& ISLAMIC WORKS OF ART
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THE LOVING MEMORY OF MY
MAGGIE WAKELIN LEGG 1935-2013
A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S
It is with great pleasure that I present this twelfth catalogue of Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art, which I dedicate to my Mother. I would like to thank the many scholars and experts who have so kindly and generously helped us prepare this catalogue: Robert Skelton, Jerry Losty, John Seyller, Andrew Topsfield, Robert J. Del Bonta, Will Kwiatkowski, Pratapaditya Pal, Sunil Sharma, Joan Cummins, Nick Barnard, Jennifer Scarce, H端lya Bilgi, Malini Roy, Catherine Glynn and Adeela Qureshi. I would like to thank the following for their expertise in the installation and display of the works of art: Helen Loveday, Louise Gooch, Colin Bowles and Tim Blake. Leng Tan has written the entries for this catalogue. I would like to thank Leng for his ability to tell a story so well so that it brings each work of art to life. Leng is a perfectionist in his writing which shows so beautifully in every catalogue description. William Edwards has written the sculpture and ceramic entries with wonderful research and enthusiasm. I would also like to thank William for looking after the catalogue production at all stages. Finally, I would like to thank Alan Tabor for his excellent photography, Richard Harris for all his superb repro and colour preparation and Peter Keenan for his exquisite catalogue design.
Mughal Inlaid Marble Table
Tekfur Sarayi Tile
Mughal Jade & Agate
Rock Crystal Dagger
Ivory & Wood
Indian Emerald Necklace
Indian Enamelled Metalwork
1 E M A C I AT E D B U D D H A
A small carved dark grey-green schist sculpture of the emaciated Buddha, seated in dhyanasana on a grass-covered pedestal, his head framed by a plain circular nimbus.
barely support the ends of his sanghati (triple robe), the rest of which falls in pleats across his lap, covering all but the toes of his feet. The detailed depiction of how an emaciated torso would look suggests a knowledge of anatomy from the sculptor, which contributes to the power of the image. The spine, visable through the sunken abdomen, is a feature which is also described in Buddhist texts.1
The Buddha stares directly out at the viewer, his deep-set eyes creating a haunting, almost hypnotic quality. Originally, semi-precious gems would have been set into the recesses. Above, his matted, wavy hair is tied to the top in a usnisha. The smoothly polished nimbus radiates from behind his gaunt, skeletal face with its pursed narrow mouth and wispy beard. Below, his torso shows the web of tendons around the neck and ribcage. His flesh has almost entirely disappeared, leaving only skin and sinews tightly stretched around the skeleton. Bony arms to either side
Representations of the Fasting Buddha are rare in Gandharan art.2 The size suggests that it would have been part of a portable shrine for worship at home or from a larger panel of jatakas or stories from the Buddhaâ€™s life. Although small, it is intricately carved. For similar emaciated Buddhas, also formerly from the Samuel Eilenberg Collection, see Martin Lerner and Steven Kossak, The Lotus Transcendent, 1991, pp. 84-85. A much larger emaciated Buddha in the same pose can be seen in Isao Kurita, Gandharan Art 1: The Buddhaâ€™s Life Story, 2003, p.75, P2-IV.
GANDHARA, 2ND/3RD CENTURY HEIGHT: 11.4 CM WIDTH: 6.7 CM DEPTH: 2.8 CM
Depicting both Siddhartha’s absolute accomplishment in ascetic practices as well as their horrific futility, images of the emaciated Buddha refer to the end of the six years Siddhartha spent in the Uruvela forest learning from, surpassing, and then renouncing the leading ascetic practices of his time for their inability to deliver spiritual enlightenment. Here Buddha sits in meditation at the brink of death through excessive fasting. Upon his recovery, he pronounced the famed doctrine of the “Middle Way” to enlightenment between the extremes of austerity and sensual indulgence.
Provenance: Samuel Eilenberg Private American Collection On loan to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1996-2001
References: 1. Susan L. Huntington, The Art Of Ancient India, 1985, p.142. 2. Martin Lerner and Steven Kossak, The Lotus Transcendent, 1991, p. 84.
GANDHARA, 2ND/3RD CENTURY HEIGHT: 59.5 CM WIDTH: 32 CM DEPTH: 16 CM
A carved grey schist sculpture of the head and torso of a standing Buddha, clutching the folds of his billowing sanghati (triple robe) in his left hand and framed behind by part of a plain circular nimbus. His oval face stares out at the viewer, with a calm expression and perhaps just the hint of a smile on his lips. Above, a wide, straight nose and prominent urna sit between almond-shaped eyes, the lids carved with sharp edges. His dense wavy hair is grouped at the top into a usnisha or top knot. On either side of his face sit flat, elongated ears. Below, his smooth, plain neck is surrounded by the collar of the sanghati, which covers both his broad shoulders, and falls in thick, fluid folds over his torso, giving a feeling of life and movement, and creating an almost rhythmical pattern. His left arm hangs down by his side, following the contours of the body, with the left hand clutching at a looped edge of the robe as it gathers over his wrist. His right arm is missing, but almost certainly would have been raised in abhayamudra or the gesture of reassurance or fearlessness. For similar examples, see W. Zwalf, A Catalogue of the Gandhara Sculpture in the British Museum, 1996, vol. I, col. pl. 2; and Isao Kurita, Gandharan Art II: The World of the Buddha, 2003, p. 78, pl. 201, and p. 85, pl. 216.
Provenance: Hagop Kevorkian Collection until 1962. The Springfield Museums, Springfield, Massachusetts, purchased from California with funds from the Raymond A. Bidwell Purchase Collection in 1963 (acc. no. 63.S02).
3 S E AT E D G A N E S H A
CAMBODIA (KHMER, PRE-ANGKOR PERIOD), 8TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 18.2 CM WIDTH: 12.2 CM DEPTH: 11.6 CM
A carved greyish yellow sandstone sculpture of Ganesha, seated on a square pedestal base and facing forward. He sits cross-legged in paryankasana, the seated position with one leg over the other, and with his large trunk hanging down and to the right, its tip curling slightly down. His large ears rest on his shoulders. His body is naked save for a traditional Khmer wraparound sampot, a long rectangular cloth that can be tied and draped in various ways, which can be seen hanging between his crossed legs. Ganesha’s arms are slightly bent with one resting on his outstretched knee below. He holds his broken tusk in the left hand. This fits in with the legend of Ganesha angrily throwing his broken tusk at the moon after it started to laugh at him for falling over. In his other hand is probably a ball of sweets or laddus into which his trunk reaches. For a similar standing example of a Khmer Ganesha from the same period, see the Christie’s New York Indian and Southeast Asian Art auction catalogue, 21st March 2007, lot 269. Ganesha is the elephant-headed god of auspiciousness and son of Shiva and Parvati. A god who removes obstacles and grants success, he is first represented in Cambodia in the seventh century. The combination of human and animal form came about when Ganesha, who did not know his father but who guarded his
palace, stopped Shiva from coming in after a long journey. In a fury Shiva reacted to his unknown guard by chopping off his head. The intervention of Parvati, Shiva’s consort and Ganesha’s mother, made it possible to attach to the body of the young man the head of the first being to pass the scene of the drama. The first living creature to pass by was an elephant. In this way, Ganesha acquired the strength of the elephant, kept the intelligence of a man, and became a god. To this day Ganesha remains a much-loved god in India. Although primarily a Hindu deity, Ganesha has also been popular with both Buddhists and Jains. He is a familiar figure in the art of Southeast Asia, especially favoured in Cambodia, Thailand and Java, with each regional representation differing from the other and from the Indian original.1 Though Ganesha imagery is unusually rich and varied in Southeast Asia, he appears predominantly in his role as protector and guardian. He is also frequently found in relationship to Shiva, but as a separate deity rather than as a son.2 According to Robert L. Brown in “Images of Ganesh from South-East Asia” in Pratapaditya Pal (ed.), Ganesh the benevolent, 1995, pp. 95-114, the earliest Southeast Asian Ganesha images appear at several sites in mainland Southeast Asia in the second half of the sixth to the seventh century. One of these is a seated Ganesha from Tuol Pheak Kin in present day Cambodia, which Brown illustrates on p. 96, fig. 1 of his article. As the earliest Indian Ganeshas, such as that from Udayagiri in Madhya Pradesh, are dateable to circa 400 AD, there is a two
hundred year time-lag between the earliest Indian representations and the seventh century Cambodian examples that remains unexplained.3 From these seventh century beginnings, the mainland Southeast Asian images of Ganesha became within a century a varied but stylistically related group. The many small Ganesha images in stone and bronze dating from the five-hundred-year Angkor period testify to his popularity amongst the Khmer.4 Even today in Cambodia he is worshipped throughout the population and invoked at the start of a new venture or before a journey.
References: 1. Pratapaditya Pal, “Introduction”, pp. v-x and Robert L. Brown, “Images of Ganesh from South-East Asia”, pp. 95-97 in Pratapaditya Pal (ed.), Ganesh the benevolent, 1995. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid.
Shiva and Parvati. He is a god who removes obstacles and grants success. The combination of human and animal form came about when Ganesha, who did not know his father but who guarded his palace, stopped Shiva from coming in after a long journey. In a fury, Shiva reacted to his unknown guard by chopping off his head. The intervention of Parvati, Shivaâ€™s consort and Ganeshaâ€™s mother, made it possible to attach to the body of the young man the head of the first being to pass the scene of the drama. The first living creature to pass by was an elephant. In this way, Ganesha acquired the strength of the elephant, kept the intelligence of a man, and became a god.
INDIA (KASHMIR, KARKOTA PERIOD), FIRST HALF OF THE 9TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 15.7 CM WIDTH: 9.2 CM DEPTH: 4 CM
A carved green chlorite sculpture of a seated Ganesha on a high pedestal base. The sculpture is carved from dark jade-green chlorite and depicts the deity in lalitasana, the position of royal ease associated with princely subjects. He sits upon a lion throne set on a rectangular pedestal, each lion facing forwards and roaring, perhaps in alarm as they are crushed by the weight of Ganesha above. Each lion rests its chin on its front paws. Although the rat is normally associated with Ganesha, the lion is often depicted instead as his mount in the northwest from Afghanistan to Himachal Pradesh. 1 Between the lions is a heavily eroded contorted figure which serves as a footstool to Ganesha, who sits above holding a rosary in his outer right hand, and an axe in the left hand. The inner right arm, which held the severed tusk, is broken off while the left holds a bowl of sweetmeats (laddus). He wears a large beaded necklace, a triple crescent diadem and an animal pelt which is knotted by the paws above the belly.
The sculpture is slightly worn due to the ointments used in worship wearing away the surface detail. Originally it would have been part of a domestic shrine. For a similar but slightly earlier Kashmir stone deity, see Pratapaditya Pal, Indian Sculpture: A Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection, Vol. II, circa 700-1800, 1988, p. 62, no. 6.
Provenance: The Simon Digby Collection
Reference: 1. Pratapaditya Pal, Indian Sculpture: A Catalogue of the Los Angeles County
Ganesha is the elephant-headed god of auspiciousness and son of
Museum of Art Collection, Vol. II, circa 700-1800, 1988, p. 79.
5 FEMALE BUST
NORTHERN INDIA (GUPTA PERIOD, POSSIBLY KASHMIR), 5TH/6TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 13.5 CM WIDTH: 11.5 CM DEPTH: 7 CM
A reddish terracotta sculpture of a lady wearing a magnificent pearl necklace resting between her fulsome breasts. She gazes out slightly to her left, as if disturbed by something unseen, her face betraying a relaxed yet interested expression. Her prominent almond-shaped eyes and deeply incised brows compete with her full lips and long nose for our attention. Her ears are seemingly unadorned whilst her fabulous hair has been carefully shaped into rows of tight curls secured above by a floral rosette band. Although commonly used at the time, because of its delicate composition, terracotta and stucco sculptures rarely survived the centuries and periodic destruction that the region suffered. Influence from earlier Gandharan sculpture can be seen in the rounded face and carefully modelled hair. Her features however are much sharper, especially the eyes and eyebrows which are heavily pronounced, suggesting an attribution to Kashmir in what was northwestern India. It is possible that she is an apsara or celestial dancer.
Provenance: The Bruno Cooper Collection
6 S TA N D I N G V I S H N U
NORTHERN INDIA (PROBABLY MADHYA PRADESH), 11TH/12TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 44 CM WIDTH: 13.6 CM DEPTH: 10.8 CM
A carved pinkish sandstone sculpture of Vishnu, standing upright in a still and formal pose (samapada) and wearing a tall crown or mukuta. Vishnu faces forwards, with a slight smile upon his face. A large jewelled earring or karnphul hangs from each ear. His mukuta is decorated with jewels to all sides and a knop finial to the top. The only remaining arm, slightly bent at the elbow, still shows traces of his vanamala (garland of wild flowers) just below a jewelled bazuband (upper arm bracelet). To his bare torso is a series of large necklaces surrounding a central srivatsa mark indicating his godlike status. A janayu or sacred thread falls down from his left shoulder.
Below, he wears an elaborate dhoti, with a sash draped horizontally across his thighs. His lower legs show a further part of the vanamala. The lack of northern dress, and the positioning of his right arm, suggesting varadamudra or the gesture of gift-bestowing or charity, as well as the remains of his vanamala indicate that this figure is almost certainly that of Vishnu, rather than Surya.1 For a similar Vishnu sculpture, see Pratapaditya Pal, Asian Art at The Norton Simon Museum, Volume 1: Art from the Indian Subcontinent, 2003, p.136, no. 94.
Provenance: The Bruno Cooper Collection
Reference: 1. Pratapaditya Pal, Asian Art at The Norton Simon Museum, Volume 1: Art from the Indian Subcontinent, 2003, p. 136.
7 T H E S U N G O D S U R YA
NORTHERN INDIA (PROBABLY MADHYA PRADESH), 11TH/12TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 33.5 CM WIDTH: 22 CM DEPTH: 13.3 CM
A carved pinkish yellow sandstone sculpture of Surya, the Hindu sun god, depicting his head and torso, framed by a circular halo behind. Surya stands upright, in a stiff and formal pose (samapada), his head looking slightly down with a calm and serene expression on his face. His thick full lips sit below a long thin nose and large almond-shaped eyes and wide brows. A large circular jewelled earring or karnphul hangs from each ear. Above, he wears a tall and ornate crown or mukuta, decorated with jewels and with a central kirtimukha (face of glory). Framing his head behind is a prominent nimbus, decorated with radiating bands of lappets, acanthus leaves and fluted sections, perhaps suggesting the rays of the sun. He wears to the front of his body
a cuirass (a piece of armour which covers the torso), suggested by the diamond-shaped cross-hatched area. Resting upon this are a number of large necklaces and a central srivatsa mark indicating his godlike status. He originally would have probably held a lotus flower in each hand. According to Pratapaditya Pal, Surya images from northern India usually wear a cuirass such as seen here, as well as the tall mukuta seen in sculptures from both the north and south.1 Up until the thirteenth century, Surya was an important deity and had many temples dedicated in his honour, mainly in northern India. The colour of the stone suggests a possible location of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh.
Provenance: The Bruno Cooper Collection
Reference: 1. Pratapaditya Pal, Indian Sculpture: A Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection, Vol. II, circa 700-1800, 1988, p.120.
a temple wall where she looked down upon the worshippers.
NORTHERN INDIA (UTTAR PRADESH, PROBABLY MATHURA), 11TH/12TH CENTURY
The rich red sandstone used for this sculpture, with its flecks of yellow, suggests Mathura in Uttar Pradesh as an area of origin. This was one of the capitals and artistic centres of the Kushan empire from the 1st to 3rd centuries AD, and its Buddhist sculptures were known for the mottled red sandstone used. Our figure, although much later in date, is also carved in the Kushan style, with rounded and voluptuous features, therefore creating a sculpture which mirrors those of nearly a thousand years earlier. The art of Mathura acquired progressively more Indian elements and reached a very high sophistication during the Gupta empire, between the 4th and the 6th century AD.
HEIGHT: 13.6 CM WIDTH: 11.7 CM DEPTH: 7 CM
A carved mottled red sandstone sculpture of the head and upper torso of a female apsara or guardian. She is modelled with a rounded face, her wavy hair pulled back and secured to the top. She is decorated with a number of necklaces above her rounded breasts, as well as floral rosette earrings and jewelled upper arm ornaments. Part of a long pleated shawl or sash can be seen falling from the top of her right arm which she has stretched above her head. The posture and adornment of this fragment suggest that she would probably have been an apsara, a female celestial dancer. She would have been attached to
Provenance: The Bruno Cooper Collection
9 J I N A S U PA R S VA N AT H A
INDIA (RAJASTHAN OR GUJARAT ), 12TH/13TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 39.2 CM WIDTH: 38 CM DEPTH: 13 CM
A finely carved white marble architectural frieze depicting three jinas and attendants within a columned temple setting. The largest central figure is probably that of the seventh of the twenty-four jinas or saviours, Suparsvanatha, because of the swastika carved below, a symbol associated with him. The central jina faces forward and is seated in the meditative pose of dhyanasana, cross-legged upon a cushion, with the accompanying hand gesture of dhyanamudra. His overlong arms, an iconographic feature of the jina, rest in his lap, his palms facing upwards. He has a serene expression, his eyes half closed below thin wide arched brows, and his head adorned with tight snail shell curls. His ears are elongated after having been stretched from heavy earrings worn before renunciation, and from which fall onto his shoulders further tight uncut curls of hair. To his chest is a diamond-shaped floral srivatsa mark, an auspicious symbol, which promotes good fortune. Above him is a central kirtimukha, (face of glory) flanked by floral scrolls, which issue forth from a pair of addorsed makaras below. These
makaras stand to the edge of protruding columned niches which house small, seated attendants within. Further identical niches separated by makaras frame the edges of the sculpture. Above Suparsvanatha are tapering horizontal platforms decorated with the kirtimukha and small central pediments, with one housing a pair of tiny garland bearers. Suparsvanatha has a small chowrie bearer standing next to him on each side, with a further pair of garland bearers floating above. On each edge of the sculpture a tall, thin jina stands in the kayotsarga meditative pose, strictly upright with elongated arms and feet together, enclosed within pairs of collared columns. It is possible that this panel could have been situated above a doorway or entrance (uttaranga) to a Jain temple, where makaras were often placed because of their connection with water, cleansing the worshipper as he entered. For images of the lavishly decorated Jain temple at Mount Abu in Rajasthan, see Susan L. Huntington, The Art of Ancient India, 1985, pp. 495-497.
sacredness of all life. The apparent founder of Jainism was Mahavir (meaning “Great Spirit”), who was a contemporary of Buddha. Mahavir was supposedly the last of the twenty-four tirthankaras (meaning the ones who lead to the other shore). Also sometimes known as jinas (victors or heroes), they showed how to achieve release from the cycle of endless rebirth by purification of mind and body.² The similarity to Buddhist iconography is obvious, but Jain tirthankaras can be distinguished by the nudity of their figures. A similar, larger seated figure of Suparsvanatha can be seen in the Museum Rietberg in Zurich, Switzerland.
Provenance: Private East Coast Collection The Bruno Cooper Collection
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Nick Barnard for his expert advice.
References: 1. Pratapaditya Pal, The Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art from India, 1994, p. 14.
Whilst the Buddha remains the pre-eminent liberator and teacher among the Buddhists, the Jains believe in a series of twenty-four tirthankaras who ford the gulf between samsara or the phenomenal world, and liberation.¹ Jainism originated in India before the arrival of the Aryans, and it based its ideals on asceticism, pacifism and the
2. Roy C. Craven, Indian Art, 1976, p. 33.
10 I N L A I D M A R B L E TA B L E
INDIA (MUGHAL), CIRCA 1700 HEIGHT: 7.8 CM WIDTH: 39.2 CM DEPTH: 39 CM
A square marble table or footrest standing on four small round feet, the crisp white marble delicately inlaid with a pattern of radiating floral designs in the pietra dura technique. The panoply of different coloured hard stones and semi-precious stones include lapis lazuli or lajward (blue), ˛ carnelian or aqiq (orange and shades of red), chalcedony (yellow) and a subtle, ever-changing mixture of emerald, jade, chlorite and chrysoprase for the green. The design is a kaleidoscopic fusion of naturalistic, stylised and imagined flowers of the Mughal repertoire. At the centre is a composite flower-head with a small rosette of blue and green petals from which radiate sixteen overlapping petals in alternating orangey red and green. From the tips of the red petals sprout quatrefoil floral sprays with ochre and blue petals and green leaves and stems. Serrated green leaves
arranged in bifurcated pairs, with yellow and blue tulips at the interstices, frame the floral sprays to form the outlines of a large eight-petalled flower. From this flower unfurl scrolling and interlacing arabesque vines bearing stylised flowers of variegated form and profile, shown in different sizes and stages of bud and bloom. The four large flowers with drooping red and orange petals and protruding clusters of blue, yellow and green stamens are columbines, from which vines sprout into the corners bearing lilies, tulips and composite blooms of the imagination. The flowers are accompanied by a chorus of unfurling buds, twisting and turning leaves, and trembling stamens and pistils. The interlacing vines that loop, coil, hinge and hook around each other have a supple spring that alternates between taut tension and free flow, achieved by the finesse of the pietra dura inlays. We may here appropriate the words used by the architectural historian Percy Smith to describe the celebrated pietra dura designs of the Taj Mahal, “So sensitive and yet so firm is the drawing that it resembles the spirited sweep of a brush rather than the slow laborious cutting of a chisel”.1 The central design is surrounded by a large border of scrolling poppies
framed by narrower margins of quatrefoil flowers. The edges of the table are decorated with friezes of pendant flowers and buds. The base of the table is carved with a lotus rosette in low relief with two overlapping layers of radiating petals with incised veins. A similar marble footrest with pietra dura floral decoration in the Musée du Louvre, Paris is illustrated in Sophie Makariou (ed.), Islamic Art at the Musée du Louvre, 2012, pp. 385-387. Dating to the early eighteenth century and enhanced by sculptural feet and inlays of dazzling polychromy, the decoration of the Louvre footrest is as bold as ours is delicate and refined. Though described as a footrest, both the Louvre table and the present may have been used for the display of small precious objects such as vases, flagons, rosewater sprinklers, pandans, and small cups and dishes for delectable courtly pleasures.2 These small tables would also have functioned as bathing platforms for princesses and noblewomen, who are often depicted seated or standing on such tables in miniature
paintings, combing their wet tresses or demurely towelling themselves while musing on the perennial subject of love. The advantage of standing on a platform would be so that bathing water would flow away from the feet. For related Mughal gemstone inlay in marble, see Pratapaditya Pal, Janice Leoshko, Joseph M. Dye, III and Stephen Markel, Romance of the Taj Mahal, 1989, pp. 132, 133, 157 and 240, nos. 133, 134, 168 and 261.
