S I MO N RAY INDIAN
& ISLAMIC WORKS OF ART
S I MO N RAY INDIAN & ISLAMIC WORKS OF ART
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It is with great pleasure I present this fifteenth catalogue of Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art. 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, Andrew Topsfield, Will Kwiatkowski, Katrina van Grouw, Henry Noltie, Sunil Sharma, Catherine Glynn, Amin Jaffer, H端lya Bilgi, Roselyne Hurel, Anna Grundberg, Bob Alderman and Paul Crane. 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, Caroline Turner and Tim Blake.
Leng Tan has written the entries for this catalogue. I would like to thank Leng for his meticulous research and for the way he so elegantly conveys the spirit of each work of art. William Edwards has written the sculpture and ceramic entries with wonderful research and passion. I would like to thank William for looking after the catalogue production at all stages. Finally, I would like to thank Alan Tabor and Richard Valencia for their excellent photography, Richard Harris for his superb repro and colour preparation and Peter Keenan for his exquisite catalogue design. Simon Ray
Ivory & Wood
Arms and Armour
1 LOT U S M E DA L L I O N
NORTH-WESTERN PAKISTAN (GANDHARA), 2ND/3RD CENTURY DIAMETER: 32 CM DEPTH: 6 CM
A carved grey schist open lotus flower roundel with a double row of petals harmoniously blooming around a central bud. The large outer petals curve down and inwards towards the centre, creating great weight and depth. They also have incised grooves running down the middle as well as the outside edge, thus highlighting the petals further. These show great similarities with much later
Chinese lotus lappets, seen mainly on blue-and-white porcelain. Each of the leaves seen here ends in a point and further leaves can be seen filling the gaps behind. The inner smaller leaves are raised, echoing the tips of the outer leaves, and again, smaller points of leaves fill the gaps behind. The round central bud is raised and incised with rough mottled circles to its surface. The roundel with its simple symmetrical design has a great presence through the depth of carving and retains a natural quality through its roughness. This type of floral emblem would have decorated the bannisters which bordered walks around stupas where it would have been one of a number of different designs used. The lotus is a symbol of enlightenment and transcendence. Though it grows in
muddy waters, its beautiful blossoms emerge unsullied and pure. The decorative use of the lotus on the sculpted crossbars, pillars and railings seems to have been the most popular motif in early Buddhist art.1 In later times, postdating this object, the image of the lotus flower was the subject of many interpretations and speculations and a Sutra was written bearing its name. It is therefore no surprise that in early Indian art, one would find this flower motif blooming on the railings which bordered circumambulation walks around reliquary stupas. The four entrances in the railing or vedika are aligned to the cardinal directions and the pattern thus produces a cosmological diagram in the form of a Buddhist swastika. Both the interior and exterior surfaces of the railing are carved with shallow relief and medallions such as ours to be viewed by the worshipper performing the pradakshina rites. A number of lotus roundels can also bear representations of the faces or upper halves of humans or humanlike figures. For similar examples, see Isao Kurita, Gandharan Art II: The World of the Buddha, 1990, p. 226, pls. 672-673; and W. Zwalf, A Catalogue of the Gandhara Sculpture in the British Museum, Volume II, 1996, p. 263, pl. 476. The remains of a similar tondo can be seen decorating the walls of the monastery of Jaulian in Taxila.
Provenance: Private Belgium Collection since the 1970s
Reference: 1. Pratapaditya Pal, Indian Sculpture, Vol I, 1996, p. 179.
2 CROWNED HEAD OF VISHNU INDIA (RAJASTHAN), 11TH CENTURY
According to J. Leroy Davidson, the consummate skill of the master carver can be seen through the slant of the eyes, the thread of the carved eyebrows, the sharply defined configuration of the vertical curls and elaborate jewellery in the crown.2 When in situ, the variety and vitality of details rising from one plane to another, twisting and turning, fluid and geometric, all capture the maximum interplay of brilliant light and deep shadow.3
HEIGHT: 33.8 CM WIDTH: 13.9 CM DEPTH: 19.6 CM
A hard grey stone carved head of Vishnu with an eight-sided mukuta (crown) on his head, and jewellery to his ears and neck.1 The smooth polished face has a long, thin nose, leading to the two prominent curved eyebrows above, which form an expressive and dramatic feature. His eyes are wide open and look steadily forwards with a powerful, concentrated gaze. Their narrow almond shape and thick lids further intensify his compelling and purposeful stare.
