Shiva and Parvati are depicted side by side in an oval frame, Shiva with a third eye and wearing the crescent moon in his hair and a snake about his neck. He holds the intoxicating fruit of the dhaturaand with the other arm he embraces Parvati. She wears a green and gold hemmed odhini. She is adorned with jewels and holds a delicate white flower.
The figures of Shiva and Parvati are drawn here on an exceptionally large scale. Two other Kangra versions of this double portrait of Shiva and Parvati on a similar scale were in the prestigious collection of Henri Vever (1854-1942), now at the Freer Sackler, Washington (S1986.468) and in the collection of Ananda Coomaraswamy by 1916 (present whereabouts unknown to us). The Vever picture is now dated to circa 1830 but Coomaraswamy dated his painting to the late 18th century (Coomaraswamy 1916, vol.II, pl.64). The two works are strikingly similar and it is very probable that they were executed by the same artist and at the same time. There are subtle differences however, such as the blue spot on Shiva’s neck, a trace of the poison swallowed at the Churning of the Ocean, which is only present in the Coomaraswamy painting.
The artist responsible for our painting very probably saw one of these paintings, or an earlier original from which this group descends. There are differences between the present work and the two published paintings in the facial types, particularly the sloping eyes with heavy eyelids and the delicate shading of the faces. Other elements such as the snake wrapped around Shiva’s neck, the position and treatment of the hands, the mats of hair, the plain background, floral spandrels and the overall dimensions (34 x 25.4cm) are closely related. In our painting however, the fruit of the dhatura held by Parvati has been replaced with a flow
Opaque pigments heightened with gold on paper, the oval frame with floral spandrels, within blue rules and pink speckled borders, the reverse with a sketch of this portrait and old pen and pencil inventory inscriptions
Page: 39.4 x 31cm.
Image: 33.5 x 28.1cm.
London private collection since the 1950s
Ananda Coomaraswamy, Rajput Painting, London, 1916
Glenn D. Lowry, Milo Cleveland Beach, Elisabeth West FitzHugh, Susan Nemanzee, Janet Snyder, An Annotated and Illustrated Checklist of the Vever Collection, Washington and Seattle, 1988, cat. 427, pp. 350-351.
Saroj Panthey, Iconography of Siva in Pahari Paintings, Delhi, 1987