Provenance: Spink and Son, London Private Japanese Collection
Exhibited and Published: Spink and Son, Visions of the Orient: Indian & Islamic Works of Art, London, Tuesday, 17th October to Friday, 3rd November 1995, pp. 54 and 55, cat. no. 32.
References: 1. Pratapaditya Pal, Janice Leoshko, Joseph M. Dye, III and Stephen Markel, Romance of the Taj Mahal, 1989, p. 131. 2. Sophie Makariou (ed.), Islamic Art at the Musée du Louvre, 2012, p. 387.
11 INTERLACING ARABESQUES
WESTERN CENTRAL ASIA (TIMURID), LATE 14TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 38.5 CM WIDTH: 31.5 CM DEPTH: 8 CM
A large carved and glazed terracotta tile, the curved form of the surface decorated with deeply carved turquoise arabesques surrounding a white quatrefoil rosette to the centre, within an ogival formed by interlacing turquoise vines. The curved form of the tile suggests that it would have been part of the cladding of a monumental pillar with a circular cross-section. The white quatrefoil rises from a mound composed of two vines looped into a bifurcated foot, from which sprout three bold petals with scalloped edges and internal lobes, the interstices and petal centres embellished with small turquoise buds and petals. The turquoise arabesques that radiate from the white quatrefoil are organised within interlocking ogivals, each containing a different floral design. Above the white rosette are addorsed leaves flanking a trefoil flower. To the left are lotus flowers and split-leaf palmettes. Below, in contrast to the robustly solid flowers and leaves seen elsewhere in the composition, is an elaborate trefoil palmette in which the petals and leaves are depicted in skeletal outline by scrolling vines, then filled by a tracery of inner tendrils and leaves.
and tightly coiled buds that unfurl within the crevices. Shallow hollows scooped into the centre of the large lotus palmettes contrast with the deep recesses from which the vines emerge, creating various levels of relief that orchestrate the play of light and shadow across the sumptuous, luminous glazes. The Timurid period saw a great flowering in the production of tiles. Wide-ranging techniques of tile manufacture and decoration were developed for the external revetment and interior decoration of its monumental architecture. Spurred on by the building of mosques, palaces and tombs in such cities as the fabled Timurid capital of Samarkand, in grandiose projects initiated by Timur and continued by his descendants, the army of artists and craftsmen developed what is often described as the International Timurid style. The forms of Ilkhanid brick architecture were developed into monumental structures such as massive domes and iwans, every surface of which was clad in a mantle of glistening tile-work in a bewildering range of techniques.1
Provenance: Private Collection assembled in the 1950s Private Scottish Collection
Exhibited and Published: Mikhail Baskhanov, Maria Baskhanova, Pavel Petrov and Nikolaj Serikoff, Arts from the Land of Timur: An Exhibition from a Scottish Private Collection, 8th to 13th January 2013, p. 220, cat. no. 462; catalogue published 2012.
Adding further richness to the ensemble are crescent-shaped leaves that punctuate the vines,
1. Venetia Porter, Islamic Tiles, 1995, pp. 62-70; GĂśnul Ă–ney, Ceramic Tiles in Islamic Architecture, 1987, pp. 60-63.
12 MUQARNAS TILE
WESTERN CENTRAL ASIA (TIMURID), LATE 14TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 30.5 CM WIDTH: 18.5 CM DEPTH: 14 CM
A carved and glazed terracotta muqarnas tile, decorated with a deeply carved symmetrical composition vertically divided into two elongated halves. Each half is of pointed arch-shape and decorated
internally with an ogival lattice composed of five pairs of addorsed split-leaf palmettes that form overlapping ogivals. The stems of the split-leaf palmettes interlace between the ogival forms. The leaves of the split-leaf palmettes face outwards to give a sense of the luxuriant growth and spikiness of form characteristic of the Timurid period. Each of the five ogivals encloses a different stylised floral spray; the floral sprays have varying configurations of three or four rounded and pointed petals. The uppermost ogival is crowned by a trefoil palmette formed by an arabesque interlace. The tile has a curved triangular projection at the top of its elongated rectangular body, which gives it a three-dimensional quality, complemented by the deep carving in relief to the surface. Between the two halves of the tile, just under the point of the arch, is a three-petalled flower on a bifurcated stem.
Carved and glazed terracotta is a highly attractive technique that predates the Timurid conquest, one of the earliest examples being a fragment in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London dated AH 722/1322 AD. Unlike other techniques in the wide range employed by the Timurid tile-makers such as cut-tile mosaic and cuerda seca, carved and glazed terracotta seems only to have been used in the fourteenth century. Similar tiles form part of the muqarnas squinches at the Mausoleum of an Anonymous Woman in the necropolis complex of Shah-e Zende at Samarkand. A corner vault from this building containing a similar tile is illustrated in Jean Soustiel and Yves Porter, with photography by Antoine Lesieur, Tombs of Paradise: The Shah-e Zende in Samarkand and architectural tiles of Central Asia, 2003, p. 87.
Provenance: Private Collection assembled in the 1950s Private Scottish Collection
The tile is covered with a luminous translucent turquoise glaze, offset by a crisp white border. The glaze is thickly applied in an unctuous layer, covering the undulating relief with rich, gleaming colour.
Exhibited and Published: Mikhail Baskhanov, Maria Baskhanova, Pavel Petrov and Nikolaj Serikoff, Arts from the Land of Timur: An Exhibition from a Scottish Private Collection, 8th to 13th January 2013, p. 214, cat. no. 447; catalogue published 2012. In this
Muqarnas is an Arabic term referring to corbels covered in “stalactites”, especially in the vaulted areas of archways or in cupolas. This device, which became widespread in the twelfth century throughout almost the whole of the Islamic world, is one of the most characteristic features of Islamic architecture. This tile would have formed part of a muqarnas structure within and below the spandrels of an arch, in a mausoleum or a mosque. The form can also be seen spread like the leaves of a palm tree as the capital of a round pillar.
catalogue, the authors date the tile to the early rather than late fourteenth century.
Literature: Frédérique Beaupertius-Bressand, L’or Bleu de Samarkand: The Blue Gold of Samarkand, 1997. Gérard Degeorge and Yves Porter, The Art of the Islamic Tile, 2002. Thomas W. Lentz and Glenn D. Lowry, Timur and the Princely Vision: Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century, 1989. Roland and Sabrina Michaud and Michael Barry, Colour and Symbolism in Islamic Architecture: Eight Centuries of the Tile-Maker’s Art, 1995.
13 C A R T O U C H E S A N D F L O R A L S P R AY S
may be explained by the presence of Persian tile-workers in Bursa at the time of the tomb’s construction. The supervisor of the tomb project, ˛ Nakkas Ali, a native of Bursa, is said to have been trained in Timurid controlled Samarkand, and the columns flanking the mihrab at the tomb have been proudly signed as “the work of the masters of Tabriz”. 1 Other cuerda seca tiles of the same period can be seen in the Yeşil Cami (Green Mosque) in Bursa and the mihrab of Karaman İbrahim Bey İmareti (hospice) now at the Çinili Köşk of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
TURKEY (BURSA), 15TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 21.5 CM WIDTH: 22.3CM
A polychrome tile moulded in low relief and painted in the cuerda seca technique, featuring a symmetrical design of a central quatrefoil cartouche containing four petal medallions, each filled with one of two stylised floral sprays. The top and bottom ogivals have a vibrant yellow flower within, whilst the left and right hold a white spray with petals of varying colours. The flowers are all against a brown ground. The raised cartouche is decorated with scrolling patterns and framed by a cobalt blue ground, featuring a continuous meander of floral sprays with turquoise stems and white rosette flowers. Raised edges of further cartouches can be seen to each corner of the main field, and the design is enclosed to either side by a raised yellow and turquoise border.
Provenance: Formerly in the collection of Alexander J. Choremi, Alexandria, assembled in the late 19th/early 20th century, probably from Gallery Kalebdjian, Paris and thence by descent to the present owner.
Exhibited: Exposition d’art Musulman, Alexandria, Egypt, 1925
Similar tiles can be seen adorning the entrance to the tomb of Sultan Mehmed I (d. 1421) in Bursa. The colours and design of these tiles suggest similarities with the tile-work traditions of the Timurid dynasty in Iran and Central Asia. This
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Hülya Bilgi for her expert advice.
Reference: 1. John Carswell, Iznik Pottery, 1998, p. 16.
14 SAZ LEAF AND SCROLLING VINES
NORTHERN INDIA (MUGHAL, PROBABLY LAHORE), 17TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 20.3 CM WIDTH: 19.8 CM
A tile in the cuerda seca technique with a superbly lyrical design of a softly serrated saz leaf that scrolls diagonally from the lower right corner to the middle left on a vine that continues in a sweeping curve, below an integral border with a scrolling vine framed by orange margins. The saz leaf is filled with a tier of flower buds along its central vein. To the left of the saz leaf is an elaborate floral spray, also arranged on a curve and composed of three flowers on their multiple stems surmounted by a tier of floral buds. To the left edge of the tile can be seen a large flower with bi-coloured petals. To the right edge are two small flowers similar to those on the floral spray. Clinging to the border above are a bud, calyx and pendant leaf. The tile is painted in rich sumptuous glazes of warm orangey ochre, green, aubergine and cobalt blue heightened with accents of a very pale lilac against a vibrant yellow ground. The bold composite flowers and leaves in the main field languidly unfurl asymmetrically against the sunny yellow ground. In contrast, the border above has a tautly sprung yellow vine on a green ground, formally and symmetrically arranged, and punctuated by delicate flowers and leaves. The different rhythms, colours and motifs of the two intertwining vines result in a delightful visual syncopation.
The saz leaf shows the influence of Ottoman designs. A Mughal tile of almost identical design is in the David Collection, Copenhagen. However, the motifs are reversed with the saz leaf sweeping diagonally from left to right, suggesting that originally, when installed, the overall pattern would have included leaves and flowers swaying in both directions. A pair of tiles published in the Simon Ray 2005 Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, pp. 58-59, cat. no. 26, affords a further glimpse of the larger pattern. The tile on the left is similar in design to the present tile while the tile on the right continues the design with an overblown lotus superimposed with a luxuriant pomegranate on interlacing vines. Like the saz leaf, the pomegranate and lotus are of Ottoman inspiration. A Mughal tile in the British Museum with a yellow ground and a saz leaf similarly derived from Ottoman design is illustrated in Venetia Porter, Islamic Tiles, 1995, p. 91, fig. 83. The British Museum also has a small border tile with a floriated S-scroll, closely related in design to the integral border of the present tile. Mughal tiles are extremely rare. Tiles in the cuerda seca technique formed part of the decorative schemes of Mughal monuments and were set into brick and stone buildings, primarily during the reign of Shah Jahan, whose love of floral motifs profoundly influenced the repertoire of the period. Examples include the mosque and tomb of the saint Shah Madani at But Kadal, Zabidal, near Srinagar in Kashmir; the tomb of Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother, also at Srinagar; Mariam Zamani’s mosque
at Lahore; the tomb of the Sufi saint Mian Mir, spiritual advisor to Dara Shikoh, in Lahore; the tomb of Asaf Khan, brother of Nur Jahan and father of Mumtaz Mahal, in the garden of Shahdara near Lahore; and the tomb of the saint Qutb uddin Baktiyar Kaki at Mahrauli near Delhi. The cuerda seca technique (kashi) was brought to northern India from Iran. Robert Skelton has made the observation that even in recent times, the makers of glazed tiles (kashigars) have been Muslims, whereas Hindu builders (sutradhars) have restricted themselves to working with unglazed terracotta.1 The use of a resist application between the colours gives distinct separation between them and a clarity of line which is particularly effective in architectural decoration. The tiles combine glaze techniques learnt from Persian craftsmen with a palette that is distinctly Indian in its warmth. It is likely that Lahore was one of the principal centres of Mughal cuerda seca tile manufacture, but tiles in the cuerda seca technique may also have been made in Kashmir for the monuments constructed there. One of the finest collections of Mughal tiles outside the subcontinent is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. These tiles are discussed in Susan Stronge, “Mughal Tiles from the Reign of Shah Jahan”, in Arts of Asia, December 2011, vol. 41, no. 6, pp. 133-138.
Reference: 1. John Guy and Deborah Swallow (eds.), Arts of India: 1550-1900, 1990, p. 46.
15 BIRD IN FLIGHT
IRAN (SAFAVID), 17TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 24 CM WIDTH: 24.7 CM
A tile in the cuerda seca technique painted in vibrant shades of yellow, cobalt blue, turquoise, black, ochre and green against a white ground. The unusual design features part of a multi-coloured bird flying from right to left, its turquoise feet tucked up underneath its body, as it darts amongst the large floral sprays that emerge from the unseen ground below. The tail mirrors the surrounding leaves in its shape and colour, with the birdâ€™s feathered wings painted in turquoise, black, yellow and ochre, helping them stand out against the green plumage of the body and tail. A large multi-coloured floral
rosette to the top is accompanied by three smaller crocus-like flowers below, which all sprout from the same arcing cobalt stem. The floral scene is pierced by the curving tip of a bold yellow and cobalt cartouche, which fills the right hand side of the tile and contains part of a swirling arabesque with white tendrils. The crisp white ground is rare in Safavid tiles of this era, and creates a boldness of colour and design that adds to the charm of the tile. The captured moment of a bird in mid-flight also produces an energy and movement, which again is unusual in Safavid tiles.
16 C A R N AT I O N S , B U T T E R F L I E S A N D B E E S
IRAN (SAFAVID), 17TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 23 CM WIDTH: 23 CM
A tile in the cuerda seca technique painted in delicate shades of green, yellow, ochre, greyish blue, aubergine and black, with an elegant asymmetrical design of floral sprays, butterflies and bees against a white ground. The bottom and sides of the tile are filled with stylised carnations and tulip sprays, separated by a V-shaped area of white ground to the centre of the tile, where a pair of addorsed bees hover, their legs stretched out as if about to land on the serrated cobalt leaves of the large carnation flowers below. The bees are identically coloured with yellow and black bodies, and large rounded wings which are green on the inside with a yellow decorative stripe and blue on the outside. They each have a pair of bending feelers painted with thin black lines. The prominent cobalt
carnations have pinched central multi-coloured buds, the flowers emerging from cobalt blue stems below. A pair of three petalled flowers in ochre and yellow resembling stylised tulips can be seen to the bottom, curving upwards and inwards from the edges, their stems surrounded by serrated leaves. Above these flowers is a pair of butterflies, with wings in hues of ochre and aubergine, and turquoise and green bodies, painted as if about to land, mirroring the bees to the top. The tile magnificently conveys through its harmonious colours, an understanding of the delicate balance of nature and the mutual relationship between the glorious flowers and the pollinating insects that they attract by their colour and scent. Alighting on a flower with complementary colours, the butterflies would be camouflaged and left to feed unseen and undisturbed by birds. The secrets of nature are whispered to us though colour and design in this sunny corner of a paradisiacal garden.
17 GRAPES ON A VINE
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1550
further pattern of scrolling tendrils decorates the ground.
DIAMETER: 35.5 CM
An underglaze-painted dish in shades of cobalt blue and turquoise on a white ground, depicting a vibrant group of grape bunches surrounded by a meander of scrolling floral sprays to the cavetto and a breaking wave border to the foliate rim. To the underside is a further meander of scrolling sprays. The main field is contained within a double-lined border and features three similar bunches of grapes all hanging from the same cusped horizontal vine. The fruits, painted in a shade of cobalt blue, have splashes of white thus giving them a solidity and depth. Spiralling tendrils and large bi-coloured leaves surround the grapes creating a hectic composition. To the deep cavetto is a repeated pattern of scrolling tendrils surrounding a central cusped cartouche. To the rim is a stylised breaking wave border in cobalt blue with splashes of turquoise, and underneath, a
Grape dishes such as this were produced in the “Potters Style” in around 1540-1550. The palette used was cobalt and turquoise on a white slip, and the designs were a first tentative step towards the exuberant floral naturalism of the second half of the sixteenth century. Their directness of theme is matched by a simpler and more spontaneous draughtsmanship. 1 The bold designs on this dish closely echo those of Chinese porcelain of the same era in a number of aspects. The use of bunches of grapes as a central design was directly copied, as was the breaking wave motif border, which slowly became more exaggerated in Iznik pottery towards the end of the sixteenth century.
The cusped floral motifs to the cavetto and underside also mimic the ruyi cloud bands often seen in Chinese decoration. For similar dishes, see Hülya Bilgi, Dance of Fire: Iznik Tiles and Ceramics in the Sadberk Hanim Museum and Ömer M. Koç Collections, 2009, pp. 76-81, cat. nos. 16, 17 and 18; and Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby, Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, 1989, pp.122-123, pls. 183-192.
Provenance: Private Collection, Lyon, France
This collection was assembled by a doctor living in Lyon, from 1945 until he passed away in 1978. The collection was then passed by descent to his family. The Lyon doctor purchased from various dealers in Paris, amassing a large group of Iznik objects, which included pieces belonging to the private collection illustrated in Bernard Rackham, Islamic Pottery and Italian Maiolica, 1959. Reference: 1. Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby, Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, 1989, p. 115.
18 P E O N Y S P R AY S A N D S E R R AT E D L E AV E S
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1575 DIAMETER: 30.5 CM
An underglaze-painted dish in hues of cobalt blue and blue-grey against a white ground with a stylised floral design to the centre framed by a breaking wave motif border. A series of five peony sprays each with cusped petals sit in the cavetto, painted a rich and dark cobalt blue with white details and blue-grey edges. Each sprouts a singular large featheresque leafy spray, described by Atasoy and Raby as an “ear of wheat”. 1 Each leaf serves a similar purpose as its saz leaf counterpart in polychrome wares of the period. Smaller scrolling tendrils fill the surrounding ground. The five peony sprays encircle a cobalt blue stellar rosette to the centre. The border has the common breaking wave motif, painted in cobalt and blue-grey hues. To the back of the dish is a painted foliate border to the edge containing alternating Sanskrit motifs and rosette sprays within.
century.2 Made at the height of Iznik production, this dish has the more unusual palette of blue and white imitating closely the export porcelains of the Chinese Ming period from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Following Sultan Selim’s conquests of Tabriz in 1514, and of Damascus and Cairo in 1517, large quantities of Chinese porcelain and celadons were acquired to adorn the court's rooms. Iznik potters therefore had access to a wide variety of designs, which had not been available to them before. John Carswell decribes the colour of this Iznik group as dark ultramarine blue, with another characteristic being the decorative use of undulating stems with cloud-like petals.3 The Yuan dynasty in China used a breaking wave motif to the rim of their plates, seen here in a more stylised and expressive form.4 To the Ottoman potter any mythological associations this motif may have had for the Chinese were unknown, but
once attracted by its graphic power it continued to be used well into the seventeenth century.5 By the 1570s the wave border, increasingly removed from its Chinese model, had become a standard feature of Iznik dishes. In its final metamorphosis it became so stylised as to be unrecognisable, to the point of being described as “ammonite scrolls”.6 The very first Iznik examples however, imitate the Yuan waves closely, their rollers painted with feathery parallel lines. The gradual changes in this border motif allow us to accurately date the motifs on Iznik plates. For ceramics with similar designs, see Frederic Hitzel and Mireille Jacotin, L’aventure d’une collection: Les ceramiques ottomane du musée national de la Renaissance, 2005, p. 235, pl. 343; Hülya Bilgi, Dance of Fire: Iznik Tiles and Ceramics in the Sadberk Hanim Museum and Ömer M. Koç Collections, 2009, p. 340, cat. no. 204; and Kjeld von Folsach, Art from the World of Islam in The David Collection, 2001, p. 187, no. 261.
References: 1. Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby, Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman
The “Wheatsheaf Style” is a convenient label for a group of ceramics featuring “ear of wheat” scrolling leaf designs. Rarely appearing on tiles, the style was popular up until the mid seventeenth
Turkey, 1989, p. 239. 2. Ibid. 3. John Carswell, Iznik Pottery, 1998, p. 85. 4. Ibid, p. 82. 5. Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby, Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, 1989, p. 121. 6. Ibid.
19 S P L I T - L E A F PA L M E T T E S A N D S P I R A L L I N G V I N E S
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1570 HEIGHT: 24.5 CM WIDTH: 24.5 CM
Four polychrome underglaze-painted tiles, each with a complex, interlocking and multi-layered floral design in shades of cobalt blue, turquoise,
sealing wax red and emerald green against a white ground. The focal points of each tile are the confronted split-leaf palmettes, painted in low relief sealing wax red or Armenian bole, and detailed with splashes of emerald green and cobalt blue as they face each other, separated by a single arcing
bi-coloured serrated saz leaf also in emerald green and rich sealing wax red. Surrounding the palmettes are overblown composite lotus sprays with turquoise luxuriant pomegranates to the centre. The cobalt blue spiralling vine which connects the various sprays and leaves gives the design a radiant
energy. The curling leaves, buds and exotic, stylised flowers are all drawn as much from fantasy as from nature. The single flower near the upper right corner resembles a lace ruff pierced by a composite saz leaf. The colours are rich and strong, with the sealing wax red or Armenian bole applied to give the tactile three dimensionality of low relief. The
cobalt blue of the flowers and leaves is unctuous, inky, stippled and finely shaded to give both depth and texture, enlivened by patches of lively turquoise and deep emerald green, all against the crisp white ground. In composition and technique, these magnificent tiles epitomise the best of Iznik production at its most brilliant period.
Provenance: Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, ADC, PC (1850â€“1916) and thence by descent. Kitchener was a British Field Marshal and colonial administrator who won fame for his imperial campaigns and later played a central role in the early part of the First World War, although he died halfway through it. In 1898 he won
the Battle of Omdurman and secured
popular culture to this day. These tiles were
Musée du Louvre, Paris (OA3919-2-297).
control of the Sudan, after which he was
purchased from the great-great-niece of
See also Hülya Bilgi, Dance of Fire: Iznik
given the title “Lord Kitchener of
Lord Kitchener. They were formerly used
Tiles and Ceramics in the Sadberk Hanim
Khartoum”. After this, he went to Egypt as
to tile a bathroom in Broome Park in Kent,
Museum and Ömer M. Koç Collections, 2009,
British Agent and Consul-General (de facto
the family home.
pp. 218-219, cat. no. 116; and Katerina
Monastery of the Panaghia Panakhrantou,
image, appearing on recruiting posters
Identical tiles are in Jameel Gallery of
2012, p.96, no. 48.4 for similar examples.
demanding “Your Country Needs You!”
