Krishna steals the clothes of the gopis, folio from a Bhagavata Purana

Historical period(s)
ca. 1690-1700
Bikaner school
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W (painting): 17.2 × 12.4 cm (6 3/4 × 4 7/8 in) H x W (overall): 21.3 × 15 cm (8 3/8 × 5 15/16 in)
India, Rajasthan state, Bikaner
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


Bhagavata Purana, Gopi, India, Krishna, landscape, Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection, river

From 1690 to possibly ca. 1960s
Bikaner royal family, (modern-day Rajasthan, India) [1]

To 1978
Toby Falk (1942-1997), London [2]

From 1978 to 2001
Ralph Benkaim (1914-2001), Beverly Hills, California, purchased from Toby Falk, London in April 1978 [3]

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] According to information given by Catherine Glynn Benkaim on June 14, 2016, the Raja of Bikaner began selling off his collection in the 1960s.

[2] According to information from Ralph Benkaim’s record, communicated through Catherine Glynn Benkaim.

[3] See note 2.

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

[5] See note 4

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Maharaja of Bikaner Bikaner, Rajasthan state, India
Ralph (1914-2001) and Catherine Benkaim
Toby Falk 1942-1997
Catherine Glynn Benkaim


Recto: 31
Verso in nagari script: gopiyan keva satra hara kadam parchad. In a smaller, neater hand: dasam rai adhyaya ba 22 pano…2. Purple stamp and Khet Singh signature stamped out with purple ink. Various other inventory numbers.


This oversize folio depicts a magical landscape that glimmers from a gold-flecked wash over its surface. It is dawn, and the sky and distant hills are bathed in fog and tinged with streaks of gold. Seated in a kadamba tree draped with garments, Krishna watches the gopis emerge from the river after a swim. The mischievous Krishna has stolen the gopis' clothes and placed them them on the tree's branches. Realizing they have been tricked, the gopis hide their naked bodies in the river or behind trees as they beg for Krishna to return their clothing. The episode is one of the most important in the sacred text; it is commonly interpreted as a metaphor for the need for devotees to relinquish their egos in order to truly connect with god.

The large-size Bikaner Bhagavata Purana manuscript was produced during the reign of Maharaja Anup Singh of Bikaner (r. 1674-98) who, while in the service of Aurangzeb in the Deccan, set up a court in Hyderabad. The style of the folio speaks to Bikaner's connections with both Mughal and Deccani court culture, revealing how brilliantly its artist drew upon and synthesized multiple visual traditions. The leaves of the trees and the figures are rendered parallel to the picture plane in the manner that is traditional to western Indian and Rajput painting. The landscape' spatial recession and its rounded hills swathed in mist and dotted with small trees are reminiscent of distant landscapes in Shah Jahan period painting. And the mauve and pink palette recalls the orchid-like pastels favored in the Deccan.

Published References
  • Joan Cummins. Vishnu: Hinduism's Blue-Skinned Savior. Exh. cat. 116, 202-203.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
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