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Two Illustrated Pages from a
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Two Illustrated Pages from a "Kalpasutra" Manuscript

Description Provenance Credit
Description These two illustrated pages are from a manuscript of the "Kalpasutra," which is one of the most important canonical works of the Shvetambara (white-clad) Jains. Of the three parts of the text, usually the first--known as the "Jinacharita," consisting of the lives of the Jain teachers known as "jina" (victor)--is profusely illustrated with succinct narrative details. However, it should be noted that the lives of the different Jinas share many narrative incidents and, hence, the illustrations are repetitive and stereotypical. Therefore, if these two illustrations were separated from the text, one could not be certain of their exact association with a particular Jina. The accompanying text, written in beautiful "nagari" script in seven lines, helps us to identify the two scenes as belonging to the life of Mahavira, the last and most honored of the twenty-four Jinas. In the upper illustration, his father, King Siddhartha, is in conversation with two courtiers, who probably are getting instructions to go and summon the astrologers to interpret the dreams of his wife Trishala. In the second illustration, in preparation for renunciation, Mahavira plucks his hair, which the god Sakra (Indra) receives in his outstretched hands. Both are placed on top of a mountain, symbolically, the cosmic Mount Meru; Mahavira is seated below the "asoka" tree, while Sakra is distinguished by a halo and a regal parasol. The illustrations are typical of the style of painting that prevailed in Gujarat and Rajasthan between the 14th and 16th centuries and has come to be designated as the "Western Indian" style. The style is characterized by strong, bold figural forms that are distinguished by their angularity and by the unnatural projection of the further eye, the use of minimal landscaping and stylized natural elements, and the preference for luxuriant fabrics. The coloring is dominated by a rich, lustrous blue, deep red, and gold, which create a very sumptuous visual effect.
Provenance John and Berthe Ford, Baltimore [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 2002, by gift.
Credit Gift of John and Berthe Ford, 2002

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ca. 1450
pigments, ink, and gold on paper
(Manuscripts & Rare Books)
Accession Number
each page: 3 1/4 x 10 1/8 in. (8.26 x 25.72 cm)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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