Abhisarika Nayika, folio from a Rasikpriya

Historical period(s)
ca. 1615-1625
possibly Amber school
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W (overall): 11.7 × 12.7 cm (4 5/8 × 5 in)
India, Rajasthan state, possibly Amber
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


India, Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection, Rasikapriya

To 1947
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) [1]

From 1947 to 1972
Rama Coomaraswamy (1929-2006), Greenwich, Connecticut, by gift or inheritance after his father, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy’s death in 1947 [2]

From 1972 to 2001
Ralph Benkaim (1914-2001), Beverly Hills, California, purchased from Rama Coomaraswamy, Greenwich, Connecticut in May 1972

From 2001 to 2018
Catherine Glynn Benkaim, Beverly Hills, California, by inheritance from Ralph Benkaim in 2001

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


[1] Rama Coomaraswamy was the son of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, an important figure in the field of Indian and Sri Lankan art history. Coomaraswamy was largely responsible for providing the conceptual structures through which South Asian art became studied and valued in India and in the west. Because A.K. Coomaraswamy spent the second half of his life in the U.S., it is highly unlikely that any art from his personal collection would have a contested provenance.

[2] According to information from Catherine Glynn Benkaim.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Ralph (1914-2001) and Catherine Benkaim
Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy 1877-1947
Rama Coomaraswamy 1929-2006
Catherine Glynn Benkaim


This small but richly colored painting is from the dispersed Boston Rasikpriya.

Court paintings from North India reveal a range of personal, poetic and religious attitudes towards love. The paintings provided their courtly viewers - who were both men and women -- with models for thinking about and acting on feelings of affection and passion. Indian poets explored and classified every stage of romantic relationships, from passionate desire to remorse after quarrels.

The enormously influential Rasikapriya (1591) transformed the Sanskrit poetic tradition of categorizing romantic types. Keshav Das' text was not only written in the vernacular of literary Hindi (or Braj) it also personalized the classical tradition by identifying the lovers as the Hindu deity Krishna and Radha, a girl from a cow-herder village. In this painting, Radha is depicted as an abhisarika, a woman who fearlessly braves the dangers of the night to meet her lover (Rasikpriya ch. 7, v. 31):

Serpents were coiling round her legs and their heads were being crushed beneath her feet; and evil spirits ranging abroad could be seen in all directions She didn't notice the torriential rain, nor the terrifying thunder of dark clouds, nor the screaming of cicadas amidst the roaring of the story. She didn't know when her ornaments fell off one by one. Defying the ditches and brambles that tried to stand in her way, she went on. The goblin-wives themselves wondered and are asking her, 'Wherefor have you learnt this yoga-like behavior? O abhisarika, how marvelous this trysting!" [translation M.S. Randhawa, 1962].

The poet of the Rasikpriya, Keshavdas, transformed the Sanskritic tradition not only by identifying the lovers as Radha and Krishna, but also by writing in the vernacular (Hindi) instead of Sanskrit. Keshavdas was he most eminent of the poets whose vernacular works in the Riti style transformed literary culture. The Rasikpriya, which he wrote for the ruler of the small court of Orchha, seems to have been immedialtely popular, a shift that be tracked because of the swiftness with which it was copied and illustrated across north India.

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

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