Islamic Art at the Victoria and Albert
remains recognised and parodied in
Museum, London (988-1884) and in the
administrator) before in 1914 becoming Secretary of State for War. His commanding
Korré-Zographou, The Iznik Ceramics of the
20 T U L I P S W I T H I N A N O G I VA L C A R T O U C H E
TURKEY (DIYARBAKIR), 1550-1600 HEIGHT: 35.5 CM WIDTH: 32.5 CM
A pair of large polychrome underglaze-painted tiles decorated with a symmetrical stylised floral design in shades of cobalt blue, sealing wax red, black, emerald green and turquoise against a white ground.
Sydney, no. 89/1440. For a similar published tile, see Yanni Petsopoulos, Tulips, Arabesques & Turbans: Decorative Arts from the Ottoman Empire, 1982, p. 113, pl. 111. Provenance: Benjamin and Louise Pritz
Benjamin and Louise Pritz developed an eclectic collecting style that spanned their more than sixty years together and integrated each of their cultural identities. Benjamin Pritz was a fifth generation
The tiles each have a large central ogival cartouche with a thick turquoise border that dominates the field. Within this is a pair of addorsed tulips with slender bowing stems, sealing wax red flowers and long cobalt blue serrated leaves. Above them hovers a single stylised rose emerging from an elongated stem. Flanking the tulips to each side and following the contours of the cartouche is a further pair of large roses and smaller red rosettes, all of which emerge from a single vase below, echoing the designs of earlier blue and white Chinese porcelain. To the four spandrels outside of the cartouche are identical patterns of serrated leaves and floral sprays against a cobalt blue ground.
Cincinnatian, while his wife was born during the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople. Together they refined a diverse collection of American and European paintings, silver, porcelain and glass, Pre-Columbian pottery, scrimshaw, fine furniture, Islamic works of art, swords and sword canes, and numerous Asian works of art.
Louise Pritz was a gifted, multi-lingual writer and speaker, who belonged to the Current Topics Society in Cincinnati and worked for many years with the Cincinnati Art Museum as a docent and president of the Asian Art Society. Benjamin Pritz was passionate about fencing and a charter member of the Cincinnati Fencing Club, as well as an artist in his own right, working in mixed media. They both belonged to the Pan American Society, the
The ceramics of Diyarbakir echo both the colours and designs of the more famous potteries at Iznik, yet still have a distinctive style, with their patterns often more crowded. The striking so-called “new blue” used in Diyarbakir has a more strident effect than the light blue used in Iznik tiles of the same era whilst the relief red is of greyish colour. Identical tiles can be found in situ in the Hazreti Süleyman tomb in Diyarbakir, Turkey. One example is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, no. 1018-1872 and another in the Powerhouse Museum in
Asian Arts Society and the International Snuff Bottle Society.
21 CROSSED TIGER STRIPES
TURKEY (TEKFUR SARAYI), CIRCA 1730 HEIGHT: 23.7 CM WIDTH: 25 CM
A polychrome underglaze-painted tile in colours of cobalt blue, emerald green and sealing wax red against a bluish white ground, depicting large, bold crossed lines surrounded by stylised floral sprays. The large and wavy bands painted in a thick cobalt blue dominate the field as they stretch across the diagonal plane, crossing in the middle, and dissecting the many floral sprays swirling across the ground behind. These include sprays of five-petalled rosettes and further spiked blue flowers
emanating from vibrant emerald green leaves. To either side is a large composite half-rosette with cusped trefoil petals. The blue lines on this tile form part of a stylised pattern referred to as cintamani when accompanied by round cartouches and normally seen arranged in a triangle of three. Originally associated with Buddhist iconography, they morphed into Ottoman decorative motifs that appeared on textiles and ceramics from the fifteenth century onwards. The designs were often described as “flaming pearls” or “leopard spots”, and “tiger stripes” or “Buddha lips”. The use of the “tiger stripes” on their own is unusual. In the early eighteenth century, a ceramic workshop was set up at Tekfur Sarayi in Istanbul and Iznik style tiles began to be made for a short period. There are tiles with an identical design to ours in the Hekimoglu Ali Pasha Mosque, also in Istanbul. A similar tile is illustrated in Gönül Öney and Banri Namikawa, Turkish Ceramic Tile Art, 1975, pl.155.
22 COURT SCENES
IRAN (QAJAR, TEHRAN), CIRCA 1880 HEIGHT: 43.5 CM WIDTH: 52.5 CM
A pair of large rectangular stone-paste tiles with moulded decoration, underglaze-painted in shades of turquoise, brown, aubergine, pink, crisp white and pale yellow with black outlines against a cobalt blue ground under a gleaming transparent glaze. The design of each tile shows a vivid scene of seated courtiers and standing attendants at a feast, surrounded by various fruits, flasks and dishes that float decoratively, evenly spaced between the main figures to give the effect of a repeat pattern that complements the sumptuous textile designs worn by the figures. Several of the courtiers kneeling on the ground sport very impressive moustaches. The main field of each tile is framed to the left by a large white integral border, with pink stylised rosettes separated by hovering birds on a vertical scrolling vine. The focus of attention in the first tile is an inebriated courtier with a glazed expression, being fed yet more wine from a tiny cup held to his lips by a doting clean-shaven youth who holds a large surahi (long-necked flask) evidently filled to the brim with intoxicating libation. He supports himself by draping an arm affectionately around the youth. This is a scene frequently encountered in Safavid miniatures. Watching quizzically from the left are two much more dignified guests wearing the early Safavid turban (mandil) wrapped around a twelve-gored felt or brocade cap (taj) with the tall and distinctive pointed
finial or baton seen in Safavid paintings. Other elements of Safavid style include the horizontal braiding flanking the large buttons worn by some of the men, the combination of a tight cut at the torso with loose trousers or flaring skirts below, and short outer sleeves worn over long inner sleeves.1 A third courtier tweaks his moustache as he looks directly out towards the viewer, engaging our attention and drawing us into the scene. Two large seated figures dominate the second tile. One wears a blue tunic with dark pink sleeves and holds a small cup in his hand, as if ready to drink. Another has a pink tunic with yellow inner sleeves and trousers and sits adjusting his belt. The courtiersâ€™ garments are decorated with small stylised floral sprays. The three figures above all stand facing to the right. Two have their arms crossed in front of them, whilst the third, wearing a vibrant turquoise coat, holds a rosewater sprinkler on a tray. All five stare out to the right of the tile, as if their attention has been caught by a sight unseen to the viewer, perhaps musicians or dancers in performance. This asymmetrical treatment of the scene is unusual and also recalls the style of miniature paintings as it implies that much of the action happens outside the border. The craftsman has seemingly taken a detail from a larger composition of a great feast and enlarged it, an effect that compels the spectator to imagine the rest of the composition.2 In both tiles, the undulating curves and moulded forms of the bodies in relief enhance the vivid presence of the figures that seem to physically, as well as visually, press into the viewerâ€™s space as we in turn enter the scene.
Jennifer Scarce has observed that the treatment and clothing of the figures, as well as the clusters of fruits and vessels dotted in the background, are characteristic of the Safavid revival style, based on the nostalgia for Safavid miniatures and tile panels at the time.3 The floating effect of the food and drink evoke the way chinoiserie clumps of vegetation float as weightlessly as the cloud bands with which they intermingle in Safavid tiles. The dense overall patterning of every surface replicates the combination of myriad patterns in Safavid miniatures. The presence of the floral borders on the left suggests that the tiles originally formed part of a border framing a doorway in a wealthy household whose owners could afford such forms of decoration.4 A tile from the same group depicting a hunting scene, with an identical border placed on the right, is published in the Simon Ray 2009 Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, pp. 24-27, cat. no. 8.
˛ celebrated Qajar potter Ali Mohammad Isfahani, who wrote a treatise on ceramic production and whose work has been published by Scarce. About twenty known pieces of tile-work are attributed to him.6 Amongst his patrons was Major-General Sir Robert Murdoch Smith, who was in Iran between 1865 and 1888 as Director of the Persian Telegraphic Department. Murdoch Smith also collected works of art on behalf of institutions, in particular the South Kensington Museum, later to become the Victoria and Albert Museum.7 In the absence of more evidence and because there were doubtless other fine potters working to complete the orders for the many architectural projects at Tehran, we hesitate to make a firm ˛ attribution for our tiles to Ali Mohammad Isfahani. However, their technical finesse, superior imagination and bold exuberance of design cannot be denied.
References: 1. Layla Diba, “Clothing in the Safavid and
The tiles are very accomplished examples of the underglaze-painting technique in terms of technical quality, use of colour and composition. The white is formed by areas of the stone-paste ground, which are left unpainted. In the best tiles the ground is of sufficiently fine quality and even texture to omit the need for masking by an opaque white glaze or slip.5 The choice of the other colours is well balanced and again very accomplished technically; importantly, the colours have not run in the firing, a problem encountered on Qajar tiles of lesser quality.
Qajar Periods”, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. V, Fasc. 8, 1992, pp. 785-808. 2. Personal communication with Jennifer Scarce. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Venetia Porter, Islamic Tiles, 1995, p. 82. 7. Ibid.
Literature: Jennifer Scarce, “Ali Mohammad Isfahani, Tilemaker of Tehran” in Oriental Art, 1976, vol. 22/3, pp. 278-288.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Jennifer Scarce for
The tiles relate stylistically and technically to the work of the
her expert advice and technical comments in the preparation of this catalogue entry.
23 A G AT E H I LT in a collar. The grip is unadorned apart from the hint of a spine along the back that issues from the tip of the five-petalled floral palmette.
INDIA (MUGHAL), LATE 17TH CENTURY LENGTH: 12.8 CM WIDTH: 4.7 CM DEPTH: 2.3 CM
The restrained, minimal decoration allows an appreciation of subtle beauty in the form of the hilt and the quality of the smoothly polished agate, through which light passes to render the hilt glowing from within. The hilt is a pleasure to hold in the hand, the fingers fitting comfortably around the grip between the base of the pommel and the top of the quillons, and the spine nestling snugly against the palm.
A carved agate pistol-grip dagger (khanjar) hilt, the translucent milky white agate engraved with discreet leaf and floral decoration to the pommel. The cusped base of the hilt is incised with a single continuous line that follows the undulating curves of the quillons. The veined and elongated leaf at the top of the pommel takes the form of a cypress tree, surmounted by a five-petalled floral palmette at its apex. The trunk of the cypress tree curls around the pommel into the neck, gradually widening to a mound and terminating
Provenance: Private European Collection, acquired in London in the late 1960s or early 1970s
24 J A D E C H I L A N U M H I LT
A dagger (chilanum) with a jade hilt of similar form but without a disc guard is illustrated in Howard Ricketts and Philippe Missillier, Splendeur des Armes Orientales, 1988, p. 98, no. 159.
INDIA (MUGHAL), LATE 17TH CENTURY LENGTH: 12.9 CM WIDTH: 7.8 CM DEPTH: 4 CM
A chilanum with a jade hilt of similar form, with a disc guard but without a knuckle guard, is illustrated in Bashir Mohamed, The Arts of the Muslim Knight: The Furusiyya Art Foundation Collection, 2007, p. 217, cat. no. 208. Mohamed dates the Furusiyya chilanum to the mid seventeenth century and assigns it to the Deccan during the Mughal period. The steel blade has a swollen forte to accommodate the jade extension of the hilt. It is possible that the blade that once fitted into the present hilt may also have had a swollen forte to support the circular disc guard.
A carved pale green jade chilanum hilt with a bifurcated pommel surmounted by a knop finial, the slim baluster grip punctuated to the centre with a circular bead framed by collars, the splayed quillons of petal form resting on an oval disc guard that protects the fist. The disc guard is decorated on the edges with a frill of cusps and bud finials at each end. Its upper surface is gently curved and convex in form but the bottom is flat so that the scabbard can tuck in snugly. A scrolling knuckle guard terminating in a pendant bud finial joins the quillons to the pommel. The knuckle guard is embellished by acanthus leaves at its base and fluting to its outer surface.
Provenance: Private European Collection, acquired in London in the late 1960s or early 1970s
25 B A L U S T E R H I LT
on curling stalks rising from a leafy mound on one side and a formal arrangement of cone-shaped flowers on the other. The quillons are decorated with curling buds. The relaxed mixture of symmetrical floral sprays with more naturalistic asymmetrical arrangements, and the intoxicating variety of flowers and leaves, impart an ineffable charm to the decoration.
INDIA (MUGHAL), 18TH CENTURY LENGTH: 13.1 CM WIDTH: 9 CM DEPTH: 1.9 CM
A carved green jade dagger hilt with a baluster grip and a bifurcated pommel surmounted by a knop finial in the form of a lotus bud. A scrolling knuckle guard sweeps from one of the quillons at the base of the hilt to join the tip of the pommel above. The knuckle guard terminates in a pendant bud finial.
The baluster grip is framed by lotus petals and acanthus collars to the top and bottom. The scrolling knuckle guard is carved on its outer edge with overlapping acanthus leaves in low relief, the inner surface unadorned and smoothly polished for the comfort of the fingers.
The overall decoration consists of variegated flowers and leaves on scrolling vines. The pommel is carved with different flowers on each side: a lotus flanked by tulips on one side and an asymmetrical spray of five-petalled flowers and serrated leaves on the other. The flared base of the hilt has five-petalled flowers
Provenance: Private European Collection, acquired in London in the late 1960s or early 1970s
26 S P I N A C H G R E E N J A D E H I LT
pommel, the acanthus leaves form a frame enclosing a pair of addorsed lotus buds on delicate stems.
INDIA (MUGHAL), EARLY 18TH CENTURY LENGTH: 12.6 CM WIDTH: 7.1 CM DEPTH: 1.7 CM
The grip of baluster form is framed by a ring collar to the top and bottom. The gently tapering base is enfolded by a frieze of lotus petals. The scrolling quillons and base of the hilt are carved with broad acanthus leaves. Though larger in size and lower in relief, with incised rather than deeply carved veins, the leaves on the base of the hilt echo in spirit the leaves on the pommel above.
A dark spinach green jade hilt constructed in two parts, with the pommel and grip slotting into the quillons and guard below. The pommel is carved in low relief with a profusion of overlapping acanthus leaves, surmounted by a knop finial of lotus bud form. The variegated leaves of different shapes and sizes are finely detailed with serrated and cusped edges, deep inner veins, and scrolling bud terminals at each end of the pommel.
It is evident that much thought has gone into conceiving the design so that the simple repeated motif of acanthus leaves is deployed with endless variety, and the treatment balanced exquisitely between naturalism and stylisation. The hilt as a whole has a statuesque magnificence that owes much to the exceptional quality of the carving and the rich green colour of the smoothly polished jade.
The leaves hanging pendant from the top of the pommel have an indolent droop and languid air. In contrast, the leaves emerging from the base of the pommel twist, turn and thrust dynamically in several directions as they grow to assorted heights, expressing the untamed vitality of nature at its most verdant, with the very sap of life coursing through their veins. On each side of the hilt to the front and back of the
Provenance: Private European Collection, acquired in London in the late 1960s or early 1970s
27 J A D E A R T I C H O K E H I LT
The first leaf sprouts from a cascade of iris sprays to the top of the grip, its pointed tip touching that of the second leaf, which is double-tiered in construction, made of one leaf stacked upon another. It stems from a quatrefoil flower at its base, below which the vines continue scrolling into the neck of the pommel, bifurcating to outline the form of a mound, and then linking to the artichoke and lotus flowers on each face of the pommel.
INDIA (MUGHAL), LATE 17TH CENTURY LENGTH: 13.3 CM WIDTH: 5.4 CM DEPTH: 2.4 CM
A carved green jade pistol-grip dagger (khanjar) hilt, decorated with elegant stylised flowers of artichoke form with densely clustered petals. On each side of the hilt to the base of the grip is a floral spray rising from a mound of leaves that follows the cusped line of the guard into the scrolling quillons. The central artichoke flower is flanked by serrated leaves, flower buds and just-opening flowers.
The vines, flowers and leaves flow gracefully from one section of the hilt to another, imparting supple elegance and fluid movement to the decoration. Such is the profusion of floral forms that encroaches upon the small unadorned section of the grip that when held in the hand, the impression is of holding a panoply of jade flowers.
On the pommel are arabesques of variegated flowers including artichoke blossoms and lotuses, and swaying leaves on scrolling stems. To the top of the pommel, following the curve of the spine, are two confronted leaves of elongated cypress tree form.
Provenance: Private European Collection, acquired in London in the late 1960s or early 1970s
28 J A D E F L O R A L H I LT
the neck of the pommel while from the apex of the other sprouts a trefoil flower accompanied by buds or stamens that dangle above the unadorned but smoothly polished grip.
INDIA (MUGHAL), 18TH CENTURY LENGTH: 12.2 CM WIDTH: 5.3 CM DEPTH: 2.3 CM
On each side of the base of the hilt is a large lotus surmounted by buds and flanked by pairs of leaves on bifurcated stems. The blossom rises majestically from a mound composed of acanthus leaves that scroll into the quillons embellished by buds of volute form. Carved above the quillons on the spine and the inner edge of the grip are large serrated leaves.
A carved dark green jade pistol-grip dagger (khanjar) hilt, decorated in low relief with stylised flowers and leaves on scrolling stems. The flowers are lotuses, lilies and exotic hybrids that fuse together characteristic Mughal floral types. The arabesques on each side of the pommel consist of a large lotus to the centre, flanked by serrated leaves and smaller flowers on stems that scroll into the addorsed spear-shaped leaves of cypress tree form that encircle the top of the pommel along its spine. The tip of one cypress leaf scrolls down into
Provenance: Private European Collection, acquired in London in the late 1960s or early 1970s
29 J A D E K ATA R
INDIA (MUGHAL), CIRCA 1800 LENGTH: 38.5 CM WIDTH: 8.3 CM DEPTH: 1.3 CM
This katar (thrust or push-dagger) has a hilt of finely carved pale celadon jade, a watered steel blade and a velvet-covered scabbard with a gold chape. The triangular double-edged blade, of forged and polished jawhar (damascened or watered) steel, is chamfered to the edges and strengthened by a central ridge and thickened point. The parallel upright arms, which protect the hand and wrist when the two baluster-shaped crossbars are gripped, are rounded at the end for a comfortable fit. The hilt is carved from a single piece of translucent jade. Decorating the front and back of the uprights are incised chevron designs with the arrow pattern echoing the form and following the direction of the triangular blade. The two baluster crossbars spanning the uprights are each of octagonal cross-section, the eight horizontal facets decorated with chevrons to produce an overall herringbone effect. The sides of the uprights are carved to the inner and outer edges with tiers of elegant floral sprays, each with five petals on a stem with languidly drooping leaves rising
from a splayed mound. The flowers are a stylised hybrid of iris and lotus blossoms. The angled guard above the forte of the blade is decorated with both flowers and chevrons, uniting the delicate floral and sharp geometric themes of the decoration at the meeting point of jade and steel. The upper surface of the guard is carved with large floral sprays while the sides are decorated with a tier of chevrons surmounting a frieze of leaves. A katar with a hilt carved from one piece of jade and with no gemstone decoration is very unusual. Most katars have hilts made with an inner core of steel and decorated in a variety of metalwork techniques such as enamelling, gold and silver inlays or koftgari, while hilts of carved jade are frequently gem-set with cabochon rubies and emeralds in the kundan technique to form floral designs. Katars with hilts and blades forged from one piece of steel are also to be seen. The purity and restraint of the present katar celebrates the quality of the carving and the large piece of excellent jade from which the form of the katar hilt so triumphantly emerges.
Provenance: Formerly in the Collection of Mukarram Jah Asaf Jah VIII, Nizam of Hyderabad Private Swiss Collection, acquired in the 1980s
30 R O C K C R Y S TA L D A G G E R
INDIA (MUGHAL), LATE 17TH/EARLY 18TH CENTURY LENGTH OF DAGGER: 43.5 CM LENGTH OF HILT: 12.8 CM WIDTH OF HILT: 6 CM
A pistol-grip dagger (khanjar) with a carved rock crystal hilt and a double-edged re-curved steel blade. Rock crystal is the popular name given to clear colourless quartz and the large piece of flawless rock crystal from which the hilt has been skilfully carved is of exceptional transparency and clarity, free from fissures or inclusions. The carved relief ornament is deliberately restrained, with floral decoration in low relief confined to the pommel and quillons. The grip is unadorned and smoothly polished, and so beautifully does it transmit and reflect light off its surface and internally that it gleams like limpid
water. When held in the hand, the veins of the palm can be seen through the rock crystal, magnified by the curved surfaces of the hilt and lit by reflections. To the centre of the pommel on each side is a five-petalled flower on a scrolling stem shaded by a pair of addorsed leaves above. The stem grows from the base of a cypress tree that curls around the top edge of the pommel. At the base of the hilt, acanthus leaves curl into the quillons while at the centre a lotus blossom on each side barely conceals the metal tang of the blade which is visible through the rock crystal. The steel blade is strengthened by a medial ridge that emerges from a low relief palmette of ricasso form at the forte. The tip of the blade is also thickened for extra strength. An early eighteenth century dagger (jambiya) with a similarly transparent rock crystal hilt and minimal but gem-set decoration is illustrated in Philippe Missillier and Howard Ricketts, Splendeur des Armes Orientales, 1998, p. 112, no.190. A northern Indian dagger hilt in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts dating to the eighteenth or nineteenth century is published in Joseph M. Dye, III, The Arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2001, p. 422, cat. no. 197. Dye’s comments on the hilt may well apply to our dagger: “This dagger hilt is carved with remarkably restrained floral and vegetal ornament by an artisan conversant with the Mughal decorative style. No doubt his moderation was also inspired by a desire to allow the miraculous transparency and clear purity of this hardstone to speak for itself without the help of fussy decoration.”
