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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Unknown Artist
The Infant Krishna Floating on the Cosmic Ocean, Folio from a Bhagavata Purana (History of God) series
Other Titles
Title: The Infant Krishna Floating on the Cosmic Ocean: episode from the “Bhagavata Purana” (Ancient Stories of the Lord)
Work Type
mid 19th century
Creation Place: South Asia, India, Rajasthan, Nathadwara
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Opaque watercolor, gold, and metallic gray pigment on paper
actual: 31.1 x 21.6 cm (12 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift in gratitude to John Coolidge, Gift of Leslie Cheek, Jr., Anonymous Fund in memory of Henry Berg, Louise Haskell Daly, Alpheus Hyatt, Richard Norton Memorial Funds and through the generosity of Albert H. Gordon and Emily Rauh Pulitzer; formerly in the collection of Stuart Cary Welch, Jr.
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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The painting depicts Krishna, the eighth avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu who is worshipped as a deity in his own right, as an infant. He is sucking his toe as he lies on a single banyan tree leaf that floats on water. The image depicts a scene from the Bhagavata Purana, (History of God). The Bhagvata Purana is one of the eighteen Mahapuranas (Great Histories) and is a revered text in Vaishnavism, a Hindu tradition that worships Vishnu. Produced sometime between the sixth and tenth century, the text promotes bhakti (devotion) to Krishna. According to the Bhagavata Purana, the Hindu sage Markandeya gained immortality and swam across the cosmic ocean for a countless time. He came across the infant Krishna, who opened his mouth to reveal the creation of the universe. This charming painting depicts what Markandeya encountered. The god’s infancy represents that of a new world cycle that forms with him. Despite his supernatural powers, he possesses a childlike innocence that is expressed through his playful gesture. The rich blue hue of Krishna’s skin and heavy, dreamy eyes are characteristic of paintings from Nathdwara.
Publication History

Stuart Cary Welch and Milo Cleveland Beach, Gods, Thrones, and Peacocks Northern Indian Painting from Two Traditions, exh. cat., Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1965), page 114/figure 80

Michael Brand, The Vision of Kings : Art and Experience in India, exh. cat., National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (New York, NY, 1995), Page 39/Figure 19

Exhibition History

Hot as Curry - Subtle as Moonlight: Masterpieces of Rajput Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/02/1991 - 12/20/1991

Rajasthani Miniatures: The Welch Collection at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University, The Drawing Center, New York, 04/16/1997 - 06/07/1997

A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions of Islamic and Later Indian Art, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 06/08/2000 - 09/03/2000

32Q: 2590 South and Southeast Asia, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 04/19/2018 - 11/07/2018

A Colloquium in the Visual Arts , Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/04/2021 - 01/02/2022

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at