A list of six essential qualities of painting, Sadanga is mentioned in the Kamasutra of Vatsyayana, dating to the third century CE, and its subsequent commentaries. Sadanga is often thought of as the basis for early mediaeval painting traditions in India.
The sadanga or six “limbs” of painting are explained in the Jayamangala of Yashodhara, a thirteenth-century commentary on the Kamasutra. Rupabheda refers to a distinction of visual form; pramana is the quality of representing proportion in a painting; bhava is the emotion represented in the painting; lavanyayojana is the quality which brings together grace and artistic quality in representations; sadrishyam or verisimilitude is the representation in the painting of what the artist’s mind sees; and varnika bhanga is the division and use of colour in a painting. A perfect painting may be achieved if all the “limbs” of a painting are adhered to.
The sadanga may be compared to other lists of essential qualities related to painting compiled in the early mediaeval period. The Samarangana Sutradhara of the eleventh century outlines eight technical skills or ashta angas that an artist must hone to create wall paintings, including the making of brushes and the application of plaster among others.
Scholars have argued that artists such as Raja Ravi Varma utilise the sadanga principles in their compositions. The aesthetic theory of sadanga also had a significant influence on the Bengal School of art, headed by Abanindranath Tagore. Tagore expanded on the theory in an essay titled Sadanga, or the Six Limbs of Painting (1921), outlining the sadanga as the fundamental rules of art.
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