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The Sage Narada Tells King Kamsa of Vishnu’s Impending Incarnation, a page from the Bhagavata Purana,

The Sage Narada Tells King Kamsa of Vishnu’s Impending Incarnation, a page from the Bhagavata Purana,

c. 1525-1540

Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper

Sheet: 18 x 23.5 cm (7 1/16 x 9 1/4 in.); Matted: 38.1 x 50.8 cm (15 x 20 in.)

On Loan from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection 27.2014



This page is the last leaf of chapter one from book ten of a foundational Hindu holy text in which the incarnations of the god Vishnu are described. Vishnu incarnated himself into the world to conquer evil ones, such as the king squatting on a raised platform under a royal umbrella with an attendant holding a flywhisk over his head. The evil king is also a yoga practitioner, as indicated by the strap around his knees, but he uses his powers achieved from the practice of yoga to accomplish his malevolent aims. He discourses with a bearded yogi holding a stringed instrument, who is warning the king that Vishnu is about to incarnate himself as a human, Krishna, who will be born of his sister. One of the finest examples of the indigenous devotional painting styles of the 16th century, this manuscript, now dispersed, was copiously illustrated with vibrant hues, figures in strict profile with pert gestures, relentless two-dimensionality, and scintillating patterning. Many artists recruited to the early Mughal atelier after 1556 had been trained to work in this style.

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