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painting

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    2007,3005.4

  • Description

    Gouache painting on paper from a portfolio of sixty-three paintings of deities and daily life. Ten vignettes of Shaiva ascetics performing penance in two rows of five.
    Row 1
    a) A standing ascetic naked but for a minute loin-cloth, performing panchagni tapas, i.e. 'five fires penance' standing in the sun, surrounded by four fires.
    b) An ascetic, as above, stands on his hands, his eyes closed in deep meditation. His knees are slightly flexed and his feet crossed.
    c) An ascetic, as above, hangs upside down from a branch of a tree.
    d) An ascetic, as above, floats mid-air, his legs in padmasana. His eyes are shut; with one hand on the nose he controls his breath intake. On the ground is the tiger skin on which he was seated before levitating into mid-air.
    e) An ascetic, as above, stands on his left leg, while his right leg is flexed above his left knee.

    Row 2
    f) An ascetic, as above, immersed up to his neck in the water of a lake in which grow clusters of lotuses.
    g) An ascetic, as above, seated in utkutikasana on a tiger skin placed in the shade of a banyan tree. A yogapatta is wound around his knees and keeps them in position.
    h) An ascetic, as above, stands on his head. His left hand is placed on the ground to keep his balance.
    i) An ascetic, as above, stands, the palms of his hands turned upwards. A yajnopavita (sacred thread) is shown across his chest.
    j) An ascetic, as above, seated in padmasana on a tiger skin. His hands are in anjali mudra, his eyes are closed.
    The background of these ten scenes is a rural landscape enlineved by trees and rocks and the occasional cloud in the sky.

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  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1820 (circa)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 29 centimetres
    • Width: 23.5 centimetres (size of page)
    • Height: 23.8 centimetres
    • Width: 18.8 centimetres (size of the drawings)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Position

        back and front of paper
      • Inscription Language

        English
      • Inscription Content

        back:4
        front: Ascetics
      • Inscription Comment

        the image has also been inscribed in pencil with the numbers '7', '9' and '10' above three of the vignettes.
  • 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.YSharma:
    Exhibition Label: Yoga The Art of Transformation
    (Text courtesy of Sackler Gallery, Washington DC)

    Ascetics Performing Tapas
    This grid of ten vignettes, like the volumes left and
    opposite, is a taxonomy (a scheme of classification) of
    colonial subjects. It was likely produced for a wealthy
    European patron in Tamil Nadu.
    The ascetics have the matted locks, rudraksha bead
    necklaces, and sectarian marks of Shaiva yogis. Some
    undertake ancient austerities, while others perform
    hatha yoga postures and cleansing techniques. The
    yogi performing breath control while pinching his nose
    levitates—a goal of some hatha practices.
    South India
    ca. 1820
    Opaque watercolor on paper
    The Trustees of the British Museum, Bequeathed through Francis Henry Egerton
    2007,3005.4

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  • Bibliography

    • Dallapiccola 2010 cat. 3.4 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:
    2010-2011 Nov-Feb, London, Asia House, 'The Tiger in Asian Art'
    2013 -2014 Oct- May, Washington D.C., The Sackler Gallery; San Francisco, San Francisco Asian Art Museum "Yoga: The Art of Transformation"

  • Condition

    Good

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    2007

  • Acquisition notes

    Formerly in the possession of the last owner’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).

