An image of Matsya, the fish incarnation of Vishnu

Kalighat school

(India circa 1830 – 1930)

Matsya, the fish incarnation of Vishnu

Other titles:
Matsya, the fish avatar of Vishnu, The god Narrayon, as an incarnation of a fish
Lower Asian gallery
Further information

Images such as this are known as Kalighat paintings, after the famous Kalighat temple in Kolkata (Calcutta) dedicated to Kali, the fearsome goddess of time and death. From around 1830, distinctive, quickly painted souvenirs were produced in large numbers for visitors who flocked to the temple. The images were intended to aid domestic worship and typically illustrate Hindu deities. Later, mass-produced prints replaced Kalighat paintings. The Hindu gods and goddesses were popular
subjects for the Kalighat artists. Images of Vishnu in one of his ten incarnations or avatars were particularly prevalent. This painting shows Vishnu as his first avatar, Matsya the fish. Vishnu took the form of a fish to save humankind and the ancient texts during an enormous flood. As part of the enterprise Matsya killed the conch demon and when he blows into the conch shell, the balance of
the earth is restored.

Place of origin
Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India
Painting, Watercolour
watercolour with silver paint on paper
42.5 x 27.3 cm
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Purchased 1959
Accession number