Opaque watercolor and gold on paper; 10 5/8 x 7 3/8 in. (27 x 18.7 cm)
Four lines of Sanskrit and one line of Bundeli; Hindi on reserve
Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky Fund, 2002 (2002.503)
The great Indian epic the Ramayana recounts the tale of Prince Rama and his battle with Ravana, king of the demons, which was won with the aid of the monkey and bear armies. Here, in a folio from one of the four known Ramayana manuscripts of the Akbar period (15561605), the blue-skinned Rama is seated under a brilliantly colored, curved pavilion with the monkey and bear kings standing before him with folded hands. A row of courtly human and monkey figures is below, while an attendant stands behind Rama and bold Chinese-inspired ribbonlike clouds float in the golden sky.
In contrast to other Ramayana manuscripts of this period, which were translated into Persian at the order of the Mughal emperor Akbar, this series retains its original Sanskrit text, indicating that it was probably made for a Hindu patron, possibly Bir Singh Deo of Datia. The manuscript is distinguished for its lively synthesis of painting styles, combining the refinement of the imperial Mughal tradition with the bold palette and dynamism of early Rajput painting. Its folios were not bound with a continuous text; rather, each illustrated leaf had passages written on the reverse. Damage from a fire soon after the completion of the series explains the irregular shape of the pages.