Radha and Krishna in the Boat of Love

Miniature Painting Collection of National Museum, New Delhi

Radha and Krishna in the boat of love by Nihal ChandNational Museum - New Delhi

One of the masterpieces of Kishangarh school of miniature paintings from Rajasthan, this painting shows Radha and Krishna in the boat of love.

The biggest patron of miniatures from Kishangarh was Raja Savant Singh, who ruled the kingdom during the late 18th century CE. He was also an accomplished poet and a devout follower of the 'Vallabhacharya' - a Krishna cult influential in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The Kishangarh school is characterized by generic portraits of the king with his consort, known in history as Bani Thani.

Bani Thani was a singer under the employment of Savant Singh, who fell in love with her, and eventually abdicated the throne to become a Bhakti saint.

In most paintings the figures of the king and his consort are deified, to be equated with Krishna and Radha. This was not an unprecedented occurrence in Indian history and living rulers have been divinised since ancient times.

Other characteristic features of the Kishangarh school evident here are: a receding forehead, the lotus-shaped half-closed sensual eyes, the pointed chin, a sharp pointed nose and the slight pink tint on the eyelids.

It is believed by some scholars that the physical features of living Bani Thani were developed by the Kishangarh artists to create a set type for all figures. This type continues to be the identifier for Kishangarh school, with contemporary artisan families practicing in the same idiom.

This artwork proceeds through a narrative beginning from the topmost section of the canvas. The upper part of the painting depicts the couple with their attendants sitting in a garden...

...the time of the day being beautifully depicted through the setting sun and the patches of pink and yellow to signify dusk.

The narrative proceeds to the central portion of the painting where they are seated in a boat and a crossing the river, in order to reach the foliage on the other bank.

One bank of this river is dotted with architecture - probably hinting at the palace fortifications.

The third and final episode in the lower panel of the painting depicts the same foliage where the couple is shown again, hidden from the outside world.

Two marble pavilions break the monotony of the picture plane in terms of colour and form - being defined geometric shapes in the overflowing, organic cluster of trees.

The gesture of the king (holding a garland aloft) is another distinctive feature of this school, signaling at an impending phase of love-making.

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