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Illustration to a Harivamsa series: Narada warns Kamsa Attributed to Purkhu - image 1 of 1

Illustration to a Harivamsa series:
Narada warns Kamsa Attributed to Purkhu Kangra School, India Circa 1800 – 1820
Gouache heightened with gold
on prepared paper
Folio: 18 ½ x 14 ¼ in. (47 x 36.2 cm)
Image: 16 7/8 x 12 ½ in. (47.5 x 37 cm)

Provenance: Estate of Joan
Peters Caro, Chicago

The Harivamsa (an account of the Dynasty of Hari [Vishnu]") is a work of three chapters appended to the great epic, the Mahabharata. The first chapter contains an account of the creations and the genealogy of the Yadavas, the family of Krishna and Vasudeva descended from their Aryan ancestor, Yadu. The second chapter describes the life of Krishna and his affairs with the gopis, where many of the stories are similar to those in the Bhagavata Purana. The last chapter deals with prophecies of the present age (Kali Yuga) and other matters unconnected with the title of the work.

In Hindu mythology Narada is revered for both his sage advice and his notorious mischievous
ways, creating some of vedic literatures most humorous tales. He is known as a master of the Veena,
and is frequently depicted with one (as in this particular scene). This painting illustrates the following excerpt from the Bhagavata Purana:

“...The great saint Narada descended from the heavenly planets to the forest of Mathura and sent his messenger to Kamsa. When the messenger approached Kamsa and informed him of Narada's arrival, Kamsa, the leader of the asuras, was very happy and immediately came out of his palace to receive Narada, who was as bright as the sun, as powerful as fire, and free from all tinges of sinful activities. Kamsa accepted Narada as his guest, offered him respectful obeisances and gave him a golden seat, brilliant like the sun. Narada was a friend of the King of heaven, and thus he told Kamsa, the son of Ugrasena, "My dear hero, you have satisfied me with a proper reception, and therefore I shall tell you something secret and confidential. While I was coming here from Nandakanana through the Caitraratha forest, I saw a great meeting of the demigods, who followed me to Sumeru Parvata. We traveled through many holy places, and finally we saw the holy Ganges. While Lord Brahma was consulting the other demigods at the top of Sumeru Hill, I was also present with my stringed instrument, the vina. I shall tell you confidentially that the meeting was held just to plan to kill the asuras, headed by you. You have a younger sister named Devaki, and it is a fact that her eighth son will kill you." (reference: Hari-vamsa, Visnu-parva 1.2-16)”

Purkhu is one of the master artists of early Kangra Painting. Active from 1780 – 1820, under the patronage of Maharaja Sansar Chand, he is respected for his brilliant execution of emotionally evocative processional scenes. “Purkhu saw individuals essentially as falling into types. There is no insensitivity to appearances, and he was quick to establish distinctions between one person and another… therefore Purkhu was best in rendering large groups: court scenes, processions, state festivals, private celebrations, and the like. He was able to invest these scenes with the specific character of each occasion. “(Beach, 2011)

In this particular painting our eye is immediately drawn to the foreground, where a courtly meeting surrounded by lush topiary is being held. A chowry-bearer fans Kamsa (inscribed above crown) as the king watches Narada (inscribed in red), the most travelled sage, fly away on the upper right, veena in hand. The lush surround of the court scene is reminiscent of Purkhu’s most famous work for the Gita Govinda series often referred to as the Lambagraon Gita Govinda

Literature:
Archer, W.G., Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills, London, Parke-Bernet, 1973, I: 294- 295
Beach, M.C., Masters of Indian Painting: Vol. II, Zurich, 2011, pgs. 728 - 732
Goswamy, B.N and Fischer, Eberhard, Pahari Masters, Zurich, 1992, pgs. 367- 387

Conservation: Bottom right corner of painting and folio has been professionally conserved to complete the painting. Work performed by former paper conservator of Brooklyn Museum.

Comparable sales:

Christie’s London • June 10, 2013 • Sale 9966 • Lot 16 • Price realized: $ 81,131 [£ 52,275/-] Sotheby’s NY • March 19, 2008 • Sale N08418 • Lot 215 • Price realized $ 145,000

ITEM ID
Purkhu Harivamsa
MEDIA
Gouache
STYLE
Asian Art
WIDTH
14" (36 cm)
ARTIST
Purkhu
HEIGHT
19" (48 cm)
AGE
Early 19th Century

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    Illustration to a Harivamsa series: Narada warns Kamsa Attributed to Purkhu

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