Folio 978 x 14 in. (25.1 x 35.6 cm.)
Image 758 x 1158 in. (19.4 x 29.5 cm.)
Collection of Dr Alma Latifi, CIE, OBE (1879-1959).
Sotheby’s New York, 5 December 1992, lot 163.
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Lot Essay

This painting is from a dispersed series on the Ramayana, painted in Kangra by a master of the first generation after Nainsukh and Manaku. The series originally belonged to the dealer C.L. Bharany from which it takes its name, although it is also at times referred to as the 'Second Guler' Ramayana series. The series exemplifies the Pahari style at its best, presenting a world of refinement and delicacy on every page. This remarkably gifted group of painters produced among the most well-known and well-celebrated series in Indian painting, including the present series, the ‘Tehri Garhwal’ Gita Govinda and the ‘Modi’ Bhagavata Purana. The three works are all closely related stylistically and ichnographically and, according to W.G. Archer, these series were all commissioned by the mother of Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra (r.1775-1823) for his wedding in 1781. These series together rank among the finest achievements in Indian painting, becoming some of the most coveted illustrations among collectors.
The present scene depicts troops from the monkey army encountering a demon within a cave. Earlier in the epic, the exiled monkey King Sugriva witnessed Sita's abduction in Ravana's flying chariot. Seeing the monkeys herself, Sita threw her jewels from the chariot into a cave, hoping to leave a trail for Rama and Lakshmana to follow. Here, Sugriva is slaying a demon in said cave so that they can meet with Rama and Lakshmana and reveal what they have witnessed.
Although the series is unnumbered, and not previously known to the public until its dispersal in the 1970s, it is estimated that about 100 pages of this Ramayana subsist in private and public collections. The first three chapters of the series comprise the ‘Bharany’ Ramayana, while the final books were completed by the same artists in a slightly later continuation series, variously attributed to have been completed between 1780 and 1800. The individual paintings are particularly inventive and varied—some cityscapes, other idyllic nature landscapes and a succession of battle scenes — although many follow a similar composition along a diagonal, with a succession of planes and perspectives.
Among the 'Bharany' section, five illustrations from the Edwin Binney III Collection are in the San Diego Museum of Art (acc. nos. 1990.1267; 1990:1260; 1990:1265; 1990:1266; 1990:1268); two illustrations are in the Brooklyn Museum, New York (acc. nos. 78.256.3 and 80.181); four illustrations are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (acc. nos. 1985.398.14,1976.15, 1976.14, 1976.15); five illustrations are at the Museum Rietberg (acc. no. RVI 981 and four published in Britschgi and Fischer nos. 11, 13 37 and 58); and three illustrations are at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (acc. nos. 2002-11-1, 2004-149-73 and 1977-11-1). The Minneapolis Museum of art also recently acquired a page from the series, formerly in the Paul F. Walter collection (acc. no. 2021.7). A page from this series sold at Christie’s New York 22 March 2022, lot 466, and more recently at Christie’s New York, 21 September 2022, lot 432, for $315,000.

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