An Indian miniature depicting a European couple in a love scene
Rajasthan, Kotah, 19th century
Gouache and gold on paper, 20 x 16 cm
Erotic drawings in India are more than 5000 years old, and Hindu temples with very sensuous sandstone sculptures from the 11th century, such as in Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, are famous. In the Hindu pantheon, the gods are the ideal lovers; Shiva and Parvati, Radha and Krishna. In old Hindu texts on erotics many (up to sixty or more) coital postures are mentioned as prevention of separation due to monotony between husband and wife. Lovemaking in marriage is a major force giving meaning to life. Erotic miniature paintings have long been collected and admired by wealthy Indians to learn techniques of lovemaking as the most glorious thing in heaven and on earth.
From the early 18th till the mid 19th century Mughal and Rajput erotic miniature paintings were much in vogue. This coincided with the rise of British power and the disintegration of social order in the Indian States. The insecurity of Indian rulers may have caused an increased interest in erotic paintings. The portrayal of European couples making love is very rare. It was not uncommon for the miniature painters to portray their Indian patrons in erotic paintings, but whether that could be true for the Victorian English couple depicted in the present painting is rather unlikely.