Painted Cloth (Pichwai) Depicting the Celebration of the Festival of Cows

Date: late 18th–early 19th century

Culture: India (Deccan)

Medium: Painted and printed gold and silver leaf, opaque watercolor on indigo-dyed cotton

Dimensions: 97 5/8 x 103 1/8 in. (248 x 262 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Painted and Printed

Credit Line: Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2003

Accession Number: 2003.177


Pichwais (large paintings on cloth) were hung behind the main image of a shrine. In the seventeenth century, the cult image of the Vallabhacharya sect, which celebrated the worship of Krishna as Shri Nathji (child king), was installed in Nathdvara, near Udaipur, in Rajasthan. About this time, a small number of wealthy Shri Nathji devotees moved to the Deccan, where this painting was probably commissioned. Its indigo ground and extensive use of gold and silver are typical of Deccan pichwais of the late eighteenth century. The unusual iconography of the image indicates that it was made for the Festival of Cows (Gopashtami), held in the late autumn to celebrate Krishna’s elevation from caretaker of calves to cowherd.