The Demon Hiranyaksha Departs the Demon Palace: Folio from a Bhagavata Purana Series

Attributed to Manaku (active ca. 1725–60)

ca. 1740
India (Guler, Himachal Pradesh)
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
Page: 8 1/2 x 12 3/4 in. (21.6 x 32.4 cm) Image: 7 1/16 x 11 1/4 in. (17.9 x 28.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky Fund, 2002
Accession Number:
  • Description

    About the Artist

    Active at the court in Guler ca. 1725–ca. 1760; son of Pandit Seu, brother of Nainsukh, father of two sons, Fattu and Khushala

    The painter Pandit Seu worked in Guler, Himachal Pradesh, and together with his two sons Manaku and Nainsukh, he dominated one of the most exciting periods of Pahari painting. Manaku remained more indebted to his father’s style, while Nainsukh studied Mughal painting extensively and left the court in Guler to work for other patrons. Manaku, the older of the two brothers, produced a true masterpiece in 1725, his illustrations to the last part of the Ramayana, the so-called Siege of Lanka series. In that work, he continued the large-format Ramayana series that his father had begun, developing new compositional solutions for the depiction of complex narrative scenes. The young Manaku painted with the sure hand of a seasoned practitioner, and his talent, attested by his drawings, was immediately celebrated. Around 1730, he produced a series of 150 folios on one of the central texts of Krishna worship, the Gita Govinda. No illustrations for that text had been painted before in the Pahari region. Created for a Lady Malini, the series represents the crucial turning point in Manaku’s early work. It presented a considerable challenge to understand all the subtleties and complexities of the text and to develop appropriate compositional solutions. An especially beautiful example is Manaku’s visualization of the textual passage describing the south wind cooling itself in the Himalayas.

    Manaku’s work borrowed from that of his father, Pandit Seu, in its formal repertoire, especially visible in conventions for rendering trees and faces and in its compositions with monochrome backgrounds and high horizon lines with white and blue washes. Only in his later works did more realistically painted elements become more evident.

    The artistic legacy of the brothers Manaku and Nainsukh was taken up by their sons. A series attributed to Manaku’s son Fattu, from around 1760, reveals considerable borrowing from Manaku’s work, while the style of other known works by the sons of these brother artists is more reminiscent of that of Nainsukh.