Elephant in Musth
On a dark night of the fifth day of the month of Magasar (November–December), the royal elephant Madar Bagas has gone out of control while in a rut. Only an artist like Chokha1 who excelled in recreating the atmosphere and the mood of the moment in his paintings could capture such a scene. He has subtly used shades of black and grey, and the technique of heavy stippling and fine lines to enhance the body contours of the elephant. Chokha was fond of using black in his paintings as seen in his “Mother and Child” in the collection of Alvin O. Bellak.
All four legs of the elephant are heavily chained, making it impossible for him to free even one of them. The person standing in front of him is trying to control him with firecrackers. The people working around appear tiny insignificant creatures in front of the mad, but a majestic elephant. The white tusks against the dark background emphasize his fierceness. The shimmering metal chains glow in the light of the firecrackers thrown at him. The dark sky is dotted with tiny, glittering stars. The artist has emphasized the pinkish swollen gland between the ear and the eye of the elephant to suggest his state of musth which generally occurs in the winter months from November to January.
Chokha was the son of the artist Bagta who worked for Maharana Ari Singh at Udaipur in the 1760s, and later for the Rawats of Deogarh circa 1790–1811. At Deogarh Chokha produced excellent works under the patronage of Rawat Gokuldas. There is an interesting inscription on the flyleaf. It records the details of nine paintings of different rulers which were probably obtained along with this one. It proves that there was a considerable exchange of paintings between the rulers of various states in the 19th century.
Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Collection
Indian Miniature Paintings
Mewar, Thikana Deogarh
22.7 x 33.2 cm (with border)