Vilaval Ragini, from a Ragamala

Historical period(s)
ca. 1690-95
Basohli school
Opaque watercolor on paper
H x W (overall): 20.3 × 19.7 cm (8 × 7 3/4 in)
India, Jammu and Kashmir, Kathua district, Basohli
Credit Line
Purchase and partial gift from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection — funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


child, India, ragamala, Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection, woman

To 1973
Marjory Buckle, Hong Kong [1]

From 1973 to 2001
Ralph Benkaim (1914-2001), Beverly Hills, California, purchased from Marjory or Marjorie Buckle in New York in June 1973 [2]

From 2001 to 2018
Catherine Glynn Benkaim, Beverly Hills, California, ownership was transferred after the death of her husband, Ralph Benkaim in 2001 [3]

From 2018
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, partial gift and purchase from Catherine Glynn Benkaim [4]


[1] It is very likely that this widely-exhibited and well-published painting was in a Hong Kong collection prior to September 1972.

[2] In 1973 this and other Indian paintings were in the collection of Marjory Buckle, an American who lived in Hong Kong. When she decided to disperse her collection, she contacted Willie Wolff, a New York City dealer who specialized in Asian sculpture, not painting. According to correspondence between Catherine Glynn Benkaim and Debra Diamond in June 2016: when Ralph Benkaim was in New York City in 1973, Willie Wolff brought the paintings to his attention. Ms. Benkaim does not know the exact date of Mr. Benkaim’s New York City visit because the trip took place prior to their marriage. Mr. Benkaim’s handwritten records indicate that he signed the check in June 1973. There is no paperwork indicating if the check was directly made out to Marjory Buckle and/or if the paintings were shipped directly from Hong Kong to Los Angeles.

Everything argues for a somewhat protracted process: it is unlikely that a westerner in the 1970s (other than a handful of well-known professional dealers) could have amassed a collection of Indian paintings in a few months (that is, acquiring after September 1972, when Indian paintings were first listed as antiquities, and then selling by June 1973). Wolff did not take the Buckle paintings on consignment because he did not deal in paintings, and Wolff only mentioned the paintings to Ralph Benkaim when they met in New York City. According to information from Catherine Glynn Benkaim to Debra Diamond in June 2016.

[3] See Acquisition Justification Form, object file, Collections Management Office.

[4] See note 3.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Marjory Buckle
Ralph (1914-2001) and Catherine Benkaim
Catherine Glynn Benkaim


Raga (Sanskrit, color or passion) is the term for a classical music mode, a set framework for improvisation. Having originated in the first millennium, ragas were systematized and classified during the thirteenth through sixteenth century, they were classified into ragamalas, meaning garlands of musical modes. A common system recognized six raga husbands, each "married" to five ragini wives for a total of thirty-six "families." Families of musical modes sometimes included sons or ragaputras as well. By the fifteenth century, ragas had become associated with specific moods, times, seasons, affective properties, deities, lovers, and heroes. Around 1590-1620, illustrated ragamala series became a favorite subject for Rajput patrons, as well as for some Mughals, such as Abd-ur Rahim, patron of the Freer Ramayana and the Laud Ragamala. Specific iconographies were developed for depicting each mode. These formulae lent themselves to variations, which were sometimes dependent on region.

Like musical compositions, illustrated ragas evoke mood and engender feeling. However, the connection seems to be indirect. Although some connoisseurs of music may have internally "heard" a composition when viewing its image, ragamalas were probably more broadly valued for their poetic and pictorial pleasures. The commission of a ragamala series also would have been understood as a sign of a patron's cultivated sensibility.

Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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