31 IVORY AND STEEL DAGGER
INDIA (ORISSA), LATE 17TH/EARLY 18TH CENTURY LENGTH OF DAGGER: 34 CM LENGTH OF HILT: 13.7 CM WIDTH OF HILT: 9 CM
A cast and chased steel dagger (khanjarli) with a curved and re-curved double-edged blade and an ivory hilt with a large bifurcated lunette pommel. The hilt is composed of six pieces of carved and smoothly polished ivory, fastened to a flat solid steel tang by six steel rivets on each side. The core of the hilt and the blade have been forged as one piece of steel, in the manner of the solid steel seventeenth century chilanums from which the khanjarli form derives and develops in the eighteenth century. The steel core gives the dagger great strength while the warm ivory carved with rounded edges makes it comfortable to hold in the hand. The rivets that fasten the ivory pieces to the tang each form the centre of an ornamental rosette with delicately chased and cusped silver petals. Two flower-heads hold each piece of ivory in place, giving a sparkling pattern of twelve rosettes overall. The crescent shape of the semi-circular pommel is embellished by an integral point to the apex, subtly suggesting the presence of a finial. The essentially rectangular grip-shells are modulated by gentle curves and points on the outer edge to form broad grooves for the
fingers. The base of the hilt splays into simple quillons, each marked by a rosette. The double-curved steel blade is strengthened by a central ridge and a thickened point on each side. The central ridge stands out in gentle relief against a recessed frame that sinuously follows the curve and re-curve of the blade. The ridge widens at the forte to a trefoil palmette emanating from a splayed foot. A frieze of pendant quatrefoils cantilevered over the forte forms a langet or overhanging apron into which the scabbard would slide. The langet is connected to the pommel by a curved knuckle guard terminating in a bud finial. A similar dagger in a private collection is illustrated in Robert Elgood, Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, 2004, p. 179, fig. 16.35. Two other related daggers were exhibited at the David Collection, Copenhagen, and published in Islamiske vaben id dansk privateje: Islamic Arms and armour from private Danish Collections, 1982, pp. 160-163, nos. 123 and 125.
centre in the region, Arcot being a contender.2 The simple treatment of the blade with restrained forte decoration, resembling seventeenth century chilanum blades in form, and the fact that the lunette hilt is composed of three pieces of ivory on each side rather than one or two pieces as in later examples, suggest that this is an early example of the khanjarli form and may date to the end of the seventeenth century or the first decade of the eighteenth. In all these published examples the rivets securing the ivory pieces are set into floral discs using a variety of decorative techniques to form the petals of the flower-heads, ranging from simple koftgari to cabochon rubies set in gold collets. References: 1. Robert Elgood, Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, 2004, pp. 179, 203 and 251. Elgood also discusses and challenges the association of these daggers, on the authority of Birdwood and Egerton, with the seaside town of Vizianagram in Andhra Pradesh just south of Orissa. He argues that there is a lack of evidence of arms production as a local
According to Elgood the form is an eighteenth century development of the chilanum, probably spread by Maratha conquests which included Orissa where a number of small Maratha states were established.1 Orissa was famous for its elephants and ivory work and many of the ivory pommel khanjarlis are likely to come from an established metal-working
industry in Vizianagram and the town, often described as the Indian Brighton, may have just been the place to purchase weapons and not where they were made. Elgood suggests that the weapons for sale may have included eighteenth century arms acquired by local maharajas during the height of Maratha power or perhaps part of the dispersed Tanjore arsenal. 2. Ibid.
32 ROSEWOOD AND IVORY INLAID CABINET
WESTERN INDIA (GUJARAT OR SINDH), CIRCA 1670 HEIGHT: 47 CM WIDTH: 65.5 CM DEPTH: 44 CM
A magnificent rosewood fall-front cabinet, inlaid in ivory with an elegant pattern of Mughal flowers and cloud bands. The ivory has been finely engraved and stained with lac. Each side is decorated with formal rows of floral sprays with delicate cloud bands that float between, surrounded by a frame of scrolling floral arabesques with a thin border of sadeli (micro-mosaic). To the front of the box is a keyhole with an ivory escutcheon. The interior opens to reveal twenty-three small drawers with red-stained and turned ivory knop handles surrounding a larger central drawer. The inner surface of the fall-front is also beautifully inlaid with stylised flowering plants while the back of the box has an oval cartouche with three miniature tree-of-life designs, each standing on stylised rocks. The flowers and leaves include poppies, lilies, irises and composite flowers, formally arranged in rows but full of movement with flower-heads that turn in different directions accompanied by twisting leaves and cloud bands that also float in different directions.
According to Amin Jaffer, who publishes a late seventeenth century fall-front cabinet in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in Luxury Goods from India: The Art of the Indian Cabinet-Maker, 2002, pp. 62-63, no. 24, the ornament on ivory-inlaid furniture made in western India in the mid to late seventeenth century reflects more closely the Mughal court style in contrast to earlier cabinets from this region.1 This shift in design is matched by an improvement in the quality of the inlay itself. The round-headed trees and dense foliage of earlier work are replaced by the full-blown flowering plants that began to permeate Mughal painting, architecture, textiles, dress and metalwork from the second quarter of the seventeenth century onwards.2 As Daniel Walker observes, the “flower style” commonly identified with the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan did not emerge suddenly or spontaneously, but followed in the train of a long-standing Mughal appreciation for flowers that since Akbar’s day was manifested in courtly painting and the decorative arts.3 The new “flower style” featured naturalistic flowering plants depicted in profile against a plain background or formally arranged in rows. It is the heightened naturalism of the flowers and leaves, in combination with their contrasting formality of presentation, that distinguishes the “flower style” from earlier styles in Indian art and decoration. It represents a purely Mughal aesthetic quite different from anything seen in earlier Indian art and may be regarded as the epitome of Mughal decoration.
Though the “flower style” reached its perfect and most characteristic expression during Shah Jahan’s reign (1628-1658), it was not originated by Shah Jahan’s court artists. Floral blossoms and whole plants were commonly represented during the reigns of Akbar and Jahangir but the representations were not especially naturalistic, nor were they formally arranged. Plants were treated as secondary decorative elements and were not the primary focus or subject of the decoration.4 It is important to note that two of the most significant artistic projects of Jahangir’s reign, the great album compiled between 1599 and 1618 and the tomb of I’timad ud-Daula, completed in 1628, are classic examples of the Persian style in India. Walker argues that the absence of formally arranged flowering plants on these two Imperial productions signifies that the “flower style” had not yet become part of the standard decorative vocabulary.5 However, the origin of the style can in fact be linked to the later reign of Jahangir. A key event in its development, as demonstrated by Robert Skelton, was the famous visit of Jahangir to Kashmir during the spring of 1620, when the emperor commissioned the court artist Mansur to depict flowers of the region. In Mansur’s sharply observed and botanically accurate “flower portraits” lie the genesis of the “flower style”.6 They combine a heightened indigenous naturalism with the formal pose, relatively plain background and hovering butterfly or other insect characteristic of the European herbalist style. Scholars are divided over the degree of influence that European albums of flowers exercised over Mansur’s works but his treatment of floral
subjects was probably directed to some extent by herbal drawings and prints collected by the Mughal court. Copies of European engravings have appeared in Mughal albums of miniatures. This cabinet represents therefore the brilliant fusion of Mughal decorative motifs, Indian materials and techniques, and a European furniture form. The fall-front cabinet is a sixteenth century European form much reproduced in Asia under European patronage. 7 According to Jaffer, the development of schools of Western-style furniture making seems to have taken place first in the textile-producing region of Gujarat. 8 It is apparent from contemporary accounts as well as the objects themselves that in the sixteenth century Gujarati artisans had access to Western prototypes as well as Western-style objects made in other parts of Asia. 9 The craftsmen’s
familiarity with furniture imported from Europe was supplemented with a more practical understanding of the furniture-making trade acquired from the growing numbers of European tradesmen, among them cabinet-makers, who arrived in India from Europe, hoping to make a fortune from the rapidly growing settlements at Madras, Calcutta and
Bombay. 10 At ports such as Surat, the convergence of diverse goods and patrons who brought with them their own decorative traditions, created an atmosphere highly conducive to artistic and technical exchange. 11
References: 1. Amin Jaffer, Luxury Goods from India: The Art of the Indian Cabinet- Maker, 2002, p. 62. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid., and Daniel Walker, Flowers Underfoot: Indian Carpets of the Mughal Era, 1997, p. 86. 4. Walker, 1997, p. 86. 5. Ibid. 6. Robert Skelton, “A decorative motif in Mughal art”, in Pratapaditya Pal (ed.), Aspects of Indian Art, 1972, p. 151. 7. Jaffer, 2002, p. 25. 8. Ibid., p. 9. 9. Ibid., p. 10. 10. Ibid., p. 11. 11. Ibid.
33 POWDER FLASK
INDIA (KOTAH, ETAWAH), LATE 19TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 14.8 CM WIDTH: 14.4 CM DEPTH: 9 CM
A powder flask taking the form of a nautilus shell, finely decorated all-over with a mosaic of buffalo horn, ivory and mother-of-pearl. The ivory and mother-of-pearl are engraved and highlighted with black lac. The curving body of the flask is divided on its vertical axis along the spine and covered with two contrasting diaper patterns, one on each half. On the front of the powder flask is a grid of interlocking ivory diamond lozenges, each containing a circular flower-head, with the interstices filled by bifurcated leaves and fronds. The flower-heads are of variegated design, ranging from simple quatrefoils to flowers with multiple or serrated petals.
quatrefoil flower, composed of a small circle of ivory forming its centre, from which radiate four large circles that make up its petals. The spine and neck of the flask are inlaid with contrasting bands of diamond horn lozenges, each containing a circular mother-of-pearl flower, the petals lightly etched by lac. The diamonds on the spine are wider than they are tall, while the diamonds on the neck are square. A steel band encircles the neck of the flask for added strength. Just below the band, small horn triangles are enlivened by three circular ivory dots that recall Ottoman cintamani balls. On the back of the flask are two steel attachment lugs for fastening the container to the body. The top of the powder flask is decorated with a radiating sunburst of floral designs that surround the tiered ivory bulb finial, through which the gunpowder would be
dispersed. On the spine is a hinged opening faced with a steel cartouche fitted with a sliding lock. This larger opening facilitates filling the flask with gunpowder.
no. 1. At the time of exhibition, Kotah was known as the only centre for the manufacture of small, decorative objects of wood or horn inlaid with ivory, horn and mother-of-pearl.
A powder flask with similar decoration in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is illustrated in Robert Skelton (ed.), The Indian Heritage: Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, 1982, p. 136, no. 444. On the same page, no. 443, a flask made of a nautilus shell inlaid with mother-of-pearl, demonstrates how the form evolved from a real nautilus shell to a carved wooden shell inlaid with precious materials. A flask in the David Collection, Copenhagen, is illustrated in Kjeld von Folsach, Art from the World of Islam in the David Collection, 2001, p. 258, no. 413.
According to Amin Jaffer, little is known about the geometric parquetry of Etawah, a small town in the state of Kotah, executed during the second half of the nineteenth century.1 The earliest reference occurs at the Calcutta International Exhibition of 1882-1883, at which a few examples of Etawah parquetry were shown. These consisted principally of different types of powder flask, as well as a pen-case and a box.2 Similar articles were shown in the Jeypore Exhibition of 1883, the catalogue for which gave the makerâ€™s name as Sita Ram, in the Journal of Indian Art and Industry of 1884 recorded as the most skilled craftsman manufacturing such goods in Etawah.3 The catalogue for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 explained that Etawah parquetry was limited to two or three families belonging to the Khatri caste and that examples could either be purchased through Sita Ram in Etawah or through dealers in Kotah.4
For an example of an Etawah powder flask sent to the Delhi Exhibition of 1902-3, see G. Watt, Indian Art at Delhi, 1903 and 1904, pl. 43A,
On the back of the flask is a contrasting chequered pattern, composed of alternating buffalo horn and ivory diamond shapes. Filling the ivory diamonds are large flowers with a variety of designs. A different flower type is used on each horizontal row of diamonds, but they all have square petals that stretch to fill the four corners of the diamonds. The horn diamonds are all decorated with an identical
References: 1. Amin Jaffer, Furniture from British India and Ceylon: A Catalogue of the Collections in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum, 2001, p. 283. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid.
34 EMERALD NECKLACE
INDIA, 18TH/19TH CENTURY LENGTH: 37.5 CM
A necklace consisting of forty-seven melon-cut emerald beads, the translucent green stones carved into circular bead form, fluted, polished, drilled, and strung with very subtle graduations in size between the largest emerald at the centre and slightly smaller emeralds at each end of the strand. The necklace is fastened by a gold clasp. Another necklace of melon-cut emeralds is in the al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait National Museum (LNS 30 HS). This is published in Manuel Keene with Salam Kaoukji, Treasury of the World: Jeweled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals, 2001, p. 131, cat. no.11.7a. The graduation in the size of the emeralds on the strand of the Kuwait necklace is far more pronounced, producing a different visual effect. Keene illustrates on the same page, p. 131, cat. no. 11.7b, a single carved emerald bead with diagonal fluting (LNS 2371 Ja). The Kuwait necklace is also illustrated in Marilyn Jenkins (ed.), Islamic Art in the Kuwait National Museum, 1983, p. 131. According to Hans Nadelhoffer in Cartier, 2007, p. 166, the emerald is the stone most closely associated with India yet paradoxically the subcontinent has no significant emerald deposits.1 The name emerald derives from the Sanskrit word for green, marakata, and in
India emeralds are symbolic of spring and regeneration. Prior to the sixteenth century, the only noteworthy emeralds known in India came from Egypt. Though treasured for their light green colour, these Egyptian emeralds were very pale and the quantity mined was small. To the north of the subcontinent, several small mines in the Swat Valley, now on the borders of present day Pakistan and Afghanistan, produced good quality emeralds but in very limited quantity.
The galleons then called at Portobello in Panama to load silver and gold mined in Peru, then Havana to load up with further goods and through the Straits of Florida before crossing the Atlantic to Spain. 4 After the Spanish royal family had taken their share of emeralds, the remainder was exported to other countries in Europe and Asia. The Spanish were more interested in gold than emeralds and the rest of Europe could not afford to purchase many, so the majority were shipped to the three great Islamic empires, the Ottomans, the Safavids and the Mughals. 5
Fine large emeralds with an intense hue were unknown until their discovery in Colombia by the Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century. The emeralds came from the two main mines in Colombia, the Muzo and Somondoco (Chivor) mines, though there were several smaller mines. 2 Some historians say that the Muzo mine was known since 1000 BC. The native Indians resisted Spanish attempts to take over the mines for decades but in the end they were defeated, enslaved and forced to work the mines they once controlled. Emeralds, together with gold and silver, formed part of the great Spanish plunder of Latin American riches.
Emeralds for Turkey were shipped across the Mediterranean to the Turkish coastal ports. It is possible that emeralds bound for Iran and India were traded through this route. Another route by which emeralds from Spain would have reached Iran and India was round the Cape, across the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. A third route was the western route, back across the Atlantic and the gulf of Mexico to Vera Cruz, overland to Acapulco on the west coast, and then across the Pacific, via the Philippines to India. 6 Agents of the Mughal emperors purchased emeralds using gold and silver as bullion. Emeralds were highly prized by the Mughals who used them mainly as beads or as cabochons mounted in gold artefacts. In comparison to other gemstones, emeralds contain a high proportion of inclusions that can cause splits when cut, so they are not normally faceted. The forms of cabochons and beads favour the preservation of size
From then on emeralds began to reach India by adventurous routes, through Spainâ€™s colonies in the Philippines and the Far East, as the great traveller and diamond merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was one of the first to suspect. 3 The Colombian emeralds, together with gold and silver, were loaded on to Spanish galleons at the port of Cartagena.
over the enhancement of brilliance through faceting and the archetypal melon-cut is ornamental without too much loss to the gemstone. Gemmological studies have confirmed that Indian emeralds from the Mughal period were actually mined in Colombia. The emerald is one of the few gemstones whose origins can be traced back to the very mine by their inclusions. Jagged three-phase inclusions consisting of a fluid, a gas bubble and a salt crystal are typical of Colombian emeralds. The history of the emerald is thus entwined with world trade routes and the economic history of empires. 7
Provenance: Spink and Son, London Professor R. E. Gibson
Published: Islamic & Hindu Jewellery, Spink and Son, 1988, pp. 57 and 59, cat. no. 43.
References: 1. Hans Nadelhoffer, Cartier, 2007, p. 166. 2. www.internetstones.com/emeralds-of-theprograma-royal-collection-corazon-emeraldagra-others.html. 3. Nadelhoffer, 2007, p. 166. 4. www.internetstones.com/emeralds as in note 2. This is the website of the Programa Royal Collections of Gemstones based in Madrid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. Gaston Giuliani et al,â€œOxygen Isotopes and Emerald Trade Routes since Antiquityâ€?, Science, vol. 287 (5453), January 2000, pp. 631-633.
35 M I N I AT U R E H O O K A H B A S E
INDIA (LUCKNOW ), FIRST HALF OF THE 18TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 12.2 CM DIAMETER: 6 CM
A silver, silver-gilt and enamelled miniature portable hookah base, the body of gourd form with two spouts projecting from the top, decorated overall with an extremely fine interlace of floral designs in green, blue, and purple enamels. The curved spout would have been connected to the hookah tube and monal (mouthpiece). The gradually widening straight spout would have supported the chillum, the fire cup containing the tobacco and embers in the hookah set. The characteristic Lucknow decorative palette of predominantly blue and green enamels on a silver-gilt ground contrasts with that of Jaipur, where polychrome enamelled decoration is surrounded by a monochrome white enamelled ground. The dense arabesques on the main body consist of serrated leaves on scrolling vines that radiate from the centrally placed eight and four-petalled purple flowers, with emerald blue flowers at the interstices. Framing the arabesque friezes at the waist, neck and base of the hookah are foliate bands between hatched and enamelled borders. To the centre of the base is a composite
flower-head formed by twelve amber enamelled petals that surround a chiselled eight-petalled flower to its centre. The surrounding leaves outline a six-petalled flower. The spouts are each decorated with floral sprigs within an ogival lattice. While most surviving hookah bases from Mughal India and the Deccan were destined to be placed on the floor, mobile pieces designed to be held by the smoker or his servant also had a considerable vogue, and they evolved into a very different shape and were for their purpose much smaller. The most frequently found shape for portable hookahs is that of the cone. In his book Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, 1997, p. 238, pl. 403, Mark Zebrowski illustrates a detail from a Hyderabad painting dated 1795 of “Nawab Saif al Mulk hawking”, where one of the Nawab’s servants is shown carrying a perfectly cone-shaped black hookah, probably made of bidri. Zebrowski also illustrates in pl. 405 on the same page, the earliest clear pictorial representation of a portable hookah in a Bundi painting dated 1662, in which a prince holds his lady in his right hand and his waterpipe in his left. It is also a perfect cone shape, made of a white material decorated with a large blue flowering plant, suggesting Persian faience, Chinese blue and white porcelain, or perhaps Indian enamel. According to Zebrowski, examples of such seventeenth century hookahs have
not survived. He illustrates three fine cone-shaped bidri hookahs of later eighteenth and early nineteenth century date on p. 239, pls. 406, 407 and 408. Another shape used for mobile hookahs is the subtly curved form of a ripe mango. Like the fruit itself, it can sit comfortably in the palm of one’s hand. Zebrowski illustrates a mango-shaped bidri hookah now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on p. 240, pl. 409; and a bronze mango-shaped hookah in the David Collection, Copenhagen, on p. 241, pl. 411. These mango-shaped hookahs are respectively 10 cm and 15.5 cm in height and therefore approximately the same convenient size for holding in the hand as the present hookah. The gourd shape of this hookah is extremely unusual and there are no published examples of this form. The hookah has a lovely weight and is a pleasure to hold in the hand. The fingers go securely around the waist while the contours of the lower body fit nicely against the palm. It is thus eminently suitable for relaxed strolling and enjoying the pleasures of smoking at the same time. This miniature hookah base was probably made for a noblewoman, who would also have appreciated its fine craftsmanship.
Provenance: The Pierre Jourdan-Barry Collection
36 BAHRAM GUR HUNTS ONAGERS
IRAN (SHIRAZ), CIRCA 1560 FOLIO: HEIGHT: 42.5 CM WIDTH: 27.5 CM MINIATURE: HEIGHT: 25.8 CM WIDTH: 20.5 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold and silver on paper. An illustration from a Shahnama of Firdausi. The text of the Shahnama is written in black ink on cream paper, in four ˛ columns of nasta liq with interlinear and intercolumnar illumination framed by narrow gold bands, dark blue, red and orange margins, and fine black rules. On the illustrated page, the text is written in uncoloured clouds reserved against a gold ground. On the recto are 25 lines of text in four columns, with intercolumnar bands in blue and gold decorated with floral scrolls. The border of the illustrated page is illuminated in gold with birds and wild animals amidst flowers and leaves; these include a simurgh and three deer.
The great Sasanian king Bahram Gur, son of Yazdegerd the Unjust, is celebrated for his hunting prowess. His name derives from his favourite activity, hunting the gur or onager, the Asiatic Wild Ass (Equus hemionus). Several wondrous tales of Bahram Gur’s dazzling hunting skills are to be found in the Shahnama. This painting summarily illustrates a few of the most famous episodes against the backdrop of a wide variety of animals being hunted: onagers, deer, a fox, a rabbit, a lioness and a wild boar. Taking centre stage is the princely hunter on a pie-bald horse in swift pursuit of two onagers, one galloping and the other collapsed from the arrow our hero has so precisely and elegantly unleashed. Seated on a brown dappled donkey watching him is Bahram Gur’s favourite slave girl and harp player, Azadeh, his heart’s delight and desire. In Firdausi’s account, one day Bahram Gur goes deer hunting without any of
his companions, taking only Azadeh with him; they both ride on his camel fitted with four gem-studded stirrups. She challenges him to display his hunting skills by shooting arrows to turn a buck into a doe, a doe into a buck, and to pin the ear, head and foot of a deer together. Bahram Gur uses a double-headed arrow to sever a buck’s antlers so that it looks like a doe, then shoots two arrows into the head of a doe so that it looks like a buck. He then uses his sling-shot to graze the ear of a third deer and when it lifts its foot to scratch the graze, he shoots an arrow that pins the foot, ear and head together. Astonished but full of pity for the deer, Azadeh reproaches Bahram Gur and attributes his success to demonic powers, at which point the furious prince throws her off the camel and tramples her to death.1 Azadeh’s grave error in doubting his skill is that it questions his farr, the royal charisma and auspicious source of power demonstrated by a successful hunt that is indispensable to a legitimate Persian ruler.2 The multitude of hunting scenes in the painting do the opposite and repeatedly celebrate his farr and hence legitimise his authority. Indeed one of Bahram Gur’s challenges is to convince the Persian nobles that he has the right qualifications to be king despite being the son of the loathed despot Yazdegerd. This folio comes from a copy of Firdausi’s Shahnama that is one of the grandest and most accomplished of Shiraz illustrated manuscripts in the later sixteenth century. Ten illustrated leaves from this important Shahnama,
including half of the frontispiece, are in the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Calderwood Shahnama pages are discussed by Marianna Shreve Simpson in Mary McWilliams (ed.), In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, 2013, pp. 77-113, 236-241, cat. nos. 94-101. Our Bahram Gur leaf is listed on p. 112 in Simpson’s Appendix 2 of surviving pages as folio 21a  (text) and 21b  (illustration). Six pages are in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Other leaves are in the Museum Rietberg in Zurich, the British Museum in London, the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore and the David Collection in Copenhagen.
