krisna’s body and soul it seems
    Your lips the vow of silence take.2

    Just as the poet acknowledges the ineloquence of words in a situation of such intimate bliss, so the painter tacitly recognizes the inadequacy of his repertoire of facial expressions. Instead, he uses other means to convey the pleasure that Krishna and Radha take in each other’s company. He isolates the lovers so that they can begin to partake of each other, but postpones any physical contact until they have savored fully the delights of this appetizing moment. Krishna raises his hand slowly to his mouth, all the time gazing deeply into his beloved’s eyes; Radha responds silently with outstretched arms. Despite the stiff position of her arms and the peculiarly reversed rendering of her hands, one cannot fail to understand her amorous gesture, if not by virtue of the situation alone, then certainly with the cue of the courtyard’s brilliant red coloring, which transforms the otherwise bare space into an emotional combustion chamber.

    Immediately above Krishna and Radha, two monkeys allow themselves to give more obvious expression to their own mirth; one mimics Krishna’s gesture while the other playfully looks away as he clings to a mango tree. The exuberant foliage of the trees and flowering creepers behind them extends the unrestrained quality of their actions to nature itself, and complements the order of the pavilion and its courtyard.

    This Central Indian artist still uses a patchwork of primary colors to organize his composition, but here he exemplifies the general mid-seventeenth-century trend in Malwa toward compositions with quicker coloristic rhythms. The draftsmanship has become more assured, a quality most apparent in the figures’ more elongated proportions, smaller heads, and finer features. Radha, like most female figures in Malwa painting of this period, wears a skirt with richly colored horizontal bands. The architecture is still relentlessly two-dimensional, but it too has benefited from selected elaboration. Where buildings once consisted of little more than simple white slabs, they have now developed into crisply delineated forms embellished with crenellations, minute step patterns, and vegetal brackets. This particular Rasikapriya series rises well above the level of other contemporary or slightly later series, which sometimes are refined to the point of sterility or are allowed to lapse into folkish ungainliness. This painting possesses a courtly grace unknown in early Malwa art, but retains such lively, whimsical touches as a salivating makara (crocodilian) finial and a horse-headed towel rack. John Seyller, from Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection (2001), pp. 74-75.

    1. The number 113 appears above the painting and at the end of the inscription on the reverse; the number 24 is also written on the reverse. For another painting from the same series (number 117), see P & D Colnaghi & Co. Ltd., London. Indian Painting: Mughal and Rajput and a Sultanate Manuscript. April 5-May 3, 1978. pp. 73, 105, no. 83.
    2. Keshavadasa, The Rasikapriya, trans. K. P. Bahadur (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1972), p. 98.