  • Department

    Asia

  • Registration number

    2007,3005.4

Painting on paper depicting ten small vignettes of ascetics performing tapas.    First row  a) A standing ascetic naked but for a minute loin-cloth, with matted hair, flowing beard and rudraksha beads hanging from his neck, carries in his right hand an rudrakshamala. He is performing panchagni tapas, i.e. ‘five fires penance’ standing in the sun, surrounded by four fires.  b) An ascetic, as above, stands on his hands, his eyes closed in deep meditation and his matted hair sweeping the ground. His knees are slightly flexed and his feet crossed.  c) An ascetic, as above, hangs upside down from a branch of a tree. His knees are flexed around the branch, his arms are crossed on his chest and in his left hand he carries an rudrakshamala. His flowing hair cascade to the ground.  d) An ascetic, as above, floats mid-air his legs in padmasana. His eyes are shut; with one hand on the nose he controls his breath intake, while in the other he carries an rudrakshamala. On the ground is the tiger skin on which he was seated before levitating into mid-air.  e) An ascetic, as above, with matted hair and floating dreadlocks stands on his left leg, while his right leg is flexed above his left knee. In his right hand he carries an rudrakshamala.    Second row  f)  Number inscribed in pencil: 7  An ascetic, as above, immersed up to his neck in the water of a lake in which grow clusters of lotuses. Rudraksha beads adorn his neck, and in his hands he carries the usual rudrakshamala.  g) An ascetic, as above, seated in utkutikasana on a tiger skin placed in the shade of a banyan tree. A yogapatta is wound around his knees and keeps them in position. Rudraksha beads adorn his neck, and in his right hand he carries an rudrakshamala.  h) Number inscribed in pencil: 9  An ascetic, as above, stands on his head. His left hand is placed on the ground to keep the balance, in his right hand is the rudrakshamala, and his eyes are closed.  i) An ascetic, as above, stands, the palms of his hands turned upwards. His flowing hair covers his shoulder and falls to his knees. Rudraksha beads hang from his neck, and a bracelet of the same beads adorns his right wrist. A yajnopavita is shown across his chest.  j) Number inscribed in pencil: 10  An ascetic, as above, seated in padmasana on a tiger skin. His hands are in anjali mudra, his eyes are closed. A yajnopavita hangs across his chest and tripundra marks are drawn on his forehead, chest and arms.  The background of these ten scenes is a rural landscape enlineved by trees and rocks and the occasional cloud in the sky.

Painting on paper depicting ten small vignettes of ascetics performing tapas. First row a) A standing ascetic naked but for a minute loin-cloth, with matted hair, flowing beard and rudraksha beads hanging from his neck, carries in his right hand an rudrakshamala. He is performing panchagni tapas, i.e. ‘five fires penance’ standing in the sun, surrounded by four fires. b) An ascetic, as above, stands on his hands, his eyes closed in deep meditation and his matted hair sweeping the ground. His knees are slightly flexed and his feet crossed. c) An ascetic, as above, hangs upside down from a branch of a tree. His knees are flexed around the branch, his arms are crossed on his chest and in his left hand he carries an rudrakshamala. His flowing hair cascade to the ground. d) An ascetic, as above, floats mid-air his legs in padmasana. His eyes are shut; with one hand on the nose he controls his breath intake, while in the other he carries an rudrakshamala. On the ground is the tiger skin on which he was seated before levitating into mid-air. e) An ascetic, as above, with matted hair and floating dreadlocks stands on his left leg, while his right leg is flexed above his left knee. In his right hand he carries an rudrakshamala. Second row f) Number inscribed in pencil: 7 An ascetic, as above, immersed up to his neck in the water of a lake in which grow clusters of lotuses. Rudraksha beads adorn his neck, and in his hands he carries the usual rudrakshamala. g) An ascetic, as above, seated in utkutikasana on a tiger skin placed in the shade of a banyan tree. A yogapatta is wound around his knees and keeps them in position. Rudraksha beads adorn his neck, and in his right hand he carries an rudrakshamala. h) Number inscribed in pencil: 9 An ascetic, as above, stands on his head. His left hand is placed on the ground to keep the balance, in his right hand is the rudrakshamala, and his eyes are closed. i) An ascetic, as above, stands, the palms of his hands turned upwards. His flowing hair covers his shoulder and falls to his knees. Rudraksha beads hang from his neck, and a bracelet of the same beads adorns his right wrist. A yajnopavita is shown across his chest. j) Number inscribed in pencil: 10 An ascetic, as above, seated in padmasana on a tiger skin. His hands are in anjali mudra, his eyes are closed. A yajnopavita hangs across his chest and tripundra marks are drawn on his forehead, chest and arms. The background of these ten scenes is a rural landscape enlineved by trees and rocks and the occasional cloud in the sky.

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Object reference number: RFI37737

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