The Master at the Court of Mandi, Raja Sidh Sen visiting Savari-Durga, Mandi

Opaque pigment on paper heightened with gold

Folio 31.1 x 21.2 cm. Circa 1725

With dark purple skin and four arms, Savari stands before Sidh Sen clad in a remarkable flayed peacock skin. Her well-modeled torso is covered in a fitted bodice made from the breast feathers of the bird, whilst its neck and head is wrapped around her stomach to form an elaborate sash. The tail-feathers create a brilliant flared skirt that is supported by a crude belt of severed human hands. A three-leaf gold crown secured by a white scarf, holds her hair that falls in wiry strands down her back. Her hands hold a bow, arrow, freshly severed skull-cup and a ramís horn raised to her mouth as if to announce the arrival of the self-proclaimed god-like presence of Sidh Sen. Her adornment is completed with a garland of human heads, various bead necklaces and large gold cuffs. Her blood-shot eyes are fixed intently on the raja. A jackal and dogs escort her as she stands beneath a tall tree with a narrow trunk and thick twig-like leaves capped with fine yellow blossoms, as four mutli-coloured birds take flight. Sidh Sen wears a long sweeping pale green tunic, split open below the waist to reveal a salmon pink lining and white under garments. His hands are joined in a posture of greeting with fingers pointing forward while clasping his gold-handled sheathed sword. Other than a pale grey sheer scarf, he is adorned with a large gold bauble necklace and wears a classic turban. He stands on wooden ritual sandals. The chauri bearer, considerably smaller than her master, holds a gold handled peacock feather morchal together with a bow, trident and arrow. These attributes again suggesting that the Raja is himself a representation of Shiva. Depicted with a third-eye and similar long wiry hair falling over her shoulders, she is dressed in a broad pleated red jacket and red feather cap and silver band. The composition of this impressive page follows the genre that was particular to the Master at the court of Mandi in the first quarter of the 18th century. Sidh Senís adherance to the esoteric ritual practice of Shaivisim and his belief that he communed with the gods on a daily basis2, establishes the basis for the surprising number of paintings where he is present with deities themselves. This page is notable on many levels, but above all it is the stunningly powerful depiction of Savari and her apparent reverence to the ruler by blowing the horn of Shiva to announce his presence that makes it truly exceptional.