The Intelligence of Tradition in Rajput Court Painting

Molly Emma Aitken


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The genre of Rajput painting flourished between the 16th and 19th centuries in the kingdoms that ruled what is now the Indian state of Rajasthan (place of rajas). Rajput paintings depicted the nobility and court spectacle as well as scenes from Krishna’s life, the Hindu epics, and court poetry. Many Rajput kingdoms developed distinct styles, though they shared common conventions. This important book surveys the overall tradition of Indian Rajput painting, while developing new methods to ask unprecedented questions about meaning.

Through a series of in-depth studies, Aitken shows how traditional formal devices served as vital components of narrative meaning, expressions of social unity, and rich sources of intellectual play. Supported by beautiful full-color illustrations of rare and often inaccessible paintings, Aitken’s study spans five centuries, providing a comprehensive and innovative look at the Rajasthan’s court painting traditions and their continued relevance to contemporary art.

Molly Emma Aitken is assistant professor of Asian art at The City College of New York.

“Highly important. A transformative study of Rajput painting.”--Milo C. Beach, author of The New Cambridge History of India: Mughal and Rajput Painting

“Highly original and a very significant contribution to the field. I am impressed by the author’s ability to captivate me, someone who writes and thinks about Indian history and culture, but has never truly understood the raison d’etre behind the painting tradition of Rajasthan. Now I understand.”--Catherine B. Asher, author of India before Europe

"The Intelligence of Tradition is a highly welcome resource for teaching South Asian painting. The accessibility of the text makes it suitable for undergraduate seminars, while the theoretical and methodological questions will constitute an important source for graduate seminars not only in the field of South Asia but also in art history more broadly."—Pika Ghosh, Art Bulletin

Winner of the 2011 Charles Rufus Morey Award given by the College Art Association

Winner of the 2012 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize, as given by the South Asian Council of the Association for Asian Studies.
ISBN: 9780300142297
Publication Date: April 20, 2010
352 pages, 8 3/8 x 11
173 b/w + 65 color illus.