Mar 19, 2014

Hindu God Krishna Being Dressed in Women's Clothes for Spring Festival Holi

Hindu God Krishna Being Dressed in Women's Clothes for Spring Festival Holi

c. 1790

Ink and gum tempera on paper

Overall: 19 x 27.4 cm (7 1/2 x 10 13/16 in.)

Edward L. Whittemore Fund 1933.453



The festival of Holi, which celebrates the arrival of spring, is a time of play when transgressing boundaries is allowed as part of the reckless joy and abandon of the day. Vats of colored water and powder in the foreground are used to fill handheld pumps to shoot colors at one another. The young women of the cowherd village where Krishna grew up gather around, fill their pumps, begin to play music, and cheekily dress Krishna as one of them. Radha, his favorite, holds his crown up high as she takes it away. He indulges them, just as he indulged all his devotees by taking on a human form. This unfinished work reveals the process of creating an Indian painting. The drawing was probably made by the master of the atelier who would have added the color notations, then given it to a colorist to paint. Another artist might have finished the faces and another the gold details before the work came back to the master for its finishing touches and final approval.

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