The Light Leads But Let a Protective Hand Guard It

The Light Leads But Let a Protective Hand Guard It

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Item Code: MF16
Miniature Painting on Paper
10.5" x 13.5"
This magnificent painting, while portraying a maiden endowed with paramount beauty and unique lustre, carries the timeless universal message- the light leads but let a protective hand guard it. This exceptional work of art apparently portrays a young lady, carrying a tiny lamp in her right hand and guarding its flame by her left. It is obviously a portrait, and quite an accomplished one, as it not only represents her likeness, beauty and personality but also her status, royal links and usual surroundings, which an accomplished portrait in medieval miniature style usually attempted at portraying. The portrayed figure is endowed with exceptional beauty, such as canvas is known to have rarely reproduced. It is possible that the artist has sought to render, in this splendid work of art, his own model, or idea of beauty and to add to her lustrous form further brilliance painted her with a lamp in hand. Her face gathers, against the dark evening, which is seen enshrouding the entire background, some of its glow from the light, which the tiny lamp is emitting.

The painting, however, conveys, in addition to its depiction of beauty, a profound philosophy also, which everyone, from the Enlightened Buddha to a commoner, experiences in life. The light is always there but one has not only to seek but also protect it. The darkness emerges unsought and expands unprotected. Amidst the darkness, Buddha discovered light but before he was enlightened, before he was possessed of light, there emerged threats of darkness and he had to seek means to protect the Light. The darkness would have devoured it, if Buddha had not guarded it. Decay, dissolution, decomposition, ugliness, ignorance, falsehood, none needs a protective hand. These are the things like knowledge, truth, beauty, balance, composition, creativity, or good that need to be protected, that is, the darkness and all that leads to it grows and flourishes unprotected but that which leads one away from darkness needs to be protected and guarded. The artist has painted this female figure endowed with glowing beauty with her own light in hand, as beyond her there is all darkness wherein no form is visible. If the beauty is artist's truth, as it was to John Keats, the 19th century Romantic poet of England, this truth needs light lest it disappeared into darkness; and, the light, lest darkness devoured it, needs beauty's protective hand to guard and secure it. In nutshell, visibly the painting is the portrayal of exceptional beauty contained in a female human form but between the lines it reads- good and virtue sustain only when guarded and protected mutually.

Whatever its theme, or thrust, the artist has shown exceptional ingenuity in its representation. Instead of rendering the face of the figure in profile, he has gone for a three-fourth challenging front pose and has ably maintained all proportions. The round face, except for a little protruding chin, large deep eyes, moderate forehead, sharp nose, cute small lips, a well defined neck, long fingers, a well proportioned anatomy and golden complexion, all packed in a figure, make her appearance so exceptional. Costume has been rendered with as much masterly strokes of brush and the transparency, which defines the odhani as against the deep red lehenga, is unique in its effect. The figure has been framed within an arched terrace pavilion. In its projections, used as costume inlay and to define the architecture, and the features of the represented figure are close to Mysore art style, though her costume, in its designing pattern and colouring relates the painting to Rajasthani form of miniature painting.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.

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