Epic Tales from Ancient India: Paintings from the San Diego Museum of Art

Epic Tales from Ancient India presents a selection of Indian paintings from the renowned Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of the San Diego Museum of Art. The dynamic images represent the highest achievement of court painting from several regions of the Indian sub-continent from the 16th to 19th centuries. Originally associated with literary texts and intended for individual delight, these intimately scaled paintings will beguile Austin audiences with epic stories that have been integral to South Asian culture for hundreds of years.

The exhibition provides a compelling introduction to classic Indian and Persian texts, including Ramayana, Bhagavata Purana, Ragamala, and the Persian Book of Kings, Shahnameh. Dutiful heroes, loyal friends, and strong women all have their place in this tradition—each serves as an instructive model. There are also dangerous beasts, cunning adversaries, and assorted demons who must be confronted and subdued. Battle scenes teeming with combatants give way to quieter moments such as lovers meeting for a secret tryst. Many of the stories have religious significance and show the intervention of various divinities in maintaining cosmic order.

A series of public programs will complement the exhibition, featuring lectures and gallery talks, musical demonstrations, classical Indian dance, and storytelling performances.

This exhibition is organized by the San Diego Museum of Art.


16th century Mughal Painter, Makra, Lava and Kishu engage Lakshmana in battle, 1598, opaque watercolor on paper, 9 3/32 x 5 9/32 in., The San Diego Museum of Art, Edwin Binney 3rd Collection