Exhibitions/ Art Object

The Courtesan Kosa with the King's Charioteer: Folio from a Kalpasutra Manuscript

15th century
India (Gujarat)
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Image: 4 1/4 in. × 8 in. (10.8 × 20.3 cm)
Sheet: 4 1/4 × 10 5/8 in. (10.8 × 27 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1955
Accession Number:
Not on view
Sthulabhadra, a resident of Pataliputra (modern Patna) in the fourth century b.c., lived with the courtesan Kosa before his conversion to Jainism and renunciation of his former life. As a penance he chose to spend the rainy season living with her in her house as a test of his commitment to his vows of chastity. He remained unmoved by Kosa's attempts at seduction. When the king died, the courtesan was given to a charioteer who so admired his new mistress's respect for her former lover that he, too, converted to Jainism, becoming a monk, and she, a nun.

Sthulabhadra became a great acharya and eventually the head of the sangha (community of monks and nuns). This moralizing story celebrates the charioteer's archery skills and Kosa's unsurpassed qualities as a dancer, neither of which could match the spiritual accomplishments of Sthulabhadra.
[The Kevorkian Foundation , New York, by 1955; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Peaceful Conquerors: Jain Manuscript Painting," September 10, 2009–March 28, 2010.

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