Indian Paintings From the Ludwig Habighorst Collection

J.P Losty, 2018

The collecting and the study of Indian painting have been central to Ludwig Habighorst’s life. A chance encounter with Indian miniatures nearly fifty years ago ignited this lifelong passion. For Habighorst, a professor of Radiology, collecting has been a creative and sensual process where he has been guided by his eye and curiosity rather than by a purely academic focus. Hence his partiality for Pahari painting and his particular interest in the visual expression of human nature with its many vicissitudes.


The collection is multifaceted. There are masterpieces and rare treasures such as the two Bilaspur Bhagavata Purana folios (Image 1 & 2) and the Guler portrait of Raja Dalip Singh attributed to Pandit Seu . Other paintings are compelling for their insight into the human psyche, such as the madness of love or the wrath of the gods. The characters of the ‘Small Mankot’ Ramayana are likewise filled with human emotion. 


One of the collection’s intriguing aspects is a series of depictions of the preparation and consumption of Bhang (a form of edible cannabis, used in food and drink from as early as 1000 B.C. in the region of South Asia). Gods and mortals are shown to be equally involved in this pursuit: one beautifully rendered scene reveals the god Shiva and his family thus engaged in a mountainous landscape. Shiva and his wife Parvati are sieving green bhang and their children, the elephant-headed Ganesh and his brother Kartikeya, eagerly await their share. In another painting a group of intoxicated ascetics consume this narcotic drink whilst animals take advantage of their inebriated state. The artist Pemji has imbued the painting with satirical undertones in his depiction of the disorientated state these ascetics found themselves in.