Musical Mode, Possibly Kanara Putra

Two finely dressed noblemen play music under a canopy, while a third attends them, listening to their sound. The central figure’s stringed instrument is a vina; his companion accompanies him on a striped tanpura. The painting belongs to a series that illustrates poetic verses evoking the moods of specific musical modes: masculine “ragas,” feminine “raginis,” and their associated “putras,” or “sons.” This scene most likely illustrates the ragaputra known as “Kanara,” which one text describes in this way: “His body perfumed with delicious scents of various flowers, clothed in yellow robes, Kanara, extremely versed in musical entertainment, fascinates the dwellers of heaven.” As is characteristic of this series, produced in a Bilaspur workshop, this painting is rendered generally in the Basohli style of the second half of the 17th century, with a bright and monochromatic background, usually a mustard yellow as here, against which the figures are defined with bold clarity. The velvety green and red baldachin and the durrie-covered floor are, however, rendered in perspective and show Mughal influences, which were relatively strong in Bilaspur in the late 17th century. This influence explains why a Muslim figure is used for Kanara, his naturalistic posture with his head in three-quarter profile, and the expressive interaction of the figures.

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Walters Art Museum

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