William P. Wood Gallery 227, second floor
Twenty "miniature" paintings from the Rajput courts of India, dating from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, form this memorial tribute to the late psychologist, connoisseur, and collector of Indian painting, Dr. Alvin O. Bellak (1928-2004).
The Hindu Rajput kings ruled a number of independent kingdoms that spread from the plains of western and central India into the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Pious devotion, poetic love, the play of the gods, and the pleasures and intrigues of courtly life are all reflected in the richly hued paintings that make up the exhibition. From Rajasthan in the plains comes the wickedly comical portrait pair of a disgraced courtier, Baba Bharath Singh, Dressed and Undressed. Paintings from the Himalayan mountain kingdoms include the vibrant seventeenth-century Bhadrakali Within the Rising Sun and the elegantly idealized eighteenth-century image of The Poet Bihari offers Homage to Radha and Krishna, attributed to the master painter Nainsukh.
The Alvin O. Bellak collection is comprised of eighty-eight paintings and drawings, each of superlative quality, that span 400 years of India's artistic history, from the adoption of paper-making technology in the late-fourteenth century to the advent of photography in the late-nineteenth. Painted on paper with vivid, opaque watercolors, the works are often highlighted with gold and polished to a smooth, lustrous surface. Most were created in royal painting workshops, often as pages for larger illustrated manuscripts or series, and so provide a unique window into the idylls and intricacies of daily life at court. Through delicate details and lively stories, each one evokes an intimate world of enchantment and delight.
When he began collecting Indian "miniature" paintings in the mid-1970s, Dr. Bellak set out to illustrate the history of the genre. Over the next twenty-five years, he succeeded in developing one of the worlds finest private collections. It was first shown in its entirety in 2001 in the acclaimed exhibition Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection. Dr. Bellak promised the collection as a bequest to the Museum, and his legacy has now transformed the Philadelphia Museum of Art into one of the world's major repositories of Indian painting.
Darielle Mason • The Stella Kramrisch Curator of Indian and Himalayan Art