Ragamala Painting from India: Poetry, Passion and Song comes to Dulwich Picture Gallery

By Ruth Hazard | 16 January 2012
An image of a mythical illustration from an Indian book
Bhairava Raga, Pahari, Nurpur (circa 1690). Gouache on paper
© Matthew Hollow Photography
Exhibition: Ragamala Painting from India: Poetry, Passion, Song, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, January 25 – May 27 2012

The term Ragamala remains elusive – translating as a "garland of ragas" – but its true meaning is a set of paintings depicting musical modes of Indian music, often accompanied by a poem or caption.

Combining painting, poetry and music, Ragamala became the most prolific genre of Indian painting for more than 500 years.

The collection at Dulwich Picture Gallery includes 24 rare pieces from the Claudio Moscatelli Collection, the Italian credited with discovering Ragamala while travelling through India.

Moscatelli recognised similar themes in the Indian miniatures as those in the Sienese painting of his Italian roots; the strange perspectives, the colourful buildings and the use of figures to tell different stories.

He was drawn to the core theme of Ragamala – the relationship between the lover and beloved, a metaphor of the human and Divine.

The paintings on display were originally 30 or 40 loose pages, sometimes bound or left as a set and stored on a shelf.

Ragamalas were not made to hang on a wall; they are tactile objects that were intended to be passed around at special events after shared food and music.

The use of natural pigments made from minerals, insects and flowers are said to give the appearance that the pictures are able to "glow".

This show features paintings from across the Indian subcontinent, from the plains of Rajasthan to the foothills of the Himalayas.
 
  • Open 10am-5pm (11am-5pm Saturday and Sunday, closed Monday). Admission £4-£8 (free for under-18s, unemployed, disabled and student visitors).

More pictures:

An image of a colourful illustration of a woodland ceremony from an Indian book
Shankara Ragaputra of Megh Raga, Sub-imperial Mughal (circa 1610-1620). Gouache on paper© Matthew Hollow Photography
An image of a colour illustartion of a man with deer-like creatures from an Indian book
Panchama Ragaputra of Bhairava Raga, Pahari, Basohli (circa 1680). Gouache on paper© Matthew Hollow Photography
An image of a colour illustration of a temple and a landscape from an Indian book
Bhaskar Ragaputra of Hindola Raga, Pahari, Chamba (circa 1690-1700). Gouache on paper
© Matthew Hollow Photography
An image of a colourful illustration of figures in a forest from an indian book
Vinoda Ragaputra of Hindola Raga, Northern Deccan (circa 1630-50). Gouache on paper
© Matthew Hollow Photography
An image of a colourful illustration of two figures from an indian book
Varvala Ragaputra of Malkosh Raga, Pahari, Nurpur (circa 1690). Gouache on paper
© Matthew Hollow Photography
An image of a colourful illustration and script from an indian book
Shankara Ragaputra of Megh Raga, Sub-imperial Mughal (circa 1610-20). Gouache on paper
© Matthew Hollow Photography
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