Krishna entertains his companions

Historical period(s)
ca. 1760-1765
Guler or Chamba school
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W (overall): 11.5 × 16.4 cm (4 1/2 × 6 7/16 in)
India, Himachal Pradesh state, Guler or Chamba
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


cow, flute, India, Krishna, Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection

To 1968
Sri Ram Gopal, Vijaivargia, Jaipur, India.

Sale, London, Christie, Manson & Woods, Important Autograph Letters Manuscripts and Drawings Oriental Miniatures and Manuscripts, December 18, 1968, lot no. 111: “Krishna Plays his Flute.” [1]

From 1968 to 2001
Ralph Benkaim, (1914-2001), Beverly Hills, California, purchased at auction by Maggs on behalf of Ralph Benkaim, Christie, Manson & Woods, “Important Autograph Letters Manuscripts and Drawings Oriental Miniatures and Manuscripts,” December 18, 1968, lot no. 111: “Krishna Plays his Flute.” [2]

From 2001 to 2018
Catherine Glynn Benkaim, Beverly Hills, California, by inheritance from Ralph Benkaim in 2001. [3]

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


[1] See auction catalogue from Christie’s, London, “Important Autograph Letters Manuscripts and Drawings Oriental Miniatures and Manuscripts.”

[2] Ralph Benkaim purchased the painting in December 1968 from Christie’s, London, several years before paintings were classified as antiquities by the Indian government, according to his personal records, obtained via Catherine Glynn Benkaim. A telegram from Maggs 18 December 1968 to Mr. Benkaim indicates that Maggs made the purchase on Mr. Benkaim’s behalf.

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

[4] See note 3.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Sri Ram Gopal Vijaivargia
Ralph (1914-2001) and Catherine Benkaim
Catherine Glynn Benkaim


Pastoral images of a musical Krishna among his childhood cowherding community are popular in Hindu visual culture. The scene embodies Krishna bhakti, a form of devotionalism that emphasizes the personal relationship with a god who is both transcendent and accessible. Highlighted against a black ground and sheltered by lush trees, Krishna and his gently smiling companions are joyful. Devoted cows and a sleeping calf surround them. Throughout devotional poetry, Krishna and the Vrindaban cows have a special relationship: the village cows seek out Krishna's affection and refuse to be milked by anyone but the god.

The verso features a drawing in black and red ink of a kneeling courtier in profile. The head above the ear (which would have been on the back of the original border) has been cropped where the original border has been cut off. A margin of a thin black line remains.

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

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