The Gopis Plead with Krishna to Return Their Clothing: Folio from "Isarda" Bhagavata Purana

Artist: Master of the "Isarda" Bhagavata Purana

Date: ca. 1560–65

Culture: North India (Delhi -Agra area)

Medium: Opaque watercolor and ink on paper

Dimensions: Image: 7 3/8 × 10 1/8 in. (18.7 × 25.7 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of The H. Rubin Foundation Inc., 1972

Accession Number: 1972.260


Like the earlier 1525–35 Bhagavata Purana, this manuscript found at Isarda (near Delhi) is painted in the Chaurapanchasika style; but it is distinctive in its idiosyncratic palette, line of unvarying width, and complex relationship of image to picture frame. Whereas the earlier work's color scheme revolves around heavy, earthy red, yellow, green, and black, the palette of this Bhagavata Purana is more varied, quirkyier, and bright, and includes sour pinks, acid greens, and clear yellows and reds. The outline has become sharper and less variable in width. In certain images, a somewhat illusionistic space and naturalistic descriptions reveal a consciousness of Mughal art.

In this painting, Krishna, the blue god, has stolen the clothes—or in this case, the cholis (blouses)—of the gopis as they frolic in a stream. (Gopis are female cowherds, the companions and lovers of Krishna.) The gopis in the center have recognized their fate and stand naked before him—a metaphorical reference to the openness before god necessary for salvation. The ground plane has been tilted back to create a sense of spatial recession, establishing a foreground, middle ground, and background. However, as in the earlier series, the edges do not confine the pictorial elements, which spill over onto the margins on all sides. Thus the stream flows in a wide swath from one side to the other of the entire page, disregarding the boundaries that define the space, and the same is true of the cows at the bottom and the trees at the top of the painting.