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The Monkey hero Hanuman carries a lady, perhaps Benyakai; from the Cambodian or Thai version of the epic of Rama
Place of Origin: Cambodia or Thailand
Date: approx. 1900-1950
Materials: Paint and gold on cloth
Dimensions: H. 94 in x W. 33 1/2 in, H. 238.8 cm x W. 85 cm (image)
Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection
Department: Southeast Asian Art
Collection: Painting
Object Number: B60D30+.a
On Display: No

Description

Label: This painting comes from a series representing characters from the Cambodian and Thai versions of the Ramayana, the great Hindu epic about the life of Prince Rama. There are numerous retellings of this Sanskrit tale, not only in the Cambodian and Thai languages, but also in most other Southeast Asian languages. Scenes from the Ramayana have long been enacted in courtly dance-drama; in less formal, popular drama; and in puppet theater. Such scenes are also frequently depicted in sculpture and painting. It is difficult to identify the subject of this scene. In Cambodian and Thai versions of the Ramayana, Ravana's niece Benyakai is forced to disguise herself as Rama's wife, Sita. Benyakai who pretends to be dead and nearly tricks Rama into abandoning the true Sita, is found out. After learning that Benchakai has been an unwilling pawn in Ravana's plans, the heroic monkey Hanuman returns her to the kingdom of Lanka. The female figure riding a white monkey shown here may represent Benyakai on the shoulders of Hanuman.

More Information

Exhibition History: "The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017

Additional Label:

In Southeast Asia scenes from the Rama epic have long been depicted in sculpture and painting and enacted in courtly dance-drama, less formal drama, and puppet theater.

In mainland Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Cambodia Hanuman is not celibate as he usually is in India (because his heart is completely filled with Rama and Sita), but a monkey with many romantic interests. It is difficult to identify exactly which of his lady loves is shown here. One possibility is Punnakay (Benyakai), niece of Ravana, who, in Cambodian and Thai versions of the epic, is forced to disguise herself as Sita and pretend to be dead to trick Rama into abandoning the true Sita. After learning that Punnakay has been an unwilling pawn in Ravana’s plans, Hanuman returns her to Ravana’s kingdom with a bit of romance en route.

This painting may have been used to decorate a building such as a theater, college, or hotel.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)


Label: This painting comes from a series representing characters from the Cambodian and Thai versions of the Ramayana, the great Hindu epic about the life of Prince Rama. There are numerous retellings of this Sanskrit tale, not only in the Cambodian and Thai languages, but also in most other Southeast Asian languages. Scenes from the Ramayana have long been enacted in courtly dance-drama; in less formal, popular drama; and in puppet theater. Such scenes are also frequently depicted in sculpture and painting. It is difficult to identify the subject of this scene. In Cambodian and Thai versions of the Ramayana, Ravana's niece Benyakai is forced to disguise herself as Rama's wife, Sita. Benyakai who pretends to be dead and nearly tricks Rama into abandoning the true Sita, is found out. After learning that Benchakai has been an unwilling pawn in Ravana's plans, the heroic monkey Hanuman returns her to the kingdom of Lanka. The female figure riding a white monkey shown here may represent Benyakai on the shoulders of Hanuman.
Exhibition History: "The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe," Asian Art Museum, October 21, 2015–January 15, 2017

Expanded Label:

In Southeast Asia scenes from the Rama epic have long been depicted in sculpture and painting and enacted in courtly dance-drama, less formal drama, and puppet theater.

In mainland Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Cambodia Hanuman is not celibate as he usually is in India (because his heart is completely filled with Rama and Sita), but a monkey with many romantic interests. It is difficult to identify exactly which of his lady loves is shown here. One possibility is Punnakay (Benyakai), niece of Ravana, who, in Cambodian and Thai versions of the epic, is forced to disguise herself as Sita and pretend to be dead to trick Rama into abandoning the true Sita. After learning that Punnakay has been an unwilling pawn in Ravana’s plans, Hanuman returns her to Ravana’s kingdom with a bit of romance en route.

This painting may have been used to decorate a building such as a theater, college, or hotel.

(Exhibition Label from The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe)