Shakuntala Prostrating Before her Father Sage Kanva For his Blessing

UnknownMid 19th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

Before leaving the hermitage for Dushyant’s palace at Hastinapur, the artist depicts Shakuntala’s final farewell to her foster father. She is depicted in the painting prostrating before sage Kanva, seeking his blessings before she starts her journey. As she reverently clasps his foot, her eyes closed, unable to bear the sorrow of her parting with her foster father, sage Kanva, too looks broodingly, his expressions grave, his eyes downcast, aggrieved at the prospect of his separation from Shakuntala.

Shakuntala’s companions stand slightly away from the father and daughter, respecting the sanctity of the moment and their privacy. Shakuntala’s friend Priyamvada looks at the scene of parting, while Shakuntala’s foster mother Gautami instructs something to her friend Anasuya, who listens with rapt attention.

The artist renders the narrative with straightforward simplicity and without embellishments, concentrating his attention on the depiction of the main protagonists within the setting of the hermitage.

He however through his fine brushwork and patient detail brings to life the emotions and mental states of the figures with marked realism. The manner in which the old sage’s shoulder’s slump forward as Shakuntala bows before him, his hands rooted, his expressions grim as he seems unable to raise his hands to bless her, marking his farewell to Shakuntala, are rendered in moving detail.
The artist’s skillful brushwork is also evidenced by the delicate folds of the drapery and the fine hair on the deer skin that sage Kanva sits upon.

The artist dexterously uses colour so that the fiery red saree that Shakuntala wears does not restrict the viewer’s attention on her person only, her bright hues are reiterated in other parts of the painting - on the overturned pot on the stump of the branch, or the bright red casket in front of the opening of the hut or the colour of the blouse that the ascetic Gautami wears, enabling the gaze of the viewer to move beyond her.

The fiery warmth of these colours is mellowed by the dull yellows that the artist uses on the dhoti that the old sage wears, the water vessel kept in front of him and the saree that Shakuntala’s friend Anasuya wears. Beyond the animated colours presented in the circle around the hut, cool greens, greys and blue-greens fill up the lush foliage around them.


  • Title: Shakuntala Prostrating Before her Father Sage Kanva For his Blessing
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 19th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 33 x 37 cm
  • Style: Nalagarh / Hindur
  • Accession Number: 89.503/5

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps