The Prince of Wales Museum Gita Govinda
In the Fall of 2017, The Fralin was gifted a rare leaf from a series known as The Prince of Wales Museum Gita Govinda. “The rarity of the gift is compounded by the fact that only twelve leaves from the series are known,” says Dan Ehnbom, Associate Professor of Art History.
This leaf originates from a series illustrating the Gita Govinda in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, Bombay. The Sanskrit text, composed in the twelfth century by Jayadeva, a court poet of Lakshmanasena of Bengal (r. 1178–1206), is a celebration in verse of the mystical aspects of the amorous exploits of Krishna.
The painting is in a variant of the style of a picture that already is part of The Fralin’s permanent collection (Leaf from a Bhagavata Puranaseries: The Cowherd Women of Vraja Observing the Vow of Katyayani, ca. 1520–1530, 1994.11), shown on the right. Manuscripts and series in this style collectively were known as The Chaurapanchaśika Group and dominated painting in north India in the first half of the sixteenth century. They were a major source in the formation of Mughal painting in the reign of the emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605), as well as in the later development of painting in the Rajput courts. It is apparently the earliest surviving illustrated Gita Govinda, a text that became extremely popular with Indian painters and patrons in subsequent centuries. Illustrations from this early series have been published frequently, first in Karl J. Khandalavala, “A ‘Gita Govinda’ Series in the Prince of Wales Museum,” Prince of Wales Museum Bulletin 4 (1953–54): 1–18. The gift and another leaf formerly in a Mumbai collection have not been published and are largely unknown.