Ragamala Paintings: Poetry, Passion, Song

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart on an exciting new exhibit at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

London: There are 24 works on display from the collection of the Italian-born Claudio Moscatelli. The collector started his collection after realizing similarities and parallels between ancient Sienese paintings and Indian miniature paintings. He was also extremely intrigued by the main theme of Ragamala miniatures which is the relationship between the lover and the beloved, one which stands for the relationship between the human and divine.

Bhairava Raga, Pahari, Nurpur, c 1690, gouache on paper, 21 x 20.8 cm

Ragamala paintings are pages from a garland (mala) of visual melodies (ragas). On each page different musical modes or ragas are illustrated. Most of these paintings include the text of a short poem or a caption that describes the mood that the particular raga it represents and the mood it is supposed to evoke in the listener.

Click here to listen to an example of a raga represented by a Ragamala painting.

Lalita Ragaputra of Bhairava Raga, Pahari, Chamba, c1690-1700, gouache on paper, 21.5 x 15.5 cm

Ragamala miniatures flourished between the 15th and 19th centuries. This tradition seems to have begun when medieval musicians started associating each raga and mood with a deity and gave it a name to perhaps remember its melody. Afterwards poets and artists personified and transcribed these ragas in verbal and visual forms.

Kakubha Ragini of Megha Raga, Hyderabad, c 1760, gouache on paper, 30.6 x 19.9 cm

Londoners can consider themselves very lucky because this is the first British exhibition displaying only Ragamala paintings, and hence marks a rare opportunity to be immersed in this exclusive world.

More information and events related to the exhibition can be found on the Dulwich Picture Gallery website.

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