Patmanjari ragini, Wife of Bairu (Bhairava) raga
From a Ragamala series
Attributed to Jai Kishan
Rajasthan, Malpura, ca. 1756
Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper
Folio 15 ½ x 11 ½ in, 39 x 29 cm
Painting 11 ½ x 7 ¼ in, 29 x 18.5 cm
This painting represents a very distinctive style with its highly decorated surface, the text written in gold and silver against a black background, and its delicate floral border. The group is noted for tall, attenuated and stylized figures, a bright color scheme with sharp contrasts, and fine detailing. The iconography is a bit peculiar for Patmanjari ragini. It is usually associated with a much older musical mode called Desvarati or Vairari and depicts a woman stretching her arms upwards in position of yearning for her absent lover. Often the figure is associated with an attendant holding a mirror, but here the sakhi or friend of the ragini holds a garland.
Ebeling briefly discussed the known folios from this set in 1973 and pointed out that one now in San Diego is a bit different — it is numbered and rather than have the text lines alternate colors, the colors alternate according to the verses. This painting matches that organization as do a few others that have since come to light. We can now say that there were actually two Ragamala sets made around the same time, since a Dipak raga in the Fogg (1963.73) and one in Philadelphia (1994-148-420) display the alternate set-ups with the two colors. The iconography and the text are identical.
The sets are well known with examples in many museums: the San Diego Museum of Art, the Fogg Museum at Harvard, the Victoria and Albert in London, Fondation Custodia in Paris, the Walters Gallery in Baltimore, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and a number of private collections. The illustration of Asvari ragini from the series, formerly in the collection of Eric Schroeder of Cambridge, MA, and now in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, bears a colophon with the name of the artist Jai Kishan and the date VS 1813/AD 1756-57.
For a short discussion of the set, see: Klaus Ebeling, Ragamala Painting, Basel, Paris and New Delhi, 1973. p. 212.
Provenance: Published in T. Falk & B. Lynch, Images of India, Indar Pasricha exhibition catalogue, London 1989, n. 29.
And Sotheby’s London, 29-30 April 1992, lot 270.