Gum tempera, ink, and gold on paper
Overall: 21.6 x 31.8 cm (8 1/2 x 12 1/2 in.); Painting: 18.4 x 28.9 cm (7 1/4 x 11 3/8 in.)
Purchase and partial gift from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection; Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2018.107
The Ramayana of Valmiki describes Shurpanakha as hideous, misshapen, and potbellied with hair the color of copper.
The golden island city of Lanka, inhabited by demons, is ruled by their ten-headed king Ravana, shown at right wielding a different weapon in each of his 20 hands. At the center of the composition, Ravana’s red-haired sister laments that Rama and his brother Lakshmana spurned her advances and humiliated her. To avenge his sister’s mutilation, and intrigued by reports of Sita’s beauty, Ravana decides to abduct Sita and claim her for himself.
Gold leaf makes the ramparts and turrets of Lanka glimmer splendidly, a sharp contrast to the dreadful residents.
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