Dangerous Enchantments: the Painted Melodies of Yoginis

18 January 2023

For centuries, philosophers in India wrote that paintings should be looked at with insight. This talk is about the ways we look into paintings and about how paintings look back at us. It is about what a look does to us: how it conveys sound and feeling, how it can give us goosebumps and make us fall in love, and how it can enchant us to leave ourselves behind.  Paintings once commanded that kind of look and people once yielded to it. Dangerous Enchantments explores the power that paintings of yoginis once had to bless or bedevil those who looked at them and to lure them into dangerous places of the mind and heart.




Molly Emma Aitken writes about image ontologies, hermeneutics, materiality, and relationships among painting, music, dance, dress, sociability and self-fashioning within the ambit of South Asia’s royal courts. Her book The Intelligence of Tradition in Rajput Court Painting (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010) broke new ground with its commitment to the meaningful interplay of court painting styles. The book won CAA’s Charles Rufus Morey award in 2011 and the Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize in 2012. Aitken is currently working on two manuscripts. One, We Are All Women, is about artful expressions of loving and gendering in elite Mughal society.  A personal exploration, the second, In the Sisterhood of Images, turns on the pressure a life exerts on scholarship. Aitken is Associate Professor of early modern to modern South Asian visual arts at The Graduate Center and The City College of New York (CUNY).


The Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru