The sage-physician Dhanvantari, folio from a Bhagavata Purana

Dressed in the fashion of a nobleman at the court of Shah Jahan, the divine sage Dhanvantari wears a white jama and a gold-bordered patka (sash) adorned with a large flower motif. His beard is white, his face wrinkled with age, and he wears a Vaishnava tilak mark on his forehead. He sits on a yellow carpet decorated with gray-green leaves and maroon flowers. A narrow strip of cloud-streaked sky borders the brilliant orange ground. He holds two objects that may be associated with medicine.

Maker(s)
Artist: Attributed to Manaku (Indian, active ca.1700 - 1760)
Historical period(s)
ca. 1735-1740
School
Guler school
Medium
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions
H x W (painting): 16.5 × 26.7 cm (6 1/2 × 10 1/2 in) H x W (overall): 20.7 × 31.1 cm (8 1/8 × 12 1/4 in)
Geography
India, Himachal Pradesh state, Guler
Credit Line
Purchase and partial gift from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection — funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
Collection
Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection
Accession Number
S2018.1.7
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Painting

Keywords
India, man, physician, portrait, Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection
Provenance

To 1967
Essajees, Mumbai, India. [1]

From 1967 to 2001
Ralph Benkaim (1914-2001), Beverly Hills, California, purchased from the Essajees, Mumbai, India in December 1967. [2]

From 2001 to 2018
Catherine Glynn Benkaim, Beverly Hills, California, by inheritance from Ralph Benkaim in 2001. [3]

From 2018
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, partial gift and purchase from Catherine Glyn Benkaim. [4]

Notes:

[1] Ralph Benkaim purchased the painting in December 1967 from the Essajees of Mumbai, several years before Indian paintings were classified as antiquities by the Indian government.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See Acquisition Justification Form, object file, Collections Management Office.

[4] See note 3.

Previous Owner(s)

Catherine Glynn Benkaim
Ralph and Catherine Benkaim
Essajees Mumbai, India, founded 1890

Description

Dressed in the fashion of a nobleman at the court of Shah Jahan, the divine sage Dhanvantari wears a white jama and a gold-bordered patka (sash) adorned with a large flower motif. His beard is white, his face wrinkled with age, and he wears a Vaishnava tilak mark on his forehead. He sits on a yellow carpet decorated with gray-green leaves and maroon flowers. A narrow strip of cloud-streaked sky borders the brilliant orange ground. He holds two objects that may be associated with medicine.

Label

Dhanvantari, whose name means "arrow-moving," is regarded as the father of Ayurvedic medicine. The Bhagavata Purana relates that he emerged among the treasures thrown up by the turning of the sea, when the gods and demons worked together to churn the primordial ocean, thereby creating the entire universe. Dhanvantari appeared from the roiling waters bearing a jug filled with amrita, the nectar of immortality, as a gift for the gods. In more typical iconography, the sage holds the amrita jug and a conch shell signalling his affiliation with the god Vishnu. Here, however, Dhanvantari holds perhaps an air pump and a plant root.

Ayurveda, the indigenous medical system of India, has been practiced for thousands of years. Beyond herbal remedies and diet recommendations, Ayurvedic texts dating to the sixth century provide instructions on procedures as sophisticated as cataract removal and rhinoplasty. Ayurvedic medicine is popular today in both India and America, and is often used in conjunction with modern medicinal technologies. Hindus traditionally worship Dhanvantari for good health on the first day of Diwali.

All surviving paintings and preparatory drawings from the small Bhagavata Purana are attributed to the renowned artist Manaku. From a renowned artistic family, Manaku was the son of Pandit Seu and the elder brother of Nainsukh. He was born in the small Pahari kingdom of Guler ca. 1700 and began receiving important commissions by around 1725. The small Bhagavata Purana was commissioned around 1740. Traditional Pahari painting features flattened figures bounded by a strong contour, set within intensely colored backgrounds, bordered by a narrow strip of sky at top and a strip of river at bottom. Manaku brought this regional style to its apex.

Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum