The Issanama commission lies at the intersection of art and history, and offers lush evidence of the plurality and syncretism inherent in Indian culture. It’s an artistic collaboration between the founder of Sarmaya, Paul Abraham and traditional miniaturist and third-generation artist, Manish Soni of Bhilwara, Rajasthan. As such, the Issanama offers a fresh model of art patronage for the contemporary era, one in which the patron enters into an intellectual dialogue with the artist.
The commission illustrates episodes from the Bible and the life of Jesus Christ in the exquisite landscape of the Hamzanama, the earliest expression of the Indian subcontinent’s celebrated Indo-Islamic art tradition.
This painting is an interpretation of the episode where Jesus raises Lazarus, Mary’s brother, from the dead four days after he was buried. In the left foreground, you can see Jesus with a raised hand while inside the cave a ghostly figure of Lazarus emerges. His eyes are closed and his garment seems to be wrapped around a nearly formless body, perhaps to heighten the paranormal nature of the episode. Onlookers gather outside the cave and witness the miracle awestruck. Typically, in this style the gesture of bringing the index finger to the lips suggests that the person is talking.