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Oil painting - Copy of painting inside the caves of Ajanta (cave 10); Copy of painting inside the caves of Ajanta
  • Copy of painting inside the caves of Ajanta (cave 10)
    Griffiths, John
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Copy of painting inside the caves of Ajanta (cave 10); Copy of painting inside the caves of Ajanta

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Ajanta, Aurangabad, India, India (made)

  • Date:

    1881-1883 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Griffiths, John (artist)
    Bombay School of Art (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on Canvas

  • Museum number:

    IS.34-1885

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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The cave paintings of Ajanta are the oldest surviving examples of painting in India. They depict stories from the lives of the Buddha (the jatakas) and date from the 1st century BC to about AD 480. The cave complex was discovered in 1819 and since then attempts have been made to document the paintings inside them. In 1844 Major Robert Gill was commissioned to make copies. Unfortunately most of the paintings he completed were destroyed in a fire in 1866. To make up for this loss, from 1872, John Griffiths from the Bombay school of Art and seven Indian students spent every winter for the following 13 years at the caves producing approximately 300 paintings, of which this is an example.

This painting can be found inside cave ten at Ajanta and depicts scenes from the Saddanta jataka.

Physical description

This is a badly damaged painting, with the bottom section showing fire damage and rest being very dark in colour. The painting is of a herd of elephants depicted from many different angles with lots of lotus leaves surrounding them indicating that they are in some sort of lotus pool. Across the entire painting are heavy scratches which indicate the level of damage on the actual cave paintings.

Place of Origin

Ajanta, Aurangabad, India, India (made)

Date

1881-1883 (made)

Artist/maker

Griffiths, John (artist)
Bombay School of Art (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on Canvas

Dimensions

Height: 1873 mm Painting, Width: 970 mm Painting, Depth: 40 mm Painting, Height: 1910 mm Frame, Width: 111 mm Frame, Depth: 45 mm Frame

Object history note

Commissioned by the Government of India between 1872-1885 and deposited in the India Museum, London.

Historical significance: The paintings inside the Ajanta caves tell stories from the lives of the Buddha. This painting depicts scenes from the Saddanta jataka.

Narrative:
A queen sits looking forlorn and announces to the king that she has an unsatisfied desire for the tusks of a six-tusk (Saddanta) elephant. The elephant is infact her husband from a previous birth and she wants to take revenge on him for his supposed unfaithfulness. She lets the hunters of the court know where this six-tusk elephant lives. (IS.33-1885)

A brave hunter goes in search of the elephant and from the top of a rocky landscape (IS.19-1885) he catches sight of it and the herd with which he lives while they are bathing in the lotus pond. (IS.34-1885)

The hunter digs a pit along a path which the elephants use and climbs in. He mortally wounds the elephant as he walks over the pit and the rest of the herd flees into the jungle, lost without their leader. The hunter saws the tusks off the elephant and ties them to a yoke in order to carry them to the queen (IS.19-1885).

When the queen sees the tusks she is full of remorse and regrets the action. To make amends the relics of the elephant are kept in a stupa within the caitya-hall of a monastery which the king and his attendants visit. (IS.33-1885)

Historical context note

The cave paintings of Ajanta are the oldest surviving examples of painting in India. They depict stories from the lives of the Buddha (the jatakas) and date from the 1st century BC to about AD 480. The cave complex was discovered in 1819 and since then attempts have been made to document the paintings inside them. In 1844 Major Robert Gill was commissioned to make copies. Unfortunately most of the paintings he completed were destroyed in a fire in 1866. To make up for this loss, from 1872, John Griffiths from the Bombay school of Art and seven Indian students spent every winter for the following 13 years at the caves producing approximately 300 paintings, of which this is one.

Descriptive line

Copy of painting in the caves of Ajanta by John Griffiths and students of the Bombay School of Art.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Griffiths, J, The paintings in the Buddhist cave temples of Ajanta, India, 1896
Schlingloff, D, Guide to the Ajanta paintings, Vol. 1, New Delhi, 1999.
Burgess, J, Notes on the Bauddha Rock-Temples of Ajanta, Bombay, 1879

Production Note

Painting by John Griffiths and students from the Bombay School of Art

Subjects depicted

India; Buddhism

Categories

Paintings; Buddhism

Collection code

SSEA

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Qr_O113940
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