Philadelphia Museum of Art - Collections Object : Radha and Krishna beside a Lake at Sunset
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Radha and Krishna beside a Lake at Sunset

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Kota, Rajasthan, India, Asia

c. 1750

Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

Image: 10 1/2 × 7 1/4 inches (26.7 × 18.4 cm) Sheet: 11 3/8 inches (28.9 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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In this scene, blue-colored Krishna and his beloved Radha overlap so closely that they almost become one. This perfect union of lovers expresses, on a religious level, the melding of human into divine that is the goal of the spiritual journey. The artist repeats the motif of union in the multiple bird couples filling the pond, including a pair of striking redheaded Sarus cranes, two great black birds that may be Indian cormorants, and a pair of whitebreasted kingfishers. Their mating and the lushness of the landscape indicate that this is monsoon season, a time of intimacy and rebirth and a metaphor for the state of bliss that comes from total, loving devotion to God.

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

    Radha and Krishna are seated on the ledge of the lakeside ghat (stepped platform), surrounded by the bolster, pillows, and broken flower garlands that denote an earlier interlude of lovemaking.1 Seated in identical attitudes of royal ease (lalitasana), the two figures are so tightly joined that their outlines overlap to suggest a common silhouette. This physical proximity expresses the perfect fusion of their bodies and souls, an ideal condition resulting from love in union (samyoga). On a mundane level, love in union represents the goal of all romantic love. But on a higher level, it represents the reconciliation of the finite and the infinite, and the subsumation of the human in the divine. Both of these ideas are embodied in the love of Radha, a simple village girl, and Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu.

    Seated in a landscape, the divine couple gaze into space, as if transfixed by the riot of nature their presence has provoked. The densely inhabited lotus pond and adjacent jungle teem with life. Paired birds occupy the storm-tossed surface of the lotus pond, or nestle among the trees that line its edge. Like Radha and Krishna, these creatures are responding to the exuberant life force that has reemerged with the arrival of rain. Following a period of heat and drought, the monsoon, or rainy season, is an annual miracle that occurs between the months of July and mid-September. When water is abundant,

    life wakes and shines, and the forest seems to show its glee in flowering kadambas [trees] which are covered with yellow ball-like flowers . . . . Rain-clouds drench the earth and the thirsty brown earth suddenly gets covered with a carpet of green grass. Velvet mites, the scarlet birbahuti [flowers], and [the] brides of heroes, make the earth look like a pretty woman decked with sparkling gems.2

    The monsoon is therefore a season of fertility and regeneration, but also a time of love.

    A later and coarsened version of this same picture was painted at Bundi, Kota’s neighboring state.3 Its subject has been thought to illustrate the month of Shravana (July-August), one of the prescribed subjects in a Barahmasa (Twelve Months) series depicting the various activities and “conditions of love” that characterize each month of the Indian year (see Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-76). But neither the present painting nor its Bundi copy represents the Teej festival—the standard signifier of Shravana in the Bundi-Kota Barahmasa tradition.4 And neither shows an activity or background that is specific to one rainy month, yet exclusive to another. For these reason, these paintings are probably not Barahmasa illustrations, but fully independent, nonserial works. Terence McInerney, from Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection (2001), pp. 164-165.

    1. There are two short Rajasthani inscriptions on the reverse. The first is illegible; the second appears to read, “Lord of the Gopis [Krishna].”
    2. M. S. Randhawa. Kangra Paintings on Love. New Delhi: National Museum, 1962, pp. 138–39.
    3. National Museum, New Delhi, 56108/4; see Jiwan Sodhi, A Study of the Bundi School of Painting (from the Collection of the National Museum, New Delhi) (New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1999), plate 53. For yet another version, see Sotheby’s, London, April 10, 1989, lot 52, plate XXIII.
    4. For a typical eighteenth-century Bundi-Kota depiction of Shravana, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, I.S. 552-1952, see V. P. Dwivedi. Barahmasa: The Song of Seasons in Literature and Art. Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan, 1980, plate 72.

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