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A seated woman symbolizing a musical mode (Vihag Ragaputra)
Place of Origin: India, Rajasthan state, Kotah
Date: approx. 1770-1775
Materials: Opaque watercolors on paper
Dimensions: H. 7 9/16 in x W. 4 3/4 in, H. 19.2 cm x W. 12.1 cm
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George Hopper Fitch
Department: South Asian Art
Collection: Painting
Object Number: B75D8
On Display: No

Description

Label: This painting represents a musical mode (raga). The sets to which such works belonged were known as "ragamalas" (garlands of musical modes). In them, various modes of classical Indian music were idealized as human figures engaged in activities or placed in settings that evoked the specific emotions, moods, and times of day associated with the raga. In the various classification systems used in South Asia, major musical modes were personified as men or gods, while other modes were personified as their wives, sons, and, infrequently, daughters.

An inscription above the painting identifies this musical mode as Vihag Ragaputra (son of a male raga). In some instances such as this one, male musical modes were visualized as women. This seated woman does not correspond to other known images of Vihag, which typically depict the musical mode as a man and in different settings. The nighttime Vihag raga is here depicted at night, as indicated by the silver moon and the resting birds. The tiger skin upon which the woman sits is usually associated with ascetics. Her jewelry may indicate her transformation, due to heartache, from a beautiful young woman into an ascetic figure. The difficulty in determining her exact identity indicates both the lack of a clearly defined system for illustrating ragamala texts in South Asia and the existence of many regional variations.

More Information

Exhibition History: "Dancing to the Flute", The Art Gallery of New South Wales, 6/12/1997 - 8/24/1997
Label: This painting represents a musical mode (raga). The sets to which such works belonged were known as "ragamalas" (garlands of musical modes). In them, various modes of classical Indian music were idealized as human figures engaged in activities or placed in settings that evoked the specific emotions, moods, and times of day associated with the raga. In the various classification systems used in South Asia, major musical modes were personified as men or gods, while other modes were personified as their wives, sons, and, infrequently, daughters.

An inscription above the painting identifies this musical mode as Vihag Ragaputra (son of a male raga). In some instances such as this one, male musical modes were visualized as women. This seated woman does not correspond to other known images of Vihag, which typically depict the musical mode as a man and in different settings. The nighttime Vihag raga is here depicted at night, as indicated by the silver moon and the resting birds. The tiger skin upon which the woman sits is usually associated with ascetics. Her jewelry may indicate her transformation, due to heartache, from a beautiful young woman into an ascetic figure. The difficulty in determining her exact identity indicates both the lack of a clearly defined system for illustrating ragamala texts in South Asia and the existence of many regional variations.
Exhibition History: "Dancing to the Flute", The Art Gallery of New South Wales, 6/12/1997 - 8/24/1997
Resources:

Video: Audio Portrait of a Seated Yogini: http://youtu.be/NPGcBYqLF-o

Thom Blum is a Bay Area electroacoustic and acousmatic musician who, after visiting the exhibition, "Picturing  Sound: Creating Mood" at the Asian Art Museum, was inspired to create a response to this painting of a seated yogini (B75D8).