There is a long tradition of depicting the story of Kṛṣṇa in sculpture dating at least from the Gupta Period (4th-6th centuries CE). The compositions are quite consistent over time and place, and, with only a few exceptions, are simple and straightforward.
In the early 16th century, coinciding with a great revival of Kṛṣṇa worship, the earliest surviving painted Bhāgavata Purāṇa illustrations appear (c. 1520-30), and, though not unrelated to the earlier examples, the compositions are strikingly lively and inventive. The lecture examines this development, offers speculation on a possible source, and considers the long influence of this new compositional tradition on subsequent Indian painting.
Daniel Ehnbom is Associate Professor at the McIntire Department of Art of the University of Virginia. He is the author of Indian Miniatures: The Ehrenfeld Collection (1985), articles on painting and Indian architecture, and contributions to various exhibition catalogues. He was with the Macmillan/Grove Dictionary of Art (1996) in London as a contributor and consultant from 1984 and as South Asia Area Editor for Painting and Sculpture from 1988. His recent publications include Realms of Earth and Sky: Indian Painting from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Century (Charlottesville: The Fralin Art Museum at the University of Virginia, 2014).