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Shakuntala Approaching her Cottage with her Foster Mother Gautami

UnknownMid 19th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

As the sun sets and the sky sets to darken, the venerable sage Gautami asks Shakuntala to proceed to her little hut and Shakuntala dutifully follows her foster mother. Anxious about Shakuntala’s frail health, Gautami herself ushers Shakuntala to her cottage in safety.

Shakuntala’s snug little cottage is delightfully sheltered amidst a grove of trees whose exuberant multi-hued leaves shade its precincts. Outside the cottage, the floor of the porch is smeared with cow dung, and little birds flurry down to peck at the grains that Shakuntala has scattered for them, configuring themselves in a neat little ring.

Down below among the small undulating slopes, a rambling brook passes through, and along its sides, trees and shrubs burst forth with cheerful abundance. A scene of bare-topped mountains that slope into clothing of young pines, silhouetted against rolling hills pans out in the distance. Taking delight in the myriad forms of scapes that nature has to offer, the artist unravels a range of visions of wilderness rendered with a sense of natural wonder where he balances a concoction of lush and vigorous trees with areas of barren, patchy vegetation, where the bare muddy surface of the earth is tempered with tiny specks of grass. The still, silent surroundings and the realistic rendering of precise details imparts a mysterious, dreamlike appeal. Above the ranges a pale glimpse of the sky with silvery streaks of hanging clouds completes the landscape.

The artist’s delight in rendering the foliage as patterns juxtaposed with each other creates a lush and lively mise-en-scène. His delight in placing a contrast between these leafy patterns however, leads to a certain amnesia about the rendering of the unfolding spaces. While the trunk of a leafy green tree, depicted with its knotting and twisting branches, is placed next to the flowing brook on the right, the upper leaves of the tree fall behind Shakuntala’s little hut creating a fantastical impossibility of spatial logic.

That this bizarre conjuring of space is unintended can be grasped by the fact that the artist makes clear distinctions of space of the foreground, middle and background on the left of the painting.

Details

  • Title: Shakuntala Approaching her Cottage with her Foster Mother Gautami
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 19th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 33 x 37 cm
  • Style: Nalagarh / Hindur
  • Accession Number: 89.503/21

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