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Page from a Manuscript of the Kalakacharyakatha (Legend of the Teacher-Monk Kalaka)

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Geography:
Made in Gujarat, India, Asia
or Rajasthan, India, Asia

Date:
c. 1475-1500

Medium:
Opaque watercolor, ink, gold, and silver-colored paint on paper

Dimensions:
4 3/8 × 11 13/16 inches (11.1 × 30 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
2004-149-2

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

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Label:
The sumptuous red ground, silver writing, and rich borders heavy in precious lapis lazuli pigment reflect the Jain devotees' practice of commissioning elaborate copies of sacred texts and donating them to monastic libraries. The more costly the pigments and the more lavish the workmanship, the greater the spiritual merit accrued by the donor. By the late fifteenth century, the appearance of these manuscripts reached a perfect balance where skilled draftsmanship was as important as costly materials. Possibly under Islamic influence, the borders and dividers in Jain illustrations evolved from simple lines into the textilelike, patterned bands seen here. Some of these borders were made even more deluxe by the addition of figures or short narrative scenes that were unrelated to the text on the page.

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

    While this page from a Kalakacharyakatha bears no narrative illustration, its sumptuous red ground, silver writing, and rich borders heavy in precious lapis lazuli pigment reflect the Jain devotees’ practice of commissioning copies of sacred texts and donating them to monastic libraries. The more costly the pigments and the more lavish the workmanship, the greater the spiritual merit accrued by the donor. By the late fifteenth century the richness of these productions had reached a point of balance, where the page was covered in precious pigments but attention to fine draftsmanship still remained a priority.

    Possibly under Islamic influence, the borders and panel dividers in Jain manuscripts grew from simple lines into textile-like patterned bands that at times included figures, elements of landscape, and even small narrative scenes.1 On this page, the top and bottom borders are formed of an interwoven blue and red pattern. The central vertical strip shows highly stylized vegetation punctuated by a gold diamond that is the vague descendant of the earlier red dot through which a binding string had been passed, now merely a convention. On either short side, more elaborate borders depict male and female devotees and/or donors in courtly garb, each holding what appears to be a lamp. The male is crowned and has a red halo, perhaps indicating that he is a king. Each stands beneath a formalized tree, a parrot perched above that sheltering the man. The figures bear no relationship to the portion of text written on the page.

    The figures themselves are close to those found on another Jain painting in the Bellak Collection, even to such details as the long line projecting from the outer corner of the eye. Although lacking the fineness and delicate detailing seen in Jain paintings of the previous century, these figures have a liveliness of line and an alertness of posture and expression that energize the entire page. Darielle Mason, from Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection (2001), pp. 36-37.

    1. See, for example, a manuscript bearing a date equivalent to A.D. 1501 in the Ancalagaccha Bhandar, Jamnagar, Gujarat (Moti Chandra and Umakant P. Shah. New Documents of Jaina Painting. Mumbai: Shri Mahavira Jaina Vidyalaya, 1975, figs. 26–29); and one of c. 1475 in the Devasano Pado Bhandar, Ahmedabad (Karl Khandalavala and Moti Chandra. New Documents of Indian Painting: A Reappraisal. Mumbai: The Board of Trustees of the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, 1969, figs. 45–93).