Provenance: Spink and Son, London Private Japanese Collection
References: 1. The story of Bahram Gur and Azadeh given here is compiled from Dick Davis (trans.), Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings, 2007, pp. 604-605. 2. http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/ gallery/shahnameh/vgallery/section2.html.
37 A F O L I O F R O M T H E PA N J G A N J O F J A M I
IRAN (HERAT ), 1520 AND
INDIA (MUGHAL), 1603 TEXT WRITTEN BY SULTAN-ALI MASHHADI AND
ILLUMINATION AND BORDERS BY MUSHFIQ
(RECTO - BROWN BORDER) FOLIO: HEIGHT: 30.7 CM WIDTH: 18.8 CM TEXT: HEIGHT: 17.5 CM WIDTH: 9 CM (VERSO - ORANGE BORDER) FOLIO: HEIGHT: 30.4 CM WIDTH: 18.4 CM TEXT: HEIGHT: 17.5 CM WIDTH: 9 CM
Ink and opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. The Panj Ganj (Five Treasures) is a collection of five poems by the ˛ Iranian poet Abd al-Rahman Jami (1414-1492). The present folio comes from a striking and aesthetically original copy of the Panj Ganj, the bulk of which is in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.1 The Dublin manuscript is a virtually complete copy of the Panj Ganj, comprising 177 folios. The manuscript was commissioned in the early sixteenth century by Badi al-Zaman Mirza, the ruler of Herat. The text was written by the master calligrapher Sultan-Ali Mashhadi who signed three of
the folios, one signature being accompanied by the date AH 15 Zu’l-Hijja 920/November 26, 1520 AD.2 Badi al-Zaman was taken to Constantinople in 1514 and Sultan-Ali died in 1520, so it is possible that the text was completed by one of his pupils. The manuscript then entered the royal library of the first Safavid emperor, Shah Isma’il, in 1522-1523. By 1603, the copy of the Panj Ganj ˛ was in the possession of Abd al-Rahim Khankhanan (“Lord of Lords”), the commander-in-chief of the Mughal armies for both Akbar and Jahangir, famed bibliophile, translator of the Baburnama and patron of the arts who maintained a celebrated library and painting atelier. It was during this time that the talented Mughal artist Mushfiq, who spent his whole career in the employ ˛ of Abd al-Rahim, adorned the manuscript with the distinctive decorated borders and the small exquisite illustrations of a wide variety of animals, birds and plants in the triangular areas around the edge of the text. Occasionally, minuscule figures of courtiers, hunters, blue-skinned ascetics and noblewomen also appear.3 Mushfiq signed his name and the date AH 1012/1603 AD in one of the small triangular panels in folio 54r of the Chester Beatty manuscript, near the figure of a lively goat.4 In another tiny triangular picture, Mushfiq depicts a woman based on a Madonna seated in a European-style chair.5 Elaine Wright observes that the text of the Panj Ganj is laid out so that each folio includes the text of two
different poems, the first written horizontally in the two central columns, the other written obliquely in the narrow marginal columns. It is this layout that results in three triangular spaces, one each in the upper and lower gutter corners of the text area and one midpoint along the long outer edge of the text area.6 The manuscript left Iran unfinished with these small spaces still blank. ˛ Upon entering Abd al-Rahim’s library, his artists completed and extended the decoration by filling the triangular spaces, re-margining all the folios, adding an illuminated heading at the beginning of the text and two large paintings by Mushfiq.7 Most significant was the addition of new boldly decorated borders in a distinctive and unusual style of large scale flowers, leaves, birds, insects and fish, using a highly original palette with strong contrasting colours of very light against the very dark and vice versa, such as orange and gold against black or greyish blue against salmon. The delightful triangular miniatures are set against plants and shrubs that give a sense of space and an indication of background, while others have more developed landscapes. The six triangular miniatures on our folio include a bird in flight and a crested bird serenading from a rocky outcrop. Their intense jewel-like colours ensure that they hold their own against the calligraphy and the bold outer borders in a very different style. Our two borders both depict a dynamic community of birds, insects and fish against a cluster of overgrown plants on the water’s edge. In the recto page on a dark
brown ground, cranes in flight, whiskered kingfishers and fluttering insects jostle amidst gargantuan lotus blossoms with serrated leaves and menacing spiky stalks. The verso border on an orange ground is more lyrical and affords a view over the water with swimming fish, paddling ducks, diving waterfowl and swirling water plants. Outlines and details are picked out in gold and on the orange border, greyish blue is used to sporadically highlight single leaves or feathers and wings so that they jump out. According to John Seyller, the visual density of the overgrown vegetation, the lack of recession into dusky but unarticulated backgrounds, resulting in all the motifs being pushed to the surface plane, and the accentuation of contour over form, make the decoration of the Panj Ganj borders more characteristic of textile patterns than of traditional manuscript borders.8 For Linda Leach, the overall character of the border designs owes a certain amount to the influence of Chinese nature paintings. Leach, Seyller and Wright all attribute the triangular paintings to Mushfiq. As ˛ the leading artist of Abd al-Rahim’s atelier he must have also been involved in the planning and design of the extraordinary borders that work together so well with the triangular paintings and the elegant calligraphy. It is possible that Mushfiq was a house-born of the ˛ Khankhanan. We are told by Abd al-Baqi Nihavandi in his biographical work Ma‘asi-i Rahimi of 1617 that Mushfiq was personally trained by
˛ Abd al-Rahim and the general had a transforming effect on the artist’s skill and qualities, bringing about an almost alchemical enhancement of his talents.9 Signed examples of Mushfiq’s work are rare and can be seen in the collections of the British Museum; the Preussische Staatsbibliothek, Berlin; the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; and the Free Library of Philadelphia. ˛ The calligraphy is written in nasta liq in black and gold ink. The main text is from the Alexander romance entitled Kheradnameh-ye Eskandari (“The Alexandrian Book of Wisdom”), the fourth poem of the Panj Ganj. The text on the recto describes the grief of Alexander’s followers upon his death and the preparations for his funeral; Alexander’s body is washed in musk and rosewater, his shroud and the fittings of his coffin are made from precious silks. On the verso begins the first of ten lamentations given by a group of sages who reflect on the lessons to be drawn from the life of Alexander. The chapter ˛ heading in gold nasta liq reads: nodbeh-ye hakim-e avval, “Lamentation of the First Sage”. The diagonal verses in the margins are from a separate masnavi, Salaman va Absal. It tells the story of Salaman, the son of the king of Greece, for his wet-nurse, Absal. As their love is forbidden by the king, the couple decide to end their lives by leaping into a fire; while the nurse dies, the inconsolable Salaman survives. He is eventually cured of his love for Absal
by a sage who repeatedly shows him an image of Venus, with whom he falls in love. In this way Salaman becomes worthy of the throne and takes the place of his father. At this point in the narrative, Salaman is cured of his love for Absal and is handed the kingdom by his father. ˛ In AH 1034/1624-1625 AD Abd al-Rahim presented this copy of the Panj Ganj to the emperor Jahangir and thus it entered the Mughal Royal Library where it remained for several generations. The manuscript has the seal impressions of the emperors Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb and Farrukhsiyar.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Will Kwiatkowski for his expert advice and his kind reading and interpretation of the text.
References: 1. Discussed in Linda York Leach, Mughal and other Indian Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library, 1995, vol. II, pp. 567-579; Elaine Wright, Muraqqa’: Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library, 2008, pp. 223-225; John Seyller, Workshop and Patron in Mughal India: The Freer Ramayana and ˛ Other Illustrated Manuscripts of Abd al-Rahim, 1999, pp. 293-301. 2. Wright, 2008, p. 223. 3. Seyller, 1999, p. 294. 4. Ibid., p. 294, fig. 208. 5. Ibid., p. 295, fig. 209. 6. Wright, 2008, p. 223. 7. See Seyller, 1999, p. 296, figs. 212 and 211. 8. Ibid., pp. 298-299. 9. Ibid., p. 318.
38 VA S U D E VA E S C A P E S F R O M T H E PA L A C E W H I L E T H E G U A R D S A R E A S L E E P
INDIA (MUGHAL), CIRCA 1590 FOLIO: HEIGHT: 46.5 CM WIDTH: 31.8 CM MINIATURE: HEIGHT: 30.8 CM WIDTH: 20.5 CM SHAH JAHAN DRAWING: HEIGHT: 25.3 CM WIDTH: 14 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration from a Harivamsha series. This elegant painting depicts a royal figure making his escape from a palace during the night with the assistance of a trusted friend while a group of guards and their dogs are fast sleep outside the palace walls. His accomplice holds a bow and arrow and looks up towards the king who gestures towards him in earnest. The architecture of the palace behind is a charming tumble of crenellated buildings, including a temple steeple surmounted by a finial of vertically stacked pots. The king is Vasudeva, husband of Devaki and father of the baby Krishna who has just been born within the prison walls. They have been imprisoned by Devaki’s cousin, the evil tyrant and demon king
Kamsa, who intends to kill every child that Devaki gives birth to because of a prophecy that the eighth child of Devaki would kill him. Though Kamsa in fact kills the first six sons of Devaki who are all born in prison, the story has a happy ending. The birth of Balarama, the seventh son, is transferred to the womb of Rohini, another wife of Vasudeva who lives far away in the safety of the herder’s village Gokula, where many of Krishna’s later adventures with the gopis will take place. Officially, Devaki has a miscarriage. The eighth child is Krishna. He is swapped at birth with the baby daughter of Yashoda, who also lives in Gokula. The safety of the divine child and his brother the white-skinned Balarama is due to the intervention of Vishnu, of whom Krishna is an avatar. Within the prison cell the baby Krishna reveals his true divine form as four-armed Vishnu to Devaki and Vasudeva. They are unafraid and offer their humble homage and gratitude to Vishnu as Krishna, who speaks consolingly and says that he must be saved from the hands of Kamsa and taken to Gokula to be substituted for another child who has been born at the same time to Yashoda. After the
revelation, Vishnu reverts to the form of the infant Krishna and as depicted in the painting, Vasudeva makes preparations to smuggle the baby out of the prison cell and away from the palace. Miraculously, the keepers of the prison and all the citizens within the palace are suddenly deprived of consciousness and their functions overcome by a deep sleep. Even the guard dogs fall into a sound slumber. All the entrances that have been closed shut by huge doors secured with iron bolts and chains now automatically fling open on their own accord. Baby Krishna is not depicted in the picture and is still probably waiting in the prison cell below the terrace on which Vasudeva stands, indicated by the small windows barred by very tight jali lattices. However, the door onto the terrace through which Vasudeva has emerged is now open, and from their conversational gestures he may be discussing how to throw the baby down to the accomplice to catch. Vishnu’s slumber spell has not affected Vasudeva or his accomplice. That the spell has just begun to exert its power is indicated by the fact that while two of the guards and both dogs are fast asleep, the guard holding the black shield and mace to the left is still struggling to stay awake and his eyes are just closing. No doubt the other doors would all soon be flung magically open to afford free passage to Vasudeva and the baby. The story continues with the skies opening and incessant rain sent by Indra to shroud the escaping Vasudeva in darkness as he carries baby Krishna across the river,
shielded from the rain by the hood of the serpent Shesha. A painting of this scene from a circa 1700 Bhagavata Purana from Mankot depicts similar sleeping guards and dogs and just-opening prison doors, but also includes Krishna revealing his true self as divine Vishnu to his parents in the cell. This is illustrated in B. N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer, Pahari Masters: Court Painters of Northern India, 1992, pp. 110-111, no. 42. The distinctive crown worn by Vasudeva with its three pointed pinnacles, each with two rounded bosses, is very similar to the crowns depicted in the Harivamsha of circa 1590 in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (inv. IS 4-1970); see Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book 1560-1660, 2002, p. 97, pl. 63. On the verso is a pen and ink drawing of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-1658), standing on a globe and holding a jewelled sarpech in his left hand. The European-influenced cherubs in the swirling clouds above hold attributes of kingship and divine ordination: a sword, a parasol and a crown. The artist has used crosshatching to create some of the volumes, showing an awareness of European prints and engravings from which these images may derive and the techniques of which are imitated. The emperor stands above the scales of justice and is accompanied by a recumbent lamb and lion below. He holds a sword in his right hand and a katar (thrust-dagger) is tied by his patka (sash). Shah Jahan is identified by ˛ the nasta liq identification inscription in the top border.
This portrait of Shah Jahan follows an almost identical depiction inscribed to Hashim dating to 1629 in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC (inv. 39.49). This painting is illustrated in Milo Cleveland Beach, The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court, 1981, p. 187, cat. no.18d; and by John Seyller in “Hashim” in Pratapaditya Pal (ed.), Master Artists of the Imperial Mughal Court, 1991, p. 114, fig. 9. The exquisite quality of the draughtsmanship in this drawing, particularly noticeable in the refined and delicate facial features of Shah Jahan and in the expressive, surprisingly strong faces of the putti, indicates that it dates to the mid seventeenth century. For a further depiction of Shah Jahan standing on a globe from the Minto Album, very similar to both this drawing and the Freer Gallery painting, see Linda York Leach, Mughal and other Indian Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library, 1995, vol. I, p. 401, cat. no. 3.26. The circa 1630 depiction of Shah Jahan by Bichitr has an opaque jama like that worn in our own work, which contrasts with the transparent jama in the painting by Hashim. In the Bichitr, two European-style angels lift a crown above Shah Jahan’s head, while serried ranks of mullahs float on clouds to either side.
Provenance: The Family Collection of the Ducs de Luynes, the collection formed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries during the period of the greatest French activity in India.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Sunil Sharma for his kind identification of the Harivamsha scene and John Seyller for his expert advice and discussion of the Shah Jahan drawing.
39 S H I VA F E E D S PA R VAT I I N A F O R E S T G R O V E
INDIA (UDAIPUR), 1675-1680 HEIGHT: 29.8 CM WIDTH: 23.4 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. A folio from a dispersed Gita Gauri series. The Rajasthani Hindi inscription written in devanagari in the yellow text panel gives us the subject of the painting: “Urvashi is shyly telling Mahadeva (Shiva) to take the form of Ardhanarishvara. [She says to Shiva] the bed is decorated with a torana (arch) of flowers. I am not so brave [so] you take the first step”. On the verso is the folio number 9 and a collector’s stamp, probably that of the Late Kumar Sangram Singh of Nawalgarh who owned this painting and several other published pages of the Gita Gauri series. Gauri means “golden” and is one of the names or epithets of the goddess Parvati, the wife of Shiva. Gita means “song” so Gita Gauri may be translated as “The Song of Gauri”. According to Andrew Topsfield, who illustrates folio 16 from this series in Court Painting at Udaipur: Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar, 2002, p. 93, fig. 56, the Gita Gauri of circa 1675-1680 depicts the passionate dalliance of Shiva and Parvati, recalling the amours of Krishna and Radha in the Gita Govinda and the Rasikapriya. Multiple scenes of the divine lovers are compressed within the vertical format to lively effect. Plain coloured backgrounds, relieved by scattered white flowers and a broad white
horizon band with star-lit sky above, are a common feature of this series.1 Topsfield observes that several hands can be discerned, one of them probably that of the painter Mun.2 Folio 16 depicts Shiva and Parvati bathing in the purifying waters of the holy Manasarovar lake, situated high on the Tibetan plateau near Mount Kailash and the source of the river Ganga. The present painting, folio 9, depicts Shiva at the centre seated in a forest grove feeding Parvati with a choice array of delicacies, with Ardhanarishvara standing to the left and Shiva seated above being visited by apsaras (angels or divine beauties). Kama, the god of love, shoots his arrow from a tree, followed by Indra on his flying elephant, Airavata, against a starry sky lit by a full moon. Shiva can be identified by the crescent moon, the symbol of time; the river Ganga flowing from his matted locks of hair; and the snake, symbol of worldly attachment, that coils around his arm. His body is smeared with greyish ash (vibhuti). To the right is a darkened bedchamber prepared for love-making, to which the feeding of Parvati is the tender prelude. The apsaras dwell in Indra’s paradise, Svarga. The apsara in conversation with Shiva is Urvashi, the chief of the apsaras. Since the inscription has Urvashi telling Shiva to go to the bed first as she is shy and nervous, Robert Skelton has suggested that in this scene, Parvati may have gone into the form of Urvashi. A painting from this Gita Gauri manuscript, folio 8, is in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (acc. no. 664.124). It depicts how the gods orchestrate a match between Shiva and Parvati, with Indra bringing Urvashi as
go-between to the shrine in which Parvati is seated, before flying off to negotiate with Shiva. Another painting, folio 3, is in the Edwin Binney, 3rd Collection at the San Diego Museum of Arts. This depicts Shiva and Parvati locked in an embrace seated on a swing within their Himalayan cave near Lake Manasarovar. This shows that they were lovers even before Urvashi brings them together in folios 8 and 9. It is possible that they had a quarrel as Parvati seems to storm off to the left, and folios 8 and 9 represent not their matchmaking by the other gods but their reconciliation after a lovers’ tiff. Ardhanarishvara represents their most complete union, where they become one.
Provenance: Collection of Kumar Sangram Singh of Nawalgarh, painting no. B-45 George P. Bickford Collection, acquired before 7th February 1964 Private New York Collection
Exhibited: On loan to the Cleveland Museum of Art, 7th February 1964 to 12th September 1980.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Joan Cummins and Robert Skelton for their expert advice and Rao Rajeesh for his kind identification of the figures.
References: 1. Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at Udaipur: Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar, 2002, p. 93.
According to Anna Dallapiccola, Ardhanarishvara means “the Lord being half-woman”.3 This is a peaceful aspect of Shiva in his androgynous form, symbolising the inseparability of the male and female principle, the cause of creation.4 Ardhanarishvara has been interpreted, among other meanings, as the union of the passive spirit (purusha) and the active nature (prakriti), or as an embodiment of the universe. The same notion is conveyed, in a more abstract form, by the linga emerging from the yoni.5
2. Ibid. 3. Anna L. Dallapiccola, Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend, 2002, p. 28. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid.
40 MAHARANA ARI SINGH EMBRACING HIS RANI
INDIA (UDAIPUR), CIRCA 1765 HEIGHT: 33.8 CM WIDTH: 24.6 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. Maharana Ari Singh (reigned 1761-1773), depicted much larger than his lady companions, is seen embracing one of his women on a terrace in a lake palace. He is seated on a rug laid out over a parterre of flowers with an immense bolster behind him. His rani has clambered onto his lap, thrown her arms around his neck and looks adoringly into his eyes. The pleasure of this intimate moment has brought a smile to Ari Singh’s face and he seems to be gently tickling her in the lead up to their kiss. The mood is convivial and spirited and the happy scene is depicted with a good dose of humour.
Other diminutive women stand behind waving a morchal and a fan. Three attendants stand before the royal couple bearing Ari Singh’s sword and shield, a long-necked flask (surahi), and gold containers for pan and other delicacies. Placed at the lovers’ feet are rosewater sprinklers (gulabpash), a floral garland and other small cups and dishes for their delectation. A red qanat (tent) encloses the scene in front while other women wait outside. These include a lady bearing a large silver hookah and musicians seated on a striped dhurrie. The architectural setting is a mixture of the black and white chequered flooring of the Jagnivas and Jagmandir lake palaces in Lake Pichola, with the topmost storey of the Amar Vilas or Bari (Garden) Mahal apartments of the Udaipur palace itself. A central marble pavilion with cusped arches and three finials surmounting the dome is linked to the flanking side pavilions by jali screens carved with a variety of contrasting patterns and topped by crenellations. The patch of blue in the background simultaneously evokes both lake and sky. Completing the picture is a spectacular display of multi-coloured rolling clouds that together with the vivid patterns of the jalis and the floors cause the whole composition to pulsate with life and sparkling energy.
Provenance: The Jagdish Mittal Collection The Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection, Los Angeles
41 MAHARANA ARI SINGH HUNTING WILD BOAR
INDIA (UDAIPUR), DATED 1764 BY SHIVA HEIGHT: 22.5 CM WIDTH: 40.5 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened gold on paper. Inscribed on the reverse in devanagari in two different hands with the name and titles of the Maharana, the subject of the painting, the name of the horse and the name of the painter Shiva. The Mewar royal inventory number 3/246 is written in red ink above the inscription to the top centre of the reverse. The number indicates that this painting is no. 246 out of the 410 serial numbers from Ari Singh’s reign, as noted by Andrew Topsfield in his article “The royal paintings inventory at Udaipur” in John Guy (ed.), Indian art and connoisseurship: Essays in honour of Douglas Barret, 1995, p. 192.
