- Museum number
Gouache painting on paper from a portfolio of sixty-three paintings of deities and daily life. Viṣṇu stands in samabhanga, shown as Cheluvanarayanasvami, chief deity of the Melukote Tirunarayana temple in Karnataka. In his upper right hand he carries the chakra (discus) and in his upper left the shankha (conch), his lower right hand is in abhaya mudra and his lower left hand rests on the gada (mace). Between the feet of the god sits Bibi Nachchiyar, resting her shoulders against a large bolster. She carries lotuses in her upper hands, her lower right hand is in abhaya and her lower left in varada mudra. Cheluvanarayanasvami wears a dhoti with side sashes, angavastra (shawl), jewellery and a floral garland draped over his shoulders. The image wears a yajnopavita (sacred thread) across its chest as well as carefully drawn namams (emblems) on its forehead, throat and arms. The images are surrounded by a metal frame, with a lobed arch culminating in a kirttikmukha (lion mask) mask. The arch issues from the mouth of two makaras (mythical creatures) placed on a pillar on either side of the images. Above the makaras to the right and left of the images are respectively the chakra and the shankha. Two priests, dressed in dhotis and with the angavastra tied around their hips and knotted in front, flank the images. They have namams on their foreheads, throats and arms. One carries an oil lamp. The other offers sprigs of tulsi to the image.
- Production date
- 1820 (circa)
Height: 25 centimetres
Height: 29.20 centimetres
Width: 18 centimetres (size of the image)
Width: 23 centimetres (size of the page)
- Curator's comments
- Dallapiccola 2010:
The story of the main processional image of the temple is as follows: Soon after the temple dedicated to Vishnu Narayanasvami at Melukote was constructed, the philosopher Ramanuja discovers that there is no processional image. Vishnu appears to Ramanuja in a dream and reveals to him that the image of Ramapriya is in Delhi. The philosopher travels to Delhi and is respectfully received by the sultan, who shows him all the many images he has plundered from the temples in the South. However, the image of Ramapriya is not there. Ramanuja maintains that there must be other images in the palace. The sultan taunts him, saying that if Ramapriya is his god, why has he not returned in response to being invoked? That night Vishnu again appears to Ramanuja in a dream and reveals that he is in the bedchamber of the princess, and that the philosopher should come there to fetch him. The next day the sultan accompanies him to his daughter’s apartments, where the image is dressed and decorated as for a puja. Ramanuja is overcome with joy, and the image jumps into his lap, embracing him. At this the sultan gives him permission to take the image away. The princess is heartbroken at the departure of the image and is granted permission to join the party on its way south. On reaching them she enters the palanquin to pay homage to the image and merges into it. The shrine dedicated to the princess is at the foot of the hill facing the Narasimhasvami temple. However, a small metal image of Bibi Nachchiyar has been placed near the feet of the main image.
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.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2010 Aug 4 – Nov 15, China, Shanghai Museum, ‘India: The Art of the Temple’
- basically good, but torn and bumped at edges; some foxing.
- 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