- Museum number
Gouache painting on paper of Matsya, an avatar (incarnation) of Viṣṇu, from a portfolio of sixty-three paintings of deities and daily life. The upper body of Viṣṇu emerges from the fish, its scales finely delineated through shading. In his upper right hand he carries the chakra (discus), in the upper left hand the shankha (conch), his lower right hand is in abhaya and his lower left hand in varada mudra. An angavastra (shawl) is draped over his elbows, a floral garland hangs from his shoulders and he wears ornaments.
- Production date
- 1820 (circa)
Height: 28.50 centimetres
Height: 29.30 centimetres
Width: 21.80 centimetres (size of the image)
Width: 23.40 centimetres (size of the page)
- Curator's comments
- Dallapiccola 2010:
The portfolio consists of sixty-three paintings on loose sheets of paper. The series includes images of deities, mendicants and ritual scenes such as a wedding and cremation. Executed on European laid and water-marked paper, with the date 1816 appearing on one sheet, the paintings must have been produced in the immediately following years, c. 1820. There is much use of gold paint and brilliant colours, which is still bright, evidence of the portfolio having been kept closed for long periods since its creation.
Hindu mythology describes Vishnu as having ten incarnations (or avataras) in different ages whenever the universe was in danger. This painting depicts Vishnu's first incarnation, the Fish (or Matsya) Avatara.
The treatment of the fish scales is highly naturalistic, indicating knowledge of European traditions of shading.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2007 9 Aug-11 Nov, London, BM, Faith, Narrative and Desire: Masterpieces of Indian Painting in the British Museum.
2010 Aug 4- Nov 15, China, Shanghai Museum, ‘India: The Art of the Temple’
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Formerly in the possession of Edward Moodie's maternal great-uncle, Rupert Richardson-Gardner, who worked in India in the 1930s. However, given the presence of auction room stickers on several of the paintings (one provides the date of the sale – June 15th 1977), it is more likely that the portfolio was acquired by him during his post-war career in Christie’s (he was a specialist in carpets and rugs, but, given his previous career in India, he probably maintained an interest in things Indian which he saw passing through the sale-rooms).
- Registration number