India, sate of Karnataka, Mysore. ca. 1830-40. Opaque watercolor on paper. Lent by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Glowing tones of rich emerald, carmine, and gold animate this simple icon of Sarasvati, the goddess of learning and music. She is draped in an open-ended garland of pink flowers and holds the lute-like vina, a rectangular palm-leaf manuscript, and a writing implement. Devotees, particularly children starting school, and students of all ages, worship Sarasvati as the source of knowledge. As the goddess of music she is particularly sacred to those who sing or play musical instruments. This painted image was made for a family shrine in the Mysore region of southern India during the early nineteenth century.