Lot 24
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Untitled (Baghai Devata)
Signed in Devnagari (lower right)
Circa 1970s
Natural pigments and ink on paper
59.50 x 97 in (151.2 x 246.6 cm)

Collection of Charles and Ratna Fabri
Property of a Distinguished Lady, New Delhi

Sita Devi was famed for drawing in the Bharni style, which involves outlining the subject in black, and filling the areas with colour. She wasawarded the Padma Shri in 1981, and her work was admired by many noted dignitaries including President Dr. Rajendra Prasad, and Prime Ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi.

The present lot, a playful tiger reaching for a flower,is an exceptionally endearing figurative work by Sita Devi. Incorporating folklore and depicting local flora and fauna, this painting captures the vibrancy and colourful essence that is the embodiment of Mithila painting.


Mithila is the traditional name for the home of Sita, the wife of Rama, and is a region in the Darbhanga district of modern day Bihar. The region's art forms flourished under the patronage of rulers such as Harisimha Deva, and the various Karnataka dynasties from the 12th - 14th centuries. Women from the Brahmin and Kayastha families traditionally painted on freshly plastered mud walls of homes in the Mithila or Madhubani style, to signify auspicious occasions such as birth, marriage, and religious rituals.

Mithila paintings are instantly recognised by their vibrant imagery. Five discrete styles- Kachni, Bharni, Godna, Kohbar and Tantric-merged to form the technique now synonymous with Mithila or Madhubani paintings.Each family has its own pictorial tradition, passed down from generation to generation. This lends the paintings a distinct style and character. Artists draw inspiration from a wide range of sources including social events, royal courts and the cosmos. Mythology, nature and scenes from quotidian life form the main themes of these paintings. The gods of the Hindu pantheon, namely Rama, Krishna, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Shiva and Durga, are important religious icons. Every part of the background is intricately decorated with flora, fauna and geometric patterns. Figures are simplified and flat, solid colours are used without any shading. Scenes are often set within ornately patterned borders, and crosses and straight lines are used to fill negativespace, heightening the vibrancy of the paintings.

Like most traditional art, locally available materials are used with precision and a deep knowledge of nature. Figures are outlined using bamboo sticks, and colour is applied by tying cotton to the sticks. The use of natural dyes yields a distinctly earthy palette which is literally rooted to its place of origin. Soot and cow dung are used for black, indigo for blue, rice powder for white, sandal wood or Kusum flowers for red, and turmeric, pollen and lime mixed with extract from Banyan leaves for yellow. Though the art form has existed for centuries, over time, new materials such as paper and canvas were introduced, and the paintings moved out of the confines of dwellings. It was inthe late 1960s that Mithila painting garnered widespread recognition. The Mithila paintings in this catalogue belong to this critical period which marks the intersection of the old and the new, where tradition meets modernity.

Other similar works in: this auction  |  entire site

  Lot 24 of 64  

11-12 APRIL 2018

Rs 4,00,000 - 6,00,000
$6,250 - 9,375

Winning Bid
Rs 9,02,400
(Inclusive of Buyer's Premium)


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