Painted Image of Sri Venkateswara on Paper
probably Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati
late 18th century
height (without frame): 37cm, width: 27cm
height (with frame): 51.5cm, width: 41cm
This fine and well-preserved painting is in pigments and gold leaf on paper, lacquered, and laid down on a wooden board. It shows Sri Venkateswara, the local (Tirupati) form of Vishnu. The painting almost certainly dates to the eighteenth century in terms of style and the way the materials including the surrounding wood have aged. It most probably is from Tirupati in South India. Tirupati is home to the well-known Venkateswara Swamy Temple, which is often regarded as the world’s richest shrine in terms of its gold and other holdings donated by pilgrims, and for which Sri Venkateswara is the presiding deity.
The painting shows Sri Venkateswara in the central panel beneath a temple-like dome that incorporates a
kirtimukha mask and surrounded by ten avatars. The temple-like dome appears to be based on the gilded dome (the Ananda Nilaya Divya Vimana) over the vimanam or central temple sanctum that houses the main image of Sri Venkateswara at the Venkateswara Swamy Temple. Sri Venkateswara wears copious robes, bells and jewellery as well as a tall conical crown which has a large, oval green stone at the front, no doubt to represent the large emerald that the actual deity wears at the Venkateswara Swamy Temple.
The painting is in rich hues of red, dark blue, green, white and much use is made of gold.
The painting is in what might be its original frame. Framed and unframed images such as these were made to be sold to pilgrims outside the entrances to temples. The practice continues in South India today although with cheap modern prints rather than with original artworks.
The painting here is well-preserved with few losses. The frame shows clear age. A related painting also with a probable attribution to Tirupati and dating to the late 18th century is in the British Museum and illustrated in Dallapiccola (2010, p. 154.) The form of the painting is also similar to a small wooden shrine in the Ashmolean Museum attributed the late 18th or early 19th century Tirupati (see Harle & Topsfield, 1987, plate 10 for an illustration).
Dallapiccola, A.L., South Indian Paintings: A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection, The British Museum Press, 2010.
Harle, J.C. & A. Topsfield,
Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum, Ashmolean Museum, 1987.Provenance:
UK art market
Inventory no.: 2953
A stall selling modern prints of deities for pilgrims outside the Punnai Nullar Mariamma Temple in Tanjore (Thanjavur), South India.
Photographed in January 2015.