How to spot a prize-winning Pichvai painting
A beginner's guide
A Pichvai is a meticulously detailed, hand-painted textile traditionally hung behind the idol of Shrinathji, an incarnation of the Hindu god Krishna. Worshipped by the Vaishnavite sub-sect of the Pushtimargis, the temple town of Nathdwara in Udaipur, Rajasthan, is home to the main shrine revered and visited by devotees. Over the last century, painted textiles created for ritualistic use at the shrine have taken on a new role as wall art. They are much sought after by the cognoscenti for their effervescent aesthetics and have spawned a renewed pursuit among collectors.
Many pieces of Pichvai art, to an untrained eye, may look the same but vary in price. However, there are many ways to identify a good piece of art:
1) The intricacy and finesse of the jewellery and the Sringaar depicted on Srinathji are tell tale signs of an artists calibre. The quality of work in the head rest also speaks volumes of a good Pichvai.
2) The proportions of Srinathji’s body to his arms and the prominent expression of his eyes form the centre of a well made Pichvai.
3) The topmost layer of the Pichvai is “Likhai” or an outline drawn over the final work giving it the final finish. The likhai is a fine sketch, which is like redrawing the entire painting with a fine brush made from squirrel hairs.
4) Use of poster and water colours changes the intensity and brightness of the medley of colours in a Pichvai and the balanced aesthetics of natural colours. If chemical colours are being used, they will pop-out and look very bright and busy whereas, stone colours merge very smoothly and beautifully.