The Temptation of Arjuna: A Tale of Spiritual Triumph
This exhibition showcases the recent acquisition of a rare Balinese painting from the estate of renowned Indian art historian Ananda Coomaraswamy. This exceptional Balinese painting depicts The Temptation of Arjuna, an episode from the Arjuna-Wiwaha (The Marriage of Arjuna), the eleventh-century epic poem written by Mpu Kanwa for the court of Javanese King Airlangga (1019 to 1042). The epic is based on an episode from an Old Javanese version of the Mahabharata (The Great Epic of India). The hero of the story is the powerful and spiritually-adept warrior, Arjuna, who endures a test designed by Indra, chief of the gods. The painting is a fine example of a courtly style that flourished in Bali in the village of Kamasan between the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century. Narrative paintings depicting mythological subjects were commissioned to decorate palace pavilions for royal ceremonies and ritual festivals. The stylization of the figures in these paintings is heavily influenced by the shadow-puppet tradition known as wayang kulit, while the hand gestures and bodily postures are reminiscent of the dance drama genre known as wayang wong. The exhibition also includes a pair of batik garments from the north coast of Java from the same period.
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Image: (Detail) Temptation of Arjuna, Scenes from the Arjunawiwaha (The Marriage of Arjuna), Indonesia, Bali, possibly Kamasan, early 20th century, watercolor, ink, and charcoal on cloth.