A Maiden with a Deer and a Peacock

From a Nayika series

Punjab Hills, Himachal Pradesh, Kangra or Guler, North India, ca. 1830

Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

Folio 10¼ x 8 in, 25.7 x 20.3 cm

Painting 7½ x 5 ⅜ in, 19 x 13.8 cm


This nayika or heroine, known as utka nayika, the second in Keshav Das’ eight categories, is out in a storm yearning for her absent lover. Her lover can never appear at the promised hour. Often a deer acts as a surrogate for the lover in these paintings and here we see a black buck to one side. The cloudy sky threatens a stormy night and she turns gracefully to a peacock, an animal that often is shown to suggest the coming of a storm. One can almost hear his call, heralding the tempest. The artist masterfully conveys her emotion and heavy heart by placing massive dark clouds above her, while at the same time her vibrant orange dress has echoes of a happier time and promise of a reunion with her lover.

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