Scene from the Ramayana, ca. 1775–80
Nainsukh (Indian, 1710–1778) or his successors
India (Pahari Hills, Guler or Kangra)
Red ocher and wash on paper; image 8 3/8 x 11 3/8 in. (21.3 x 28.9 cm)
Gift of Subhash Kapoor, in memory of his parents, Smt Shashi Kanta and Shree Parshotam Ram Kapoor, 2008 (2008.359.23)
This sensitively rendered sketch probably illustrates an episode from the ancient Sanskrit epic the Ramayana (The Story of Rama), attributed to the Hindu sage Valmiki. It may represent the scene in which Rama's brothers Bharata and Satrughna visit the hermit Bharadvaja while en route from Ayodhya (visible in the background here) to find Rama and persuade him to return from his exile in the forest. The brothers pay respect to the ascetic in his rustic retreat, and he, according to Valmiki's text, in turn entertains their troops with miraculous spectacles.
Drawings and preparatory sketches provide a glimpse of the exploratory journey taken by an artist such as the great Punjab court painter Nainsukh and of the collaborative nature of the art produced in studios like those at the Punjab courts of Guler or Kangra in the late eighteenth century. Drawings like this one, intended to serve as a study for a painting, were on occasion intentionally left unfinished. Created by the renowned master who headed the studio, they served as a guide to others in the atelier as they produced finished paintings in his style. They were also appreciated as connoisseurs' objects, to be enjoyed by the patron and his court circle.