A story of steamy passion turns out to be behind an Indian painting in the museum’s collection.
The subject of the painting, which came to the museum in 1984, had been identified in very general terms before. We knew that it showed the Hindu deity Krishna and his beloved Radha parted and longing for each other.
But the painting’s inscription had never been read. Recently Joan Cummins, a specialist in Indian painting at the Brooklyn Museum, was here to give a lecture. During her preparations she read the inscription and found its source:
What her companion said to him:
Hearing her moan
with the burning pain
I emptied a whole bottle
of rosewater on her,
but the flames of his separation
vaporized it in mid-air
and not a drop
fell on her!
(From Bihari: The Satasai. Translated from the Hindi and with an introduction by Krishna P. Bahadur. London: Penguin Books, 1992.)
In the upper left a companion of Radha’s, who serves as an intermediary between Radha and Krishna, describes to Krishna Radha’s intense longing for him. The situation the companion describes is shown at the lower left: a bottle of rosewater is poured on Radha to cool “the burning pain of parting” to no avail.
If you want to take steamy passion beyond the art, join us for a multi-sensorial MATCHA on February 16. If you’d rather stick to the art, Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts and Sanjay Patel’s Deities, Demons and Dudes with ‘Staches offer different perspectives on Indian culture and spirituality until April 2012.
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