Elephant in Musth
Iartist: Chokha, dated 1811.
Karl J. Khandalavala Collection
On a dark night of the fifth day of the month of Magasar (November–December), the royal elephant Madar Bagas has gone out of control while in rut. All four legs of the elephant are heavily chained, making it impossible for him to free even one of them. The person standing in front of him is trying to control him with firecrackers. The people working around appear tiny insignificant creatures in front of the mad, but majestic elephant. The white tusks against the dark background emphasize his fierceness. The shimmering metal chains glow in the light of the firecrackers thrown at him. The dark sky is dotted with tiny, glittering stars. The artist has emphasized the pinkish swollen gland between the ear and the eye of the elephant to suggest his state of musth which generally occurs in the winter months from November to January.
Only an artist like Chokha who excelled in recreating atmosphere and the mood of the moment in his paintings, could capture such a scene. He has subtly used shades of black and grey, and the technique of heavy stippling and fine lines to enhance the body contours of the elephant. Chokha was fond of using black in his paintings.
Inscription on the reverse:
Portrait of elephant Madar Bagas (from?) Kotah, presented by the painter Chokha on the fifth day of the dark half of Magasar (November– December), Samvat 1868 (= 1811 CE).