Krishna Playing the Flute (Venugopala)

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Calcutta (present-day Kolkata), West Bengal, Bengal Region, India, Asia

c. 1920

Phyllite with pigment

20 1/4 × 8 1/2 × 8 inches (51.4 × 21.6 × 20.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with Museum funds, 1966

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In Bengal during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a new devotional movement dedicated to the god Krishna, an incarnation of the supreme god Vishnu, emerged. Inspired by the mystic saint Chaitanya (1486-1533), devotees sought an intensely personal and deeply emotional engagement with Krishna modeled on the relationship between the flute-playing cowherd god and his beloved Radha. In its original context in a temple, this black stone image, a common type of icon of Krishna, would have been accompanied by an image of Radha. The devotional theology and ecstatic practices developed by Chaitanya and his followers-known as Gaudiya Vaishnavism-infuse not only Bengali Hinduism but also Bengali culture to this day.