The inscription begins with the word shri then continues with three lines that tell us this is the likeness of shri maharaja dhiraja maharaha-ji ar(i) singh mounted on the horse siv sar nisar prasad (from the) brush of the artist Shiva, given as nazar (gift) on the 14th of the bright half of the month of Magh VS. 1820 (16th February 1764 AD). In this dynamic painting constructed on a series of parallel diagonals, Maharana Ari Singh (reigned 1761-1773) gallops swiftly on his black stallion to the rescue of a fallen hunter who is being attacked by an enraged wild boar. The hunter has tumbled head-first to the ground and though he still holds his steel katar (thrust-dagger) in one hand and his black shield in the other, he has lost his turban in the frenzy of the hunt. His pony tail emerges loosened from his shaven head and his patka (sash) flies in the wind upside down. The boar has bitten the hunter’s arm and
blood stains his white tunic. The boar in turn is being attacked by two leaping saluki hounds that draw blood from the boar with their teeth and claws, ripping savagely into its flesh. Ari Singh has shot an arrow at the back of the boar’s neck and is preparing to shoot another. The ruler is regally portrayed with a nimbus and aigrette, and wears sumptuous hunting gear comprising a red and gold tunic and jodhpurs tucked into gold riding boots that slot neatly into white stirrups. A quiver full of arrows dangles from his patka, into which is tucked his gold katar. The horse is also richly caparisoned with gold braids to the mane, and a red saddlecloth from which dangle red tassels on gold ropes. Suave and debonair, cool and confident, Ari Singh rides and shoots with all the effortless grace and skill of a master horseman and archer. Despite his unpopularity and ruthlessness, Ari Singh presided over a period of abundant painting. When depicted in his public persona, Ari Singh appears most often on horseback. During the first two years of his reign, 1761-1762, his artists produced a spate of equestrian procession scenes, showing him mounted on his favourite stallions with an entourage of up to twenty attendants on foot, in the well-worn convention developed under Sangram Singh.1 Solitary equestrian portraits were also produced, including spirited studies of the Rana wheeling at speed as he practices horsemanship or galloping beside his boon companion, Rupji.2 In other paintings he is shown shooting wild boar from his horse while out hunting in the hills surrounding Udaipur.3 No doubt Ari Singh was a splendid horseman
and wanted his painters to celebrate his riding skills while providing him with a glittering, heroic context in which to be depicted, rather different from the reality of his wilful and ill-tempered character and the meagre achievements of his turbulent rule. Shiva, the son of Naga and grandson of Bhagvan, was a junior artist at the Mewar court in Udaipur. A painting by Shiva dated 1761 of “Ari Singh practicing horsemanship” is illustrated in Andrew Topsfield, The City Palace Museum Udaipur: Paintings of Mewar Court Life, 1990, p. 54, cat. no. 17.
Ari Singh appears three
continuous narrative as
shooting boar on horseback, see Topsfield, 2002, p. 201, fig. 182. See also Topsfield, 1980, p. 121, cat. no. 171 for a large hunting scene where
times on horseback in the
We would like to thank Robert Skelton for
he shoots a wild boar
his expert advice and kind reading of
eventually killed by
References: 1. Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at Udaipur: Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar, 2002, p. 199. 2. For equestrian portraits of Ari Singh
A painting by Shiva dated 1762 showing “Maharana Ari Singh with the Dhabhai Rupji and Young Prince Neliya” is illustrated in the Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, 2007, pp. 116-117, cat. no.
3. For a depiction of Ari Singh
46. Another painting by Shiva dated 1762 of “Ari Singh hunting wild boar on his horse Chaturbhuj Pasav” is illustrated in the Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, 2011, pp.140-141, cat. no. 61.
see Andrew Topsfield, Paintings from Rajasthan in the National Gallery of Victoria, 1980, pp. 120 and 123, cat. nos. 170 and 179.
42 N A A G PA A S H
INDIA (RAJASTHAN, PROBABLY UDAIPUR), 18TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 19 CM WIDTH: 22 CM
being the overlord of the waters. He is associated with rain, rivers, oceans and fertility, and his vehicle is the mythical aquatic beast, the makara. It is in this watery world that Varuna becomes associated with the nagas contained within that realm.
Opaque watercolour on paper. An intricate mesh is formed by the coils of a very long snake that loops in on itself to tighten a complex series of reef knots and corner loops, the venomous head with hissing tongue and the darting tail of the snake meeting at the centre of the picture where the snake both begins and ends. The area within the grip of the coils is creamy yellow while outside the danger zone is a border of flowering shrubs on a green ground, within yellow and red margins. Pictures such as this may have been used as mandalas for meditation in order to gain advantage over an opponent or enemy. Inscribed on the reverse in devanagari: nag pas a vernacular version of naag paash meaning “serpent-noose”, a magical lasso in which an enemy can become entangled. The original Sanskrit word nagapasha from which naag paash is derived, was also known as Vishvajit, a personal name meaning “Conqueror of the Universe”. This was the name given to the noose of the god Varuna, one of the earliest and most prominent Vedic deities. He was originally God of the Skies, but as his position diminished with the rise to prominence of the major Hindu gods, he was relegated to
The naag paash is also associated with one of the great demon characters of the Ramayana, Indrajit, the son of Ravana. Originally called Meghanaad, meaning “thunderous” because of the deafening sound of his birth cry, he was given the name Indrajit (Conquerer of Indra) by Brahma when he defeated Indra by tying him up with his serpent-noose. The naag paash is the most famous and formidable, but not the only weapon in the vast armoury of the demon warrior, sorcerer and illusionist, who plays a major role in the Lankan wars between Rama and Ravana. He has arrows that can change into snakes as they fly through the air, able to pierce, bite, poison, bind and entwine. Individual snake arrows can combine into a single gigantic naag paash, sometimes made up of a million snakes. Indrajit is married to Sulchana, the daughter of the King of the Serpents, Shesha; he is thus able to combine combat skills learnt from his demon father and his naga father-in-law.
inextricable mesh, unable to even open their eyes. The naag paash continues to tighten its grip and they become unconscious. Indrajit lets fly a continuous volley of snake arrows that cover every inch of the brothers’ flesh. As blood spews from their multiple wounds, the monkey troops fear that the end of their heroes draws near. Indrajit rushes from the battlefield to boast to Ravana of his victory but unexpected salvation comes in the form of Garuda, the king of the birds and the enemy of serpents, who swoops in from the sky to save the day.2 Terrified at the sight of Garuda’s swift approach, the naag paash loosens its grip and the snake arrows slither hurriedly away, leaving Garuda to heal Rama’s and Lakshmana’s wounds and nurse them back to vigorous health. At Garuda’s touch, their strength, valour and intelligence are not only restored, but redoubled in magnificence.3
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Robert Skelton for his expert advice.
References: 1. The story given here is compiled from Arshia Sattar (abridged and trans.), Valmiki: The Ramayana, 1996, pp. 550-557; and Hari Prasad Shastri (trans.), The Ramayana of Valmiki, 1953 and 1962, vol. III, pp. 110-123,
One of Indrajit’s greatest triumphs is his defeat of Rama and Lakshmana by using the naag paash. Rendering himself invisible with a boon granted by Brahma, he unleashes the huge snake weapon that coils up like a rope and ensnares Rama and Lakshmana.1 They fall to the ground, completely immobilised by the
chapters 45-50. 2. According to Anna L. Dallapiccola in Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend, 2002, p. 82, the animosity of Garuda towards snakes and serpents is due to the ancient feud between his mother Vinata and her sister, his aunt Kadru, the mother of the nagas. 3. Sattar, 1996, p. 556; Shastri, 1953 and 1962, pp. 123-124.
43 PR I T HV I R A J C HAU HA N SHOOTS MU HA MMA D G HOR I
INDIA (UDAIPUR), CIRCA 1820 BY NATHU RAM HEIGHT: 29 CM WIDTH: 22 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. Inscribed on the reverse in devanagari: chataro nathu ram ki hath kalam “By the hand of the painter Nathu Ram”. Within the open courtyard strewn with broken bows and chained to a boulder, Prithviraj Chauhan fires the final arrow that kills Muhammad Ghori. This sets off a wild commotion with Ghori’s courtiers, and the ranks of soldiers burst out of their enclosures to exact revenge. However a lone figure, that of Prithviraj Chauhan’s court poet Chand Bardai, subdues the already blinded hero and proceeds to cut his throat. Prithvi Raj III, commonly known as Prithviraj Chauhan, was a king of the Hindu Chauhan dynasty, who ruled the twin kingdoms of Ajmer and Delhi in the latter part of the twelfth century.1 According to the Prithvirajaraso, an epic poem composed by Chand Bardai, the Chauhan clan was part of the Agnivanshi Rajputs who derived their origins from the sacrificial fire pit of Agni. Chauhan was the last independent Hindu king to sit upon the throne of Delhi before he was finally defeated by the Muslims.1 He controlled
much of present day Rajasthan and Haryana, and unified the Rajputs against Muslim invasions. Prithviraj Chauhan defeated the Muslim ruler Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori in the First Battle of Tarain in 1191 and set him free as a gesture of mercy. Ghori attacked again the next year and Prithviraj was captured at the Second Battle of Tarain in 1192.2 Ghori took Prithviraj to Ghazni, where Prithviraj was cruelly blinded by red hot pokers.3 Legend has it that in an archery contest, Chand Bardai gave Prithviraj the physical location of Ghori in the arena by reciting a poem with the phrase, “Ten pole measures, twenty four arms’ length and eight fingers’ width away, is seated the Sultan, do not miss him now, Chauhan”. As Ghori ordered the show to start, Prithviraj located him by the sound of his voice and the poem’s precise measurements, and shot him dead.4 Prior to the denouement, Prithviraj had already displayed his prowess by shooting through iron plates struck by a sword, locating their position by sound alone, a feat which much impressed Ghori. In this multi-episodic painting, we see the iron plates skewered on an arrow, Chand Bardai revealing Ghori’s position through the poem, Ghori collapsing with an arrow through his forehead, and at the bottom right, the poet and Prithviraj killing each other, their final act to avoid being slaughtered by the Ghorids. The heroic act of Prithviraj Chauhan is lauded throughout Rajasthan to this day. For Mewar paintings depicting Prithviraj with a bow and arrow, see Molly Emma Aitken, The Intelligence of Tradition in Rajput Court Painting, 2010, pp. 239-240, figs. 5.31, 5.33, 5.36. For a Devgarh depiction of Chauhan shooting Ghori, see Milo Cleveland
Beach and Rawat Nahar Singh II, Rajasthani Painters Bagta and Chokha: Master Artists at Devgarh, 2005, p. 13, fig. 4. A picture of Prithviraj attributed to Chokha is illustrated in Sven Ghalin, The Courts of India: Indian Miniatures from the Collection of the Foundation Custodia, 1991, p. 75, no. 74. The present painting is referenced by Andrew Topsfield in Court Paintings at Udaipur: Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar, 2001, pp. 233-234. Nathu Ram was the son of Ala Bagas and a close follower of Chokha. The treatment of the eyes is a distinctive trait of Chokha that was originally developed by Bagta. The light fuzzy beards together with the large expressive eyes give the composition a greater sense of emotion, as seen in the distress of Ghori’s courtiers and soldiers.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Robert Skelton for his expert advice.
References: 1. http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Prithviraj_Chauhan 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid.
44 M E WA R R U L E R S
INDIA (UDAIPUR), CIRCA 1930 HEIGHT: 30.2 CM WIDTH: 26 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. This unusual painting depicts the lineage of the Sisodia dynasty, the rulers of Mewar. The Maharanas of Mewar are the descendants of the epic hero, Rama, and the sun god, Surya. Twenty-two rulers surround a crest containing a representation of Surya on a flag held by two warriors, a Bhil tribesman on the left and a Rajput on the right. Above is a linga in a yoni, surmounted by a sword flanked by acanthus leaves. The motto written in devanagari reads: Jo drirha rakhe dharma koun tihin rakhe katar
“The almighty protects those who stand steadfast in upholding righteousness”. To the top left corner, Rama and Sita sit nimbate and enthroned, flanked by Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna, while Rama’s feet are massaged by a kneeling and devoted Hanuman. The golden throne has a cusped back surmounted by a jewelled parasol and lion front feet. All four brothers wear crowns and carry bows; Bharata and Shatrughna wave chowries (flywhisks); Hanuman’s golden mace is placed on the ground beside him and he also wears a crown. To the top right corner is four-armed Durga riding on her lion through the countryside past a linga and yoni set amidst the grasses. She is followed by Nandi bull, the mount
of Shiva. In the sky above is Brahma riding on his hamsa. A devotee, who is probably a Mewar ancestor as his attendant holds an honorific parasol over him, supplicates the goddess in prayer as she approaches. At the centre within an oval cartouche is Eklingji, the presiding deity of Mewar, a form of Shiva depicted in black marble as a four-faced linga (caturmukhalinga) surmounted by an encircling gold snake and placed on a rectangular yoni. From the tier of gold parasols above trickle lustrations onto the jewelled and garlanded god. White blossoms float in the waters of the black marble yoni. The temple complex of Eklingji is located 22 kilometres north of Udaipur. The Maharanas of Mewar may be identified in clockwise direction from the
top centre as Udai Singh (who reigned from 1540), Pratap Singh (1572), Amar Singh I (1597), Karan Singh (1620), Jagat Singh (1628), Raj Singh I (1652), Jai Singh (1680), Amar Singh II (1698), Sangram Singh (1710), Jagat Singh II (1734), Pratap Singh II (1751), Raj Singh II (1754), Ari Singh (1761), Hamir Singh (1773), Bhim Singh (1778), Jawan Singh (1828), Sardar Singh (1838), Sarup Singh (1842), Shambhu Singh (1861), Sajjan Singh (1874), Fateh Singh (1884) and Bhupal Singh (reigned 1930 to 1955). Judging by Bhupal Singh’s youthful appearance and by comparison with the white-haired Fateh Singh standing next to him, this painting must have been prepared for him early in his reign. Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Andrew Topsfield for his expert advice.
45 KRISHNA WITH THE GOPIS UNDER A TREE
INDIA (KOTAH), CIRCA 1760 HEIGHT: 29 CM WIDTH: 21 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. This exuberant painting depicts Krishna standing under a tree with his legs crossed at the knee, holding his flute in one hand and receiving an offering of milk curds from one of the three gopis (milkmaids) who stand before him. The youthful blue-skinned Krishna is sumptuously dressed in a multi-coloured tiered skirt over red trousers decorated with gold sprigs. He is adorned with copious jewellery including necklaces, earrings, bazubands, anklets, a garland of white blossoms and a crown of peacock feathers. White-skinned Balarama stands to the side, holding his ploughshare and acknowledging the gift to his brother. Both Krishna and Balarama wear floral patkas (sashes) and paduka, wooden sandals with a knob between the first two toes that raise the feet above the ground. Two of the gopis carry lotas (water vases) on their heads. The cows that have come with the gopis to praise Krishna look up at him in adoration. They are accompanied by mischievous calves scampering in all directions, goaded on by an excited gopa (cowherd) who offers a bowl of curds to Krishna
as he runs alongside his herd. A pair of darting egrets and a playful family of colourful ducks add to the festive air. The scene takes place on the bank of a stream against a mountain form surrounded by distant trees and a sunset. Robert Del Bonta has proposed a complex interpretation in which complementary readings of the subject and meaning may coalesce to enrich the viewer’s experience. The first is an oblique reference to the toll of milk curds, in poetry called dan-lila, exacted by Krishna and the gopas on Radha and sixteen thousand gopis as they travel though a narrow gorge towards the city of Mathura to sell their curds at the market. They are teasingly denied passage unless a tax of curds is paid. The tight pictorial space created by the mountain looming behind evokes the narrow passage in which Krishna sets up his toll booth. The festive depiction of the figures and animals also suggests that this painting may commemorate the Festival of Cows, the Gopashtami utsava which takes place in the late autumn on the 8th of the month of Katrika Shukla. This festival marks the promotion of Krishna from herder of calves to full cowherd.1 On this day the cows are worshipped and their bodies, horns and hooves painted with auspicious red henna and adorned with jewels. The painting shares an identical red floral border with eight miniatures in an album at the Bodleian Library in Oxford (MS. Douce Or. b.3) that depict the main incarnations of Vishnu,
suggesting that it may be from the same Dasavarata (Ten Incarnations of Vishnu) series. The Bodleian pictures include Narasimha, Parashurama and Buddha, but also Brahma seated on his hamsa goose. Brahma is not included as one of the avatars of Vishnu but maintains equilibrium between Vishnu and Shiva as part of the trimurti (triad) of gods. Other incarnations, less easily identifiable, such as a figure who resembles Rama with his bow but shown white-skinned rather than blue, a green figure riding a chariot identified as Budha (the planet Mercury) and an epic picture showing the battlefields of Lanka with Sita and a blue-skinned Rama in a tower facing Ravana in his palace, suggest that the series intermingles the Dasavarata with a wider range of subjects. The present picture would however take its place within the Dasavarata group as Krishna is the eighth avatar of Vishnu. A final possibility is that this painting may be from a Ragamala series as the iconography of the dan-lila is sometimes used for Gujari Ragini. A verse, published by O. C. Gangoly in Ragas and Raginis, 1935 and quoted in Klaus Ebeling, Ragamala Painting, 1973, p. 146 reads: “Its time is two hours after sunrise. Three fair-faced damsels are bringing water from the River Jumna. Kisandeo (Krishna) having obstructed their way, he makes jokes with them and does not allow them to proceed.”
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Robert J. Del Bonta for his expert advice.
Reference: 1. Kay Talwar and Kalyan Krishna, Indian Pigment Paintings on Cloth: Historic Textiles of India at the Calico Museum, Ahmedabad, Vol. III, 1979, p. 44.
46 A S AVA R I R A G I N I
INDIA (HYDERABAD), 1784-1786 HEIGHT: 24.3 CM WIDTH: 15.2 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold and silver on paper. An illustration from a Ragamala series. In the cool air of the early morning, two female ascetics meet under the trees on the rocky outcrops surrounding lotus ponds. Dressed in courtly attire and seated with one leg raised is Asavari Ragini, who plays her melancholic melody on the punji, the wind instrument of snake charmers made from a bottle gourd and two reed pipes (jivala), one for the tune and one for the drone. Attracted by her music, snakes coil around her arms and legs to adorn her like jewellery while others hiss and slither on the ground and in the branches above. Her companion on the left, with a dog at her side, embraces a tree with her leg wrapped around its trunk. Dressed in a short dhoti and cloak that opens to reveal her delicate breasts, she re-enacts the role of bare-chested Gorakhanatha, the celebrated male yogi who gives Asavari the punji so that she can call forth swarms of serpents. She holds a crutch handle (zafar takieh) in one hand and with the other, silhouettes her gentle profile with the haloed shape of her fan. According to John Seyller, Asavari Ragini derives its name from asi (snake) and ari (enemy) and is associated with the snake-taming Shavaras tribe. She is usually depicted as a solitary dark-skinned woman dressed in a skirt of leaves or peacock feathers, sitting on a rock
surrounded by snakes that console her disappointed love. The light-complexioned noblewoman accompanied by a standing ascetic is an iconographic variant peculiar to the Deccan.1 A similar painting in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalya has inscriptions identifying the male ascetic as Gorakhanatha. The distant white building is an element of Hyderabadi painting also at odds with the traditional wilderness.2 The stylised landscape develops from traits seen in seventeenth century Golconda painting, the rocks and foliage abstracted into even more strongly defined shapes. The sense of rarefied elegance continues in the palette: the lotus ponds are rendered a gleaming silver, the snakes a luxurious gold and the sky a salmon pink.3 This painting from the Seitz Collection comes from a Ragamala set nearly identical in composition and quality to the celebrated Johnson Ragamala now at the British Library.4 Richard Johnson collected paintings during his twenty years in India, holding positions in Calcutta, Lucknow and Hyderabad. He spent 1784-1785 in Hyderabad, where he acquired the series of thirty-six paintings now in the India Office Collection. The most elaborate of five closely related sets, it is probably the earliest as well, dating to the years around Johnsonâ€™s sojourn in Hyderabad.5 The other series were produced in quick succession by the same artist or his workshop using a set of master drawings. The six paintings in the Seitz Collection parallel those in the India Office closely enough to demonstrate this
process. While alterations can be seen in all the Seitz paintings, the most aesthetically significant change is the replacement of the golden sky of the Johnson series with a lyrical salmon-coloured one.6
Provenance: Eva and Konrad Seitz Collection
Published: John Seyller, with introductions and interpretations by Konrad Seitz, Mughal and Deccani Paintings: Eva and Konrad Seitz Collection of Indian Miniatures, Museum Rieberg ZĂźrich, 2010, pp. 140-141, cat. no. 48.
References: 1. John Seyller, Mughal and Deccani Paintings: Eva and Konrad Seitz Collection of Indian Miniatures, 2010, pp. 138, 140 and 146. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid.
