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Sita's trial by fire, from the Balinese version of the Ramayana,
Place of Origin: Indonesia, Kamasan, Bali
Date: 1850-1900
Materials: Paint on cotton
Dimensions: H. 49 in x W. 61 in, H. 124.5 cm x W. 154.9 cm (overall)
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. B.W. Kirshenbaum
Department: Southeast Asian Art
Collection: Painting
Object Number: B78M1
On Display: No

Description

Label:

Scenes from the Indian epic the Ramayana are a popular subject for Balinese painting. The story revolves around the hero Rama, whose wife, Sita, is kidnapped by the demon Ravana. After Rama's victory over Ravana, he returns with Sita to his kingdom, Ayodhya. In response to rumors concerning Sita's faithfulness while in Lanka, Rama orders that his wife be put to a test by fire. Sita jumps into the burning pyre, but because of her purity, she is saved by the fire god Agni, who transforms the pyre into a lotus pool.

Sita is depicted in the center of the composition; she is protected by Agni, who stands behind her. Above the halo of fire is the ramp that she climbs before jumping into the flames. On the upper right appear two holy men, and on the upper left three gods are carried by a flying demon. Below these gods, Rama, Lakshmana, and members of the monkey army watch the events unfold. Directly below Sita sit her servant and two jesters, Twalen and Merdah, who in Balinese tradition accompany Rama on his adventures.

This scene is an example of traditional painting from the region of Kamasan in eastern Bali. Drawn on cotton with black ink and then colored, such paintings on cloth were hung behind household altars and in temples. In them, characters are portrayed as types rather than individuals, and their stylized postures are reminiscent of puppets from wayang theater, another Indonesian art form.


More Information

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

At the top right, a dejected Sita, arm and neck tilted in a gesture of helplessness, sits atop a platform. She has just demanded that Rama allow her to enter the fire to prove her innocence, since her husband “is not satisfied with her virtues.” Below the platform she appears again in almost the same posture. Around her blaze red tongues of flame, but she is not harmed, for behind her stands Agni, deity of fire, who subdues the burning flames, proving her innocence and saving her life.

An army of monkeys surrounds the scene, while a rather inconspicuous pale-green Rama and his brother Lakshmana sit to the left. Above them a demon carrying three gods, each with three eyes, flies through the air to observe the unfolding events. The deity-carrying demon is unique to Balinese imagery of the Rama epic.

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


Label:

Scenes from the Indian epic the Ramayana are a popular subject for Balinese painting. The story revolves around the hero Rama, whose wife, Sita, is kidnapped by the demon Ravana. After Rama's victory over Ravana, he returns with Sita to his kingdom, Ayodhya. In response to rumors concerning Sita's faithfulness while in Lanka, Rama orders that his wife be put to a test by fire. Sita jumps into the burning pyre, but because of her purity, she is saved by the fire god Agni, who transforms the pyre into a lotus pool.

Sita is depicted in the center of the composition; she is protected by Agni, who stands behind her. Above the halo of fire is the ramp that she climbs before jumping into the flames. On the upper right appear two holy men, and on the upper left three gods are carried by a flying demon. Below these gods, Rama, Lakshmana, and members of the monkey army watch the events unfold. Directly below Sita sit her servant and two jesters, Twalen and Merdah, who in Balinese tradition accompany Rama on his adventures.

This scene is an example of traditional painting from the region of Kamasan in eastern Bali. Drawn on cotton with black ink and then colored, such paintings on cloth were hung behind household altars and in temples. In them, characters are portrayed as types rather than individuals, and their stylized postures are reminiscent of puppets from wayang theater, another Indonesian art form.


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

At the top right, a dejected Sita, arm and neck tilted in a gesture of helplessness, sits atop a platform. She has just demanded that Rama allow her to enter the fire to prove her innocence, since her husband “is not satisfied with her virtues.” Below the platform she appears again in almost the same posture. Around her blaze red tongues of flame, but she is not harmed, for behind her stands Agni, deity of fire, who subdues the burning flames, proving her innocence and saving her life.

An army of monkeys surrounds the scene, while a rather inconspicuous pale-green Rama and his brother Lakshmana sit to the left. Above them a demon carrying three gods, each with three eyes, flies through the air to observe the unfolding events. The deity-carrying demon is unique to Balinese imagery of the Rama epic.

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