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Oil painting - Copy of painting inside the caves of Ajanta (cave 17)
  • Copy of painting inside the caves of Ajanta (cave 17)
    Griffiths, John
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Copy of painting inside the caves of Ajanta (cave 17)

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Ajanta, 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.86-1887

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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This is a copy of a painting on the veranda of cave 17 at Ajanta. The white patches cover fragile areas that require conservation work.

The cave paintings of Ajanta are the oldest surviving examples of painting in India. They date from the 1st century BC to about AD 480 and depict stories from the lives of the Buddha (the Jatakas).

Here you see a Bodhisattva, a spiritual being on the path to becoming a Buddha. The setting is a beautiful mountainous green landscape. The image of the Bodhisattva is largely missing except for parts of the incredibly detailed crown. The flying genies (top right) represent ‘gandharvas’ (heavenly musicians). The flying couple (top left) are ‘vidyadharas’ (charm-bearers).

The cave complex was discovered in 1819 and attempts were 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 to 1885 John Griffiths from the Bombay School of Art and seven Indian students spent every winter at the caves. This is one of the approximately 300 paintings they produced.

Physical description

This painting is depicting a Bodhisattva king in a beautiful mountainous landscape, as seen in other caves at Ajanta. Here the image of the Bodhisattva is largely missing except for parts of the incredibly detailed crown in the centre. Much of the actual wall painting from which this copy is made is missing. It is only possible to discern certain parts of it. In the top right hand corner are four flying genies. Around the Bodhisattva is a rocky and leafy landscape. In the top left hand corner is a flying couple and below them are more figures although only one face is fully visible.

Place of Origin

Ajanta, India (made)

Date

1881-1883 (made)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'Right centre doorway in verndah, / cave 17 / 8'-1" long 6'
'Begun 11 May 188?'
'Finished 29th May 18?'

Dimensions

Height: 1785 mm painting, Width: 2448 mm painting, Depth: 30 mm painting, Height: 1790 mm frame, Width: 2472 mm frame, Depth: 40 mm frame

Object history note

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

Historical significance: This painting is depicting a Bodhisattva king in a beautiful mountainous landscape, as seen in other caves at Ajanta. Here the image of the Bodhisattva is largely missing except for parts of the incredibly detailed crown.

The flying genies in the top right hand corner represent heavenly musicians, the Gandharvas. The three women are beating cymbals and the man in the middle is also carrying something which is not properly identifiable but is though to be a vina.

The flying couple in the top left hand corner can be identified as Vidyadharas (charm-bearers) because of the sword carried by the man.

The two small figures on the right of the Bodhisattva king are identified as the Kinnara, half human/half bird. Both are meant to be playing musical instruments.

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 an example.

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
Burgess, J, Notes on the Bauddha Rock-Temples of Ajanta, Bombay, 1879
Zin, M, Guide to the Ajanta Paintings, Vol.2, New Delhi, 2003.

Production Note

Painted 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_O119049
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