47 THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD SPLITS THE MOON
INDIA (DECCAN), CIRCA 1780 HEIGHT: 32.2 CM WIDTH: 20 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. This painting depicts the Prophet Muhammad performing a miracle by Splitting the Moon in Half (Shaq-ul-Qamar). The Prophet is seated on a golden throne under a very tall date palm that stretches to the sky. His noble features and elaborately tied green and gold floral head scarf are framed by a flaming nimbus. With an air of great authority and unwavering gaze, he looks directly and commandingly at the moon, raises his right hand to point at it with his index finger, and the moon promptly splits into two halves. Though the moon is small and seen in the far distance, in the painting it floats at the Prophet’s eye level. The Prophet has taken off his shoes and rests his foot on a velvet foot stool. On his lap is a red leather-bound Qur’an that he holds with his left hand, his thumb marking the page that he is reading. Given the context of the picture, this is probably Qur’an, Sura al-Qamar (LIV, The Moon), verses 1-2. This sura describes how the Hour of Judgement draws near and the moon is split, and how disbelievers reject what they see as an illusion or transient magic. The splitting of the moon was a miracle attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, derived from the Qur’anic verse 54:1-2 and mentioned by Muslim traditions and exegetical literature (tafsir) such as the Asbab al-Nuzul (contexts of Revelation).1 Some Muslim commentators interpret the event as a literal split in the moon, while others identify it as an optical illusion. Some assert that the verse refers to something that will happen on the Day of Judgement, not to a miracle performed by the Prophet.2
Early traditions supporting a literal interpretation were transmitted on the authority of companions (sahabah) of Muhammad such as Ibn Abbas, Anas bin Malik and Abdullah bin Masud. According to the Indian Muslim scholar Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the moon will split again when the Day of Judgement approaches. Yusuf Ali also suggests an allegorical interpretation of the verse, meaning “the matter has become as clear as the moon”.3 The Sura al-Qamar 54:1-2 was part of the debate between medieval Muslim theologians and Muslim philosophers over the issue of the inviolability of heavenly bodies. Philosophers held that the heavenly bodies could not be pierced because unlike terrestrial matter, they were not composed of the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. Other rationalistic Muslim thinkers had difficulties accepting any preternatural event, and argued that what took place was only an appearance of the moon splitting.4 The early traditions explain the verse as a miracle performed by God during the life of Muhammad in order to convince the Quraysh that he was indeed the True Prophet. Verse 54:2 which states:“Yet whenever the disbelievers see a sign, they turn away and say ‘Same old sorcery!’” is quoted in support of this view. The tradition transmitted on the authority of Anas bin Malik states that Muhammad split the moon after the pagan Meccans asked for a miracle.5 Another tradition from Malik maintains that Mount Nur (Jabal al-Nur or the “Mountain of Light”) was visible between the two parts of the moon. The holy mountain contains the Cave of Hira where Muhammad received his first revelation from Allah. Yusuf Ali combines opposing arguments by taking the view that the three interpretations of the verse are all applicable: the moon was cleft asunder during the time of Muhammad; it will split again on the Day of Judgement; and, the verse can also be read metaphorically.6
Dissenting commentators who do not accept the miracle such as Hasan ˛ al-Basri and Ata al Khurasani assert that the verse only refers to the splitting of the moon on the Day of Judgement. Comments in a new translation of the Qur’an by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem for Oxford World’s Classics support this view. Haleem translates the first verse as “The Hour draws near; the moon is split”, and observes in his annotation that the splitting of the moon is one of the signs of the Day of Judgement. He argues that “The Arabic uses the past tense, as if that Day was already here, to help the reader/listener imagine how it will be. Some traditional commentators hold the view that this describes an actual event at the time of the Prophet, but it clearly refers to the end of the world.”7 A body of interpretation postulates that an actual astronomical event took place to give the appearance of the moon being split. Possible lunar events include an asteroid hitting the moon, the plume and debris causing the illusion of a split, or a celestial body passing between earth and moon that blocked the lunar view for a short period. The tradition of Shaq-ul-Qamar has inspired many Muslim poets, especially in India. In poetry, Muhammad is sometimes equated with the sun or the morning light. A poem by the twelfth century Sufi mystic Sana’i, says that “the sun should split the moon in two”.8 In our painting the Prophet’s nimbus may be symbolic of the sun that splits the moon. References: 1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splitting_of_ the_moon. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. M. A. S. Abdel Haleem (trans.), The Qur’an, 2004, p. 350, chapter 54. 8. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splitting_of_ the_moon.
48 EQUESTRIAN PORTRAIT OF SAFDAR KHAN
INDIA (DECCAN, HYDERABAD), 1790-1810 HEIGHT: 56.5 CM WIDTH: 43.8 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. This large and imposing painting depicts the Mughal nobleman Safdar Khan on horseback holding a sprig of carnations, against the charming backdrop of a river and a European-style townscape with a pastoral scene of cows grazing on the left and huntsmen riding through the woods on the right. An elephant-headed barge cruises on the river while sepoys stand guard or wander through the town administering their duties. The buildings are a fantastical mixture of European architecture shown in multiple perspectives along deep recessions, dotted with Islamic domes, mosques, minarets and Hindu bangla roofs.
Safdar Khan is resplendently dressed in a long robe tied with a pakta (sash) into which is tucked a dagger and a sword. He holds the reins of the horse in one hand and his bow in the other. A quiver full of arrows is fastened to the rear of the saddle. The array of weapons and his dignified equestrian portrayal indicate that Safdar Khan is an accomplished military leader, soldier and rider. His lavish jewellery, including a sarpech in his turban, strings of pearls, pendants, bazubands and bracelets, and his richly caparisoned stallion, fitted with a gold saddlecloth, tassels, amulets, jewelled pendants and, like his master, a sarpech on his bridle, all demonstrate Safdar Khan’s exalted rank and social status. The painting is inscribed to the top ˛ in black nasta liq against scrolling white clouds, the letters intermingled with the diagonal flights of birds. The first two words are almost obliterated, so cannot be deciphered with any certainty, but the first word does appear to begin with a “J”. The inscription may be partially read as follows: J(?)….. khan ji al-mukhatab be-safdar ˛ khan bahadur babi alamgir shahi
“J(?) (undeciphered)... Khan Ji, titled Safdar Khan Bahadur Babi [of ] ˛ Alamgir Shah” According to Robert Skelton, the index in vol. I of the Ma’athir ul-Umara lists three men with the title Safdar Khan who served the Mughal regime during the reign of the emperor Aurangzeb.1 The closest fit in details and most probable identification for our nobleman is Safdar Khan ˛ Jamaluddin, the younger son of Azim Khan Koka, also known as Fedai Khan, the Mughal high official and military leader from Lahore who became subhadar (governor) of Bengal in the ˛ 21st regnal year. When Azim Khan Koka died in 1678 after only one year as governor, Safdar Khan and his elder brother Muhammad Salih Khan, were sent mourning dresses by Aurangzeb. Safdar Khan’s name Jamaluddin may be the indecipherable word beginning with a “J” in the inscription. Jamaluddin received the title of Safdar Khan in the 27th year of Aurangzeb’s reign, during which he was made faujdar (garrison commander) at Gwalior. He
gained further social distinction by becoming the son-in-law of his uncle Bahadur Shah Zafar Jang Kokaltash, a foster brother of the emperor and the governor of the Deccan. The Bahadur that follows Safdar Khan in his titles is similar to that in his father-in-law’s titles and means “brave”, an epithet well deserved as Safdar Khan died in battle in Gwalior in 1691, the 33rd year of Aurangzeb’s reign. He was attacking a fort when he was shot by a bullet. The word babi may mean “confidante”. An interesting aspect of the present painting is the perspectival view of a European-style city in the background. Whilst this idea was prevalent in Jaipur and in Kutch, the style of the painting suggests that it is more likely the product of the Deccan, in which case the perspectival view must have come to Hyderabad by the late eighteenth century. While Safdar Khan is dressed as a nobleman of the Aurangzeb period, the sepoys in the townscape indicate a late eighteenth or early nineteenth century date for the scene behind and the painting as a whole. This posthumous equestrian portrait must have been commissioned by one of Safdar Khan’s descendants living in the Deccan.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Robert Skelton for expert advice.
Reference: 1. Nawab Samsam-ud-Daula Shah Xawaz Khan and his son Abdul Hayy, The Maathir-ul-Umara: Biographies of the Muhammadan and Hindu Officers of the Timurid Sovereigns of India from 1500 to about 1780 A.D., Second Edition dated 1780, vol. I. (trans), H. Beveridge, revised, annotated and completed by Baini Prashad, 1941-1952, pp. 314, 563, 567 and 788.
49 A R O YA L T I G E R H U N T
INDIA (LUCKNOW ), CIRCA 1780 HEIGHT: 35.7 CM WIDTH: 43 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. Inscribed to the bottom of the ˛ painting in nasta liq: Nawab Waziru’l-Mulk Asaf u’l-Daula Yahya Khan Bahadur Nawab Asaf al-Daula of Awadh (reigned 1775-1797) sits upon a finely caparisoned elephant in a howdah, holding a long flintlock gun, taking aim at tigers attacking two elephants and two charging buffalo from the hunting party. The Nawab is accompanied by a large entourage of courtiers riding elephants, buffalo and horses, armed with guns, bows and arrows, swords and shields, and holding elephant goads. Forming part of the hunting party are British officers dressed in late eighteenth century European coats and hats, their hair worn in long pigtails. The method of hunting depicted is to entrap the tigers within a corral formed by the row of horned buffalo, then to attack the tigers within the enclosed space. The great danger faced by the hunters is clear from the vigorous animal battles seen on the left. Three tigers attack an elephant to the top. The elephant is trampling on one of the tigers but another tiger leaps onto the elephant’s head to claw at a man holding a sword and a shield. The second elephant has been brought to its knees by two tigers and a hunter is being dragged to the ground. Two long-horned buffalo each attack a tiger to the bottom. It is unclear whether the hunters and their animals or
the tigers are gaining the upper hand at this stage of the titanic struggle, but the hunters and their animals look in grave danger while not one of the tigers seems yet to be injured. It is interesting that the tigers are depicted with manes and two of them have no stripes on the body. They thus bear some resemblance to lions and remind us that the word shir is used interchangeably for both the large cats in India. Pratapaditya Pal has suggested a possible hidden symbolism within the composition, with the tigers (or lions) standing for the British and the buffalo the Indians. While the British seem to form part of Asaf al-Daula’s entourage, in reality the balance of power was shifting ever more from the Nawabs to the British. After British victories at Plassey in 1757 and Buxar in 1764, Awadh gradually surrendered its independence and paid heavily in territory for the protection of the British armed forces. In 1773, a British Residency was established in Lucknow and the Resident, while deferring ceremonially to the Nawab, was in fact the real holder of power. It is telling that there are seven British officers in the painting and seven tigers. Though vastly outnumbered by the Indians, both the tigers and the British seem to be gaining the upper hand.
Provenance: The Earls of Harewood, Harewood House
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Pratapaditya Pal for his expert advice.
50 T H E B AT T L E B E T W E E N K R I S H N A A N D N I K U M B H A
INDIA (KANGRA), CIRCA 1820 HEIGHT: 32.5 CM WIDTH: 42.5 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration from a Harivamsha series. Inscribed in devanagari on the painting with the names of the principal figures and on the reverse with the number 37. This painting depicts one of the many battles described in the Harivamsha between Krishna and the asura Nikumbha, the demon king of Shatpura who receives a boon from Brahma that he would only die at the hands of Krishna. Krishna has many battles with Nikumbha before finally killing him; in fact, he has to kill him several times as the asura keeps springing back to life. Nikumbha can multiply himself and take on many forms, including that of a giant bird that abducts the Yadava princess, Bhanumati, from the palace of her father, Bhanu. Bhanumati’s rescue by Krishna, his son Pradyumna and his friend Arjuna is what precipitates the great battle depicted here. The construction of the painting is highly effective and achieves two effects simultaneously. It uses continuous narrative to show Nikumbha and Krishna at various stages of their dynamic combat; yet the way the story is told, with the demon appearing four times and Krishna five, vividly expresses Nikumbha’s duplicating ability as we repeatedly encounter his relentless vermilion form. A formidable opponent, he twists and turns with agility and wields his mace (gada) with consummate skill. Fortunately Krishna also has a superb mace, the kaumodaki of Vishnu.
painting illustrates a stage of battle where Nikumbha has temporarily gained an upper hand. Pradyumna has collapsed in his chariot and Arjuna, seated on Garuda, has also been stunned. Seeing his companions rendered unconscious by Nikumbha’s heavy blows, the angry Krishna charges at the demon in a fury. Evenly matched, they attack each other “like roaring bulls, trumpeting elephants and angry wolves”. The denouement comes when Nikumbha strikes Krishna on the head and the hero falls unconscious. Indra, riding his elephant Airavata in the clouds above populated by all sorts of demi-gods, sprinkles a mixture of nectar and cold fragrant water from the divine river Ganga to revive Krishna.1 The Harivamsha (an Account of the Dynasty of Hari [Vishnu], or the Genealogy of Hari) is a work in three chapters (parvan) appended to the great epic, the Mahabharata. Though regarded as a later addition to the Mahabharata, the Harivamsha is in fact a long text consisting of 16,374 verses that stands on its own.2 The first chapter contains the genealogy of the Yadavas, the family of Krishna and Vasudeva descended from their Aryan ancestor, Yadu. The second chapter describes the life of Krishna and his affairs with the gopis, where many of the stories are similar to the those in the Bhagavata Purana, but it also includes exploits like the present which are not found there. The third chapter deals with prophecies of the present age (Kali Yuga).3 Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Robert J. Del Bonta for his expert advice.
References: 1. The story given here is taken from an English translation of chapter 90 of the Harivamsha by Desiraju Hanumanta Rao, Mahabharata, Harivamsha, Vishnu Parva, 2. 90. 36-48, see online: http://mahabharataresources.org/harivamsha/vishnuparva/
The Harivamsha gives a detailed account of how Pradyumna rescues Bhanumati after which, the three heroes confront Nikumbha. The
hv_2_090.html. 2. Anna L. Dallapiccola, Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend, 2002, p. 93. 3. Ibid.
51 R A D H A A N D K R I S H N A S H E LT E R I N G F R O M T H E R A I N
INDIA (KANGRA), CIRCA 1820 HEIGHT: 21 CM WIDTH: 14.5 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold and silver on paper. A feeling of exquisite tenderness and intimacy pervades this beautiful painting of Krishna and Radha walking together in the rain along a lotus-filled stream. They share an umbrella, which Krishna holds aloft to shield them from the rain
descending in sharp diagonal sheets. Krishna puts his arm around Radha, holding her close, while she lifts the hem of her ghaghra (skirt) with her right hand to keep it from getting wet as they stride forward against the direction of the billowing wind. With the hennaed fingers of her left hand, she tugs at the edge of the shawl covering her head to prevent it from flying away. Her palm brushes delicately against Krishna’s strong blue fingers that press comfortingly on the skin of her bare midriff exposed to the cold and wet beneath her choli (blouse). She leans her head towards his face, smiling gently as they both look downwards to avoid the force of the gale and the pelting rain on their faces. The dark sky above is filled with rolling clouds in varying shades of grey. Gold lightning streaks menacingly across. In the stream below, the lotus blossoms and leaves bend and sway dramatically as they are tossed by the wind. Though bleak, the simple landscape with rolling powder-blue hillocks edged with pink on the left and a row of sturdy trees on the right give the impression of remarkable
calm to this tryst on a stormy night, expressing Radha’s feelings of happiness, security and affection as she is sheltered by her lover from the raging storm. The harmonious colour relations used by the artist, with the blue of the umbrella and the landscape both reflecting that of Krishna’s blue skin, allow his heroic qualities and strength to radiate outwards to protectively encircle Radha. In Pahari paintings and other Indian miniatures, storms have always been an excuse for intimacy, a chance to cuddle up and brave the elements together, the darkness casting a veil over the lovers so that they can make love unseen by prying eyes and isolated from inquisitive gossips. Storms also express the turbulence of love and its churning emotions, so the present picture shows Radha shielded from both the actual storm and that of her emotions by Krishna’s warm embrace and evident affection. Like Radha, we are reminded that the lover who now shelters her from the rain is also the god capable of lifting up Mount Govardhan to shield the entire village from Indra’s relentless tempest.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Robert J. Del Bonta for his expert advice.
52 KRISHNA WITH RADHA AND GOPIS ON A TERRACE
INDIA (JAIPUR), 1800-1820 FOLIO: HEIGHT: 39.8 CM WIDTH: 29.4 CM MINIATURE: HEIGHT: 26.5 CM WIDTH: 18.5 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. Possibly Madhumadhavi Ragini from a Ragamala series. Dark clouds gather as a thunderstorm approaches. Krishna and Radha embrace in front of a pavilion on the carpeted terrace of a palace. They look up at the sky and point to the lightning that ominously streaks the edges of the clouds with wavy lines of gold. The rain drops have not yet begun to fall but it is only a matter of time before the clouds roll swiftly towards them, so they have begun to retreat into the safety of
the palace through the cusped arches on the left. Two attendants standing in conversation beneath the rolled pavilion awnings hold morchals (peacock feather fans). A third attendant is about to offer Krishna some pan (betel) from a gold and gem-set pandan and dish, but her attention has evidently been seized by a sudden clap of thunder and a brilliant flash of lightning. She twists around excitedly, in a dancing contrapposto, to gesture towards the sky. A pair of peacocks perched calmly on the blue and gold balustrade decorated in the striking palette of Jaipur enamels, and two pairs of birds nestling in the trees beyond, echo Krishna and Radha’s warm embrace as symbols of love. Unlike the gopis, the birds remain unperturbed by the approaching storm. For them, there is still plenty of time to find shelter to sit out the coming rain. Robert Del Bonta has suggested that this un-inscribed album leaf may represent Madhumadhavi Ragini from a Ragamala series. The way the figures point to the lightning is essential to the usual depictions of this ragini. Peacocks are also a normal feature of Madhumadhavi, though they are often shown fluttering or crying in excitement as the storm gathers while flocks of other birds such as Sarus cranes take flight into the darkening sky.1 In the present picture, the peacocks simultaneously function as symbols of Krishna,
reinforcing the iconography of his peacock feather crown and the morchals held by the gopis. The painting is organised with an elaborate basement storey. The artist suggests real depth as we can see well inside the entrance at its centre and into the corner of the angled pavilion on the upper terrace. The edge of the terrace projects over the lower storey, cantilevered by means of a row of supporting brackets. The painting is mounted on an album page with two inner margins of floral cartouches surrounded by a wide yellow border of delicate floral sprays in the Mughal style. In a Hindi verse by the poet Paida found on a Ragamala series dated 1709 from Amber, the earlier capital of the rulers of Jaipur, Madhumadhavi Ragini is described thus: “The woman is like Rati (Cupid’s wife), her eyes are (of the colour of ) red lotus. The lower lips are (?) beautiful and she has peerless speech. She has pure gold-like complexion and yellow dress. The sakhis (female companions) adore her ways (?). The woman smilingly kisses. She coils her arms around the neck of the lover.”2
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Robert J. Del Bonta for his expert advice.
References: 1. See Klaus Ebeling, Ragamala Painting, 1973, p. 69 for a Madhumadhavi Ragini dated 1756 from the small principality of Malpura, south of Jaipur, in which a lady rushes into the palace to escape the onset of the thunderstorm; and p. 71 for an eighteenth century Jaipur depiction with excited, squawking peacocks that need feeding before the storm erupts. 2. Quoted by Ebeling, 1973, p. 138.
53 BRITISH OFFICERS RETURN TO THEIR ENC AMPMENT AFTER A TIGER HUNT
INDIA (LUCKNOW ), CIRCA 1810 HEIGHT: 31.5 CM WIDTH: 42.2 CM
Pen and brown ink on paper watermarked J Whatman 1794. Full of charm and keenly observed anecdotal detail, this lively and engaging line drawing depicts British officers returning from a tiger hunt to an encampment, with bearers around the corpse of a large tiger, and servants cooking a meal and preparing tea. The camp lies on the outskirts of a village, the houses of which can be seen amongst trees in the distance. Three elephants, still caparisoned for the hunt with saddle cloths, share a field with the village cows and cart. Curious villagers, including some small children, gather to observe the tiger and enjoy the excitement of the hunt and its spoils. The five British officers who tend to the tiger’s corpse are dressed in late eighteenth century clothes, hats and helmets. One of them bends over to pull at the tiger’s head; another tugs at its leg while chatting with his friend to whom a servant hands a stick or a knife. An attendant carries a parasol, another a cloth insignia. A bearer with a staff places a restraining hand on the shoulder of a boy eager to move closer to the tiger while another holds the hand of an equally inquisitive little girl. A bearded village elder who sits on the ground has the laconic air of having seen it all before, yet is right in the midst of the activities. Seated quietly in contemplation away from
the babble, evidently tired out by the day, is a lone sepoy carrying a musket. Dominating the centre of the drawing is a large tent, fully rigged and secured by ropes tethered to posts hammered into the ground. Within the tent is a table covered with a cloth and laid for tea. An attendant holding a morchal (peacock feather fan) stands guard against the backdrop of a qanat (tent hanging) with chevron designs. Just outside, attendants with portable cooking equipment get the food and drink ready. A cook unwraps parcels of food while a young man prepares tea in a huge kettle placed on a tripod brazier that he fans with bellows. Below, a servant prepares a hookah for his master by placing hot coals using tongs into the chillum (fire-cup). The coals are lit in a hexagonal footed brazier carried on a chain. Placed next to the large coiled hookah is a pandan or a tobacco box. To the bottom centre, a bheesti (water carrier) pours out water, while bearers relax around a box palanquin (palkhi). One of the bearers seated next to the palanquin seems to be enjoying a portable hookah. To the right of the picture are two smaller tents, between which a pair of mangy looking dogs is tied to a post. Completing the composition is a hunter who skins an ibex hung head down from a tripod stand, part of the day’s successful hunt. Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Jerry Losty for his kind interpretation of the many delightful details in this fascinating drawing.
54 SUNDAR DAS RAJA BIKRAMAJIT
INDIA (DELHI), CIRCA 1800 HEIGHT: 31.5 CM WIDTH: 20.3 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. Inscribed in gold above the figure with the identification “Raja Bikramajit” and framed by borders of polychrome floral designs with gold outlines on a cream ground. With an almost imperceptible smile on his face as he presents a yellow gemstone held between an elegant thumb and forefinger, Sundar Das, Raja Bikramajit, stands facing right dressed in a white robe tied with a patka (sash) over white trousers and a cloak fastened on his shoulders. Finely moustached and aqualine of profile, Sundar Das has eyes of piercing intelligence and an expression combining confidence, ambition and control. His skin is finely stippled to suggest a light covering of facial hair. His distinguished features are set off by a pearl and ruby earring. He wears a brown and gold-striped turban that matches his shoes and the chilanum dagger with gold hilt and brown scabbard tucked into his patka. The restraint of his white robe is sharply contrasted with the rich, dark green background and enlivened by his patka, decorated with colourful bands of interlocking quatrefoils and foliate scrolls.
Kevorkian Album in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (18.104.22.168r). As one of the fifty leaves of paintings and calligraphy that form the Kevorkian Album, the Bichitr portrait dating to circa 1620 is discussed and illustrated in Stuart Cary Welch, Annemarie Schimmel, Marie L. Swietochowski and Wheeler M. Thackston, The Emperors’ Album: Images of Mughal India, 1987, pp. 146-147 and 150, cat. no. 32. Within Bichitr’s painting, Sundar Das stands on a dark green ground scattered with identifiable flowers such as a poppy before his feet and an iris behind. The artist of the surrounding border has filled the buff ground with plants that for all their impression of naturalism, do not lend themselves easily to identification. In our late eighteenth or early nineteenth century Delhi version, the green ground is plain and the border of windswept flowers on a cream ground has a light palette akin to that of the Lucknow borders for paintings collected by Antoine Polier. The floral species are derived from varieties of lily including the drooping martagon, poppies, tulips and irises. According to Wheeler M. Thackston, Sundar Das was a successful administrator and highly skilled
military tactician in the service of Prince Khurram (later Shah Jahan). A native of the Bandhu region in Allahabad, he began his career at the Mughal Court as a scribe and later majordomo to the prince.1 In 1617, after a well-timed gift of a ruby of unrivalled colour through Prince Parviz, Jahangir awarded him the title Raja Bikramajit, “which among the Hindus is the highest”, and he was made chief administrator of Gujarat when it was enfeoffed to Shah Jahan.2 He led the Mughal army against the Jam and Bihara in Kutch and played a major role in the capture of Kangra Fort in 1620. The success of Mughal strategy in Shah Jahan’s Deccan campaign of 1621 was due to his military genius.3 He sided with Prince Khurram in the rebellion against his father in 1623-1624 and was considered by Jahangir to be Shah Jahan’s principal “guide to the desert of error”.4 In 1623, Bikramajit died at the Battle of Bilochpur, shot by a musket gun. Jahangir records with undisguised glee the sight of his severed head when it was brought to court, “his gloomy countenance… not yet changed [and] his ears… cut off for the sake of the earrings he had”.5
Provenance: William and James Baillee Fraser By direct descent to Malcolm R. Fraser
References: 1. Stuart Cary Welch et al, The Emperors’ Album: Images of Mughal India, 1987, pp. 146-147.
This painting is a direct copy of a well-known miniature by Bichitr in a royal Mughal album known as the
2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid.
55 S U F I A L I YA R K H A N
INDIA (DELHI), AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 1815 ATTRIBUTED TO LALLJI HEIGHT: 25.9 CM WIDTH: 20.2 CM
Watercolour on paper. Inscribed on a detached cover sheet in the hand of E. S. Fraser: “No. 38, Sooffee Alleeyar Khan, master of ceremonies to the King of Dehlee.” Dignity and simplicity are the hallmarks of this compelling portrait of Sufi Aliyar Khan, master of ceremonies to the King of Delhi, the Mughal emperor Akbar II (reigned 1806-1837). Aliyar Khan is comfortably seated in a light brown wooden chair with baluster front legs and arm rests and raked back legs. He is dressed in a plain white robe and turban and wears a blue sash and boots with pointed curling tips. He places his hands on a cloth or leather bound volume on his lap. A gentle contrapposto skillfully modifies the frontal presentation of the Sufi and infuses the portrait with a relaxed naturalism. Aliyar Khan’s hips and feet are angled towards the right of the picture so that his thighs straddle the seat of the chair diagonally, his left foot is seen in profile and his foreshortened right foot points towards the viewer. His chest and torso are parallel with the picture plane while the chair itself is turned slightly as evidenced by differing views of the curving arm rests. His head is in three-quarter profile with only his right ear visible but his eyes turn to look directly at us. These subtle oppositions which so enliven the picture are all effortlessly integrated. Aliyar Khan’s facial features are beautifully delineated to convey the force of his character. His face is framed by a bushy white beard that connects his white turban and robe.
Wrinkles furrow his forehead and crease the corners of his eyes but the final impression is not one of fragility but strength as his eyebrows and light moustache remain black, his gaze steady and his complexion ruddy. According to Jerry Losty and Malini Roy, the naturalism derived from European examples began to show itself in the very first decade of the nineteenth century in Mughal portraiture, so there were already artists available who were used to painting in a more naturalistic style when the Fraser brothers commissioned their exceptional work in 1815-1819.1 Upon their return to Delhi from their Himalayan tour in August 1815, James Fraser enjoyed the delights of the city in the company of his brother, William, who introduced James to novel aspects of Delhi such as Indian music and the dancing of nautch women.2 The dancer who most enchanted James, to the extent that he commissioned portraits of her, two of which survive amongst the Fraser papers, was the celebrated Malaguire. One of the portraits is attributed to Lallji, who most probably painted the present picture of Sufi, demonstrating his range in capturing diverse personalities. Lallji and his son Hulas Lal were portrait miniaturists from Patna who worked in Delhi around 1815-1822 and possibly earlier.3 In 1815, there were no professional European portrait painters in Delhi and Lallji had a reputation for producing miniature portraits in the European manner.4 He had evidently met Johan Zoffany and James tells us that Lallji was Zoffany’s pupil. In his diary entries of 26th and 30th August, and 6th September 1815, he records how he persuaded William to have his portrait done by Lallji, though in the event it was actually painted by Hulas Lal:
was a pupil of Zofanies, and does not disgrace his teacher considering the usual total want of idea of light & shade that the natives in general labour under - his son paints better than himself and it is to him I have got William to sit. On 30 August: I have had Malaguire the Nautch woman here today to sit for her picture and am to get Lalljee to take it… On 6 September: Today also I have got my Brother’s picture which is very like, with some great faults. Soophie’s & Malaguire’s pictures are both capital.”5 The present portrait of “Sooffee Alleeyar Khan” is published in Mildred Archer and Toby Falk, India Revealed: The art and adventures of James and William Fraser 1801-35, 1989, p. 127, pl. 124. A portrait by another hand identified as “Soofee Allah Yar Khan Sahib” in the Skinner Album at the British Library (Add.Or.1258) is noted in Mildred Archer, Company Drawings in the India Office Library, 1972, p. 199, no. 169 xvi. The portrait of Malaguire by Lallji is illustrated by Archer and Falk on p. 36, pl. 15 and that of William by Hulas Lal on p. 38, fig. 11. Two oval portrait miniatures on ivory attributed to Lallji are published by Jerry Losty and Malini Roy in Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, 2012, pp. 206-207, figs. 146 and 147. These depict Col. John Hessing and the Begum Samru.
Provenance: William and James Baillee Fraser By direct descent to Malcolm R. Fraser
Published: Mildred Archer and Toby Falk, India Revealed: The art and adventures of James and William Fraser 1801-35, 1989, p. 127, pl. 124. References: 1. J. P. Losty and Malini Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, 2012, p. 205. 2. Archer and Falk, 1989, p. 37.
“I have prevailed on William to sit for his picture to Lalljee, a native who takes likenesses remarkably well - he
3. Losty and Roy, 2012, p. 206. 4. Archer and Falk, 1989, p. 38. 5. Ibid., p.37.
56 S T. J O H N ’ S C H U R C H I N S M I T H S Q U A R E
INDIA (JAIPUR), EARLY 19TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 26 CM WIDTH: 38.8 CM
Ink and opaque watercolour on paper. Inscribed on the reverse: “No. D. 30. Westminster Abbey. Smith Square.” This delightful painting depicts St. John’s Church in Smith Square, London, with Westminster Abbey seen in the background. Figures in European dress, horses and an elegant hound dot the rolling landscape in front of the church while kites fly in the background. The composition is based on a widely disseminated 1762 English engraving of the scene but the Indian artist has added an abundance of colour and swirling clouds in the manner of Indian miniatures. While the receding perspective is accurate and well managed as it is based on the print, the figures in the foreground are of assorted sizes, the horse smaller than the hound, and all the more charming for these discrepancies. The gentle countrified hills in front of the church are the
product of the artist’s imagination as in reality the church stands on level ground on a small site in the heart of London. The church was designed by the English architect Thomas Archer (1668-1743). Begun in 1714 and completed in 1728, it is regarded as one of the finest works of English baroque architecture, and features four corner towers and monumental broken pediments.1 It is often referred to as “Queen Anne’s Footstool” because of the legend that when Archer was designing the church, he asked the Queen what she wanted it to look like; she kicked over her footstool and said “Like that!” and this gave rise to the building’s four corner towers. The towers were in fact added to stabilise the building against subsidence.2 The architectural style of St John’s, Smith Square has always provoked a reaction in the viewer, although not always complimentary. Archer’s work is more firmly rooted in the tradition of continental baroque than that of any other English architect, having studied the buildings of Bernini and Borromini during his travels to Italy.3 St. John’s was built as the result of the 1711 Commission for fifty new churches in London, a commission on
which Archer sat.4 An eighteenth century commentator thought the new church “singular, not to say whimsical” and in his novel Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens writes of its appearance as “some petrified monster, frightful and gigantic, on its back with its legs in the air”.5 However, tastes change and today St John’s is regarded as a masterpiece of the English baroque. In Archer’s entry in The Oxford Companion to Art, St. John’s is described as grossly out of scale with the small square it oppresses, yet its curved corners, boldly stressed details and massive pediments broken across the sky make it the most highly individual work of this singular artist.6
Paintings normally categorised as Jaipur are fairly straight forward copies of European prints whereas Kutch paintings, after the initial phase, may be described as zany and whimsical. We have thus assigned the present painting to Jaipur rather than to Kutch.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Jerry Losty and Arthur Millner for their expert advice and kind discussions comparing Kutch and Jaipur paintings.
References: 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_John’s_
Indian paintings based on European examples are associated with Kutch and Jaipur. In Kutch, the large collection of European prints collected by the Raos exerted a powerful influence on local artists in the second half of the eighteenth century. Though initially accurate copies were made of the prints, the artists soon began to experiment with adventurous capriccios and composite views.7 The link to similar work done in Jaipur is based on art historical speculation that Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II amassed European prints and plans while building the city of Jaipur.
Smith_Square. 2. Ibid. 3. Harold Osborne, (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Art, 1970 reprinted 1993, pp. 66-67. A detail of the engraving of St John’s is illustrated on p. 66. 4. Ibid. 5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_John’s_ Smith_Square. 6. Osborne, 1993, p. 67. 7. For a discussion of Kutch paintings, see B. N. Goswamy and A. L. Dallapiccola, A Place Apart: Painting in Kutch, 1720-1820, 1983. Pls. XIII and XIV show a circa 1745 European “View of the Scotch Square in Vienna” with an accurate Kutch copy.
57 D I VA N - I K H A S I N T H E D E L H I PA L A C E
INDIA (DELHI), CIRCA 1830 HEIGHT: 24.5 CM WIDTH: 38.5 CM
Opaque watercolour on English paper watermarked with a symbol of a large crown. Inscribed to the lower right: “Diwan Khas (Delhi) audience Hall.” This painting depicts the Divan-i Khas (Hall of Private Audience) in the palace at the Red Fort of Delhi. The Divan-i Khas is an elegant multi-pillared white marble building decorated with pietra dura floral inlays. It rests on a low marble platform ascended via short flights of steps. Connecting the white marble pillars of square cross-section are carved jali balustrades. The building has a flat roof with four corner kiosks (chhatris) surmounted by gilt copper domes; the interior was once lavishly appointed and boasted a ceiling of encrusted silver foliage. The Red Fort was constructed as part of the ambitious building projects for Shah Jahan’s new capital at Delhi, Shahjahanabad, when he moved there from Agra. By the time of the nineteenth century, when paintings such as the present were made and Mughal power was at its final ebb, the palace and the Divan-i Khas had fallen into a state of neglect that was much commented upon by European visitors.
A semblance of former magnificence has been created by the bustling activity of the scene as a palanquin is prepared for the emperor’s departure and various figures go about their duties. The Divan-i Khas is shown with the red qanats (tent panels) and shamianas (awnings and canopies) fully rigged and pulled taut, supported on tent poles and knotted down with heavy weights.1 The figures dressed in white robes with red coats standing around the palanquin are the porters of the takht revan (moving throne).
exhibited and published on several occasions, most recently by J. P. Losty and Malini Roy in Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, 2012, pp. 217-219, fig. 153 and detail on p. 204. According to Losty and Roy, Ghulam ˛ Ali Khan (fl. 1817-1852) was both the originator of the Delhi topographical school with his painting of the Divan-i Khas in 1817 and also the first Mughal artist to exploit the trend towards the picturesque.4 ˛ Prior to Ghulam Ali Khan’s innovations, pictures of Mughal monuments in Delhi and Agra made for the British were strictly architectural, created on the largest scale possible and drawn in strict single- or double-point perspective. From around 1820, the monuments began to be placed in their urban or landscape topographical context and start to be peopled.5 Losty and Roy observe that it has only recently ˛ become apparent that Ghulam Ali Khan was the first artist responsible for this change in Delhi. While his Divan-i Khas is still mostly in the Mughal tradition, in other paintings such as the shrine at Panipat dated 1822, also in the British Library, he places the Mughal buildings of Delhi in their “picturesque” surroundings.6 The picture was a Mughal ˛ commission, and Ghulam Ali Khan was intent on showing that the building was still occupied and functioning as a palace for the emperor. It represents part of the renaissance of Mughal art in the early nineteenth century, intended to
The Divan-i Khas is built on the terrace along the east side of the Red Fort, which then overlooked the River Jumna. On the right is the Musamman Burj (octagonal gilt-roofed tower) and the tasbih-khana (private quarters with the prayer room or oratory) leading to the Rang Mahal, the chief building in the zenana.2 A man at the bottom of the sweeping staircase is lighting a fire for the imperial bath within the private quarters, while at the top of the stairs at the entrance to the private quarters is a bheesti or water carrier. The imperial hamman or baths entered through the qanat door on the left was long since unused due to the prohibitive cost of heating the water.3 Our painting is based on the large version of this subject by Ghulam ˛ Ali Khan dated 1817 in the collection of the British Library in London. This celebrated painting has been
impress the British authorities with the glories of the Mughal past.7 According to Joachim Bautze who published the painting when it was in the collection of Dr William ˛ K. Ehrenfeld, Ghulam Ali Khan’s view of the Divan-i Khas triggered a number of similar pictures that were produced in the first half of the nineteenth century, all with variations in size and arrangement of the figures and horses. In Joachim K. Bautze, Interaction of Cultures: Indian and Western Painting 1780-1910, The Ehrenfeld Collection, 1998, he ˛ illustrates the 1817 Ghulam Ali Khan on pp. 265-267, cat. no. 67, and on pp. 268-271, cat. no. 68, a circa 1825-1830 version which lacks the horse and groom in the lower right corner. Another variant at the British Library of circa 1820-1825, is published in Stuart Cary Welch, Room for Wonder: Indian Painting during the British Period 1760-1880, 1978, pp. 114-115, no. 50 and Robert Skelton et al, The Indian Heritage: Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, 1982, p. 56, no. 126.
References: 1. J. P. Losty and Malini Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, 2012, p. 218. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid., p. 217. 6. Ibid., p. 128. 7. Ibid., p. 219.
58 DURGA PUJA PROCESSION
SOUTHERN INDIA (PROBABLY TANJORE), CIRCA 1850 HEIGHT: 17.3 CM WIDTH: 27 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. This charming painting depicts a procession during the annual Durga Puja festival, which takes place during Navaratri (nine nights), the major Hindu festival connected to the autumn equinox. Navaratri begins on the first and ends on the tenth day of the bright fortnight of Ashvina (September-October), during which a number of festivals, some with roots in ancient fertility rites, are celebrated.1 According to Anna Dallapiccola, the celebrations are centred on two major mythological events, the goddess Durga’s victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasura, and Rama’s victory over the demon king Ravana.2 In northern India, Rama has the pride of place, whereas in eastern and southern India, Durga is the focus of the festivities, so much so that in areas such as Bengal, Navaratri is known as Durga Puja.3 The celebrations vary from state to state. In Tamil Nadu, the first three days of the festival are dedicated to
Lakshmi, the next three to Durga, and the last three to Sarasvati, the three goddesses being different aspects of the supreme goddess Devi.4 In Bengal, the image of Durga which has been worshipped for the last nine days is taken to the river or ocean on Dussehra, the tenth and last day, and immersed. In keeping with her defeat of Mahishasura, bulls and buffaloes are ritually slaughtered in her honour. In this painting, a gilt statue of the four-armed goddess Durga riding her lion is held aloft by eight palanquin bearers and surrounded by four honorific parasols and a retinue of musicians and devotees in white dhotis. The ferocious lion has a grimacing expression, bulging eyes, raised front paw and S-shaped tail. Some of the warrior goddess’s vast array of weapons are carried on the lion’s back: a bow and quiver full of arrows, a discus and a sword. The goddess is framed by a stele that functions as her portable altar for the ceremony. The scene is set on a cream ground with a low cloud-streaked horizon.
Shiva’s trident (trishula). One of the devotees attends to the goddess with a flywhisk (chowrie), while two others carry flaming torches. The musicians play on drums, trumpets and cymbals while a female dancer supplicates the goddess in song as she gyrates backwards. The procession is led by a pair of richly caparisoned elephants with red saddlecloths, trimmed tusks and bell necklaces, guided by green-turbaned mahouts holding ankus (elephant goads). Flag-bearers seated on the backs of the elephants carry bifurcated flags that billow in the wind. The red flag is painted with an image of Hanuman, Rama’s great monkey lieutenant, holding aloft the mountain of herbs with which he
Hanuman is a reminder that though Durga is the main focus of the Durga Puja procession, the place of Rama in the Navaratri celebrations is just as important. The herb mountain is also a reference to the bountiful aspects of the fierce warrior goddess. Though primarily celebrated as the destroyer of asuras, she is also Shakambari, the nourisher of herbs, who is worshipped in the navapatrika or “nine plants” ceremony for her connection with forests and vegetation.5 Durga’s link to the mountains, recalling part of her origins as a mountain deity, is evident from two of her epithets, Vindhyavasini, “dweller of the Vindhyas”, and Parvati, “daughter of the mountains (the Himalayas)”.6 The goddess is ambivalent in character and both the sustainer and destroyer of men and nature.7
Provenance: Doris Wiener Gallery, New York, 1980s or earlier
References: 1. Anna L. Dallapiccola, Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend, 2002, p. 75.
Durga is Shiva’s shakti or cosmic energy, so the devotees are smeared with ash and painted with Shaivite marks on their chests, arms and foreheads including
brings Lakshmana back to life after he has been mortally wounded in the war with Ravana’s demon forces.
3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid, p. 66. 6. Ibid. 7. Ibid.
59 E U R O P E A N L A D Y S E AT E D I N A PA L A N Q U I N
INDIA (CALCUTTA), 1835-1845 ATTRIBUTED TO SHAYKH MUHAMMAD AMIR OF KARRAYA OR HIS STUDIO HEIGHT: 17.8 CM WIDTH: 24.5 CM
the front of the procession is a man carrying a spear, presumably acting as a guard to ensure her safety during the journey. All the men wear identical turbans with red and yellow bands; they tie red, white and yellow sashes around their waists, part of the uniform for servants at the lady’s grand Calcutta establishment.
Opaque watercolour on paper. Inscribed in English below a black ruled double margin: Tonjohn A European lady wearing a lavender dress and a haughty expression is carried in a “tonjon” palanquin by four uniformed bearers. She is accompanied by a parasol bearer who walks alongside holding a large red parasol, angled to shield her from the sun. To
The procession seems to have just returned to the gravelled drive of her mansion, with the garden glimpsed beyond the low balustrade. As opposed to the staff who wear dhotis and go barefoot, the spear carrier who precedes wears delicately block-printed trousers and shoes with pointed tips. His clothing may indicate that he is the khansamah or head man of the household, in charge of purchasing provisions, making confectionary and superintending the table at meals. A tonjon is an open palanquin, an elegant portable chair shaped like a curricle carried on a single pole by four bearers. The lady’s tonjon is lavishly appointed and beautifully made from fine materials including rosewood for the sides of the chair and ebony for the step and pole, all finished with ivory edging and brass pole finials. To protect her from the elements is a leather folding hood, while comfort is ensured by the padded and quilted seat and floor cushions. Taking the weight of the
passenger are hind legs in the form of scrolling S-curves cast from iron or steel. When the tonjon is placed on the ground, it rests on two parallel supports each terminating in claw feet at either end. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, British residents began to move out from the centre of Calcutta to the pleasant new suburbs of Chowringhee and Garden Reach. Here Indian artists found substantial patronage; some artists specialised in depicting the houses and domestic staff of the British residents. The most talented and original of these artists, and certainly the only well-known name, was Shaykh Muhammad Amir of Karraya. Amongst the most celebrated of his paintings are the view of a splendid neoclassical mansion and its grounds with a lake, and pictures of carriages, servants, horses and dogs, all made for an eminent and wealthy but now unknown resident. Four paintings from this set are illustrated in Stuart Cary Welch, Room for Wonder: Indian Painting during the British Period 1760-1880, 1978, pp. 67-71, nos. 20-23. These include the view of the house and garden; a portrait of two hounds; a picture of a tandem harnessed to a high-wheeled gig; and on p. 71, a painting in which a European child accompanied by servants goes riding,
its face completely hidden by its bonnet and protected from the sun by a large parasol. Welch observes that such isolation not only symbolises the position of the British in India before the Mutiny, but was also one of the causes of the Mutiny. On p. 72, no. 24, Welch illustrates “Palenkeen with Bearers” from a set commissioned by a Calcutta businessman, Thomas Holroyd, Esq. of No. 5 Park Street, Chowringhee. As with our tonjon, the palanquin is borne by four men on a single pole, shielded by a parasol bearer but led by a footman without a spear. Like the child concealed by its bonnet, the European gentleman’s face is hidden as he reads, reclining within the box. A version of this composition, with the addition of the balustrade seen in the present painting, is published in the Spink catalogue, A Journey to India: Company School Pictures, 1996, p. 14, cat. no. 2. Jerry Losty has kindly drawn our attention to two very similar paintings of European ladies being carried in tonjons now at the British Library in London (Add. Or. 3952 and Add. Or. 4199). In both these pictures the women have exposed faces and wear no hats, perhaps signifying their bold and resolute frame of mind.
60 P R AY E R M AT patterns of further floral sprays, with a filled bulbous cartouche at each corner. Wide palla borders to the top and bottom filled with darker multi-coloured millefleurs frame the mihrab to all sides. A further pair of hashia strips decorates the vertical edges.
INDIA (KASHMIR), CIRCA 1800 LENGTH: 112 CM WIDTH: 78 CM
A woven prayer mat in bold hues of red, blue, cream and green with a symmetrical design of a large cusped mihrab to the centre surrounded by wide palla borders (end panels) and edged in hashia strips to each side.
There was a close relationship between millefleurs carpets such as this and Afghan period shawls (1753-1819).1 For further examples of woven prayer rugs from Kashmir, see Frank Ames, The Kashmir Shawl and its Indo-French Influence, 1997, pp. 310-312, col. pls. 179-181.
The central design features a finely woven repeat pattern of three-tiered buti (small flowers) against a cream ground contained within a cusped mihrab arch-shaped prayer niche. Its lateral borders are a pair of hashia strips with meandering vines separating stylised floral rosettes. Above, the spandrels contain dense
Reference: 1. Frank Ames, The Kashmir Shawl and its Indo-French Influence, 1997, p.133.
ÂŠ 2013 World copyright reserved British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN 978-0-9567174-3-6 All rights reserved. With the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted without prior written permission of the copyright owner. Published by Simon Ray First published November 2013 Design by Peter Keenan Photography by Alan Tabor Repro by Richard Harris Printed by Deckers Snoeck NV
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