Provenance: The Collection of Mr and Mrs Bob Willoughby, Los Angeles Private English Collection
The large, full lips of his mouth are closed, creating a serious, contemplative expression. The unadorned face contrasts with the finely carved and intricate detail of the hair and elaborate mukuta above. A row of tightly curled locks of varying lengths covers the forehead from one ear to the other, upon which sits the tall crown with carved decoration. Bands with jewels in quatrefoil shapes sit between thickly carved vertical segments interspersed with cusped cartouches surrounded by single jewels. Above this are columns of vertical lappets within hatched borders. A wide rim with a lotus finial rests on top, completing the crown.
UCLA Art Galleries, University College, Los Angeles, 4th-31st March 1968.
Published and illustrated: J. Leroy Davidson, Art of the Indian Subcontinent from Los Angeles Collections, 1968, p. 54, no. 67.
References: 1. The eight sides of the mukuta represent the eight avatars or manifestations of Vishnu. The lotus finial is another distinguishing feature of Vishnu. Surya, the sun god, who is depicted with a similar tall crown, would have a sunflower finial. 2. J. Leroy Davidson, Art of the Indian Subcontinent from Los Angeles Collections, 1968, p. 54, no. 67. 3. Ibid.
3 YA K S H I
CENTRAL INDIA (MADHYA PRADESH), 10TH/11TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 23 CM WIDTH: 16 CM DEPTH: 12 CM
The upper torso of a voluptuous and sensual celestial dancer (apasaras) or yakshi figure carved in red sandstone and richly adorned in fine jewellery with her head tilted to one side. Seemingly naked, save for an abundance of decorative jewellery carved in high relief, the shape of her torso suggests that she would have been in a provocative or contorted pose such as that of a dancer. Her voluminous and rounded
breasts remain a focal point, above which is nestled a large gem-set necklace. A further necklace falls between her breasts down onto her flat stomach below. A jewelled upper arm bracelet (bazuband) can also be seen. Her rounded face and full lips portray a slight smile, and her almond-shaped eyes are wide open beneath large arched brows. Her wavy hair is tied back and to the top of her head is a decorative kirttimukha emblem. Traces of a decorative architectural element can be seen behind.
the same wavy hair can be seen in Amina Okada, Sculptures indiennes du musĂŠe Guimet, 2000, p. 115, no. 42.
Provenance: The Sherman and Ruth Lee Collection, 1960s
Sherman Emory Lee (1918-2008) was a world-renowned American academic, writer and art historian. He became Curator of Far Eastern Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1941. From 1948 until 1952 he taught at the University of Washington and was also Associate Director at the Seattle Art Museum. In 1952, Lee began his long career at the
This torso fragment was part of a larger sculpture which would probably have been part of a bracket above a column within a temple rather than positioned externally.
Cleveland Museum of Art. Over the years he served as Chief Curator of Oriental Art, Assistant Director, and Associate Director, becoming Director in 1958. Lee retired from the Cleveland Museum in 1983 and began teaching at the University of North
For a similar and more complete celestial dancer, see Pratapaditya Pal, Asian Art at the Norton Simon Museum, Volume I: Art from the Indian Subcontinent, 2003, p. 142, no. 100. A tree deity or Shalabhanjika with
Carolina-Chapel Hill. Prior to his retirement, he also served as an art advisor to Mr and Mrs John D. Rockefeller, helping them to build a world-class collection, which was later donated to the Asia Society, New York, in 1978.
4 HEAD OF A RISHI
CENTRAL INDIA (PROBABLY MADHYA PRADESH), 10TH/11TH CENTURY
separated by a thin nose. A long, wavy beard, common in ascetic portraits, rises from his chin up the sides of his face where it connects with his hair, which can just be seen below a thick hatched band placed around his forehead. Above this, his abundant and thick matted locks of hair, almost dreadlock-like in appearance are bunched at either side in buns, and held in place by further hatched material strips. Framing his face are elongated and pierced ears that curve outwards.
HEIGHT: 11 CM WIDTH: 13.5 CM DEPTH: 9.5 CM
A carved pinkish yellow sandstone head of a bearded male figure, a Hindu ascetic (rishi) with elongated ears and bunched hair. He faces forwards with a calm and serene expression on his face, with deep-set almond-shaped eyes looking slightly down below wide and prominent raised brows
Ascetics were dedicated to the pursuit of enlightenment and the power of ultimate knowledge.
In 1952, Lee began his long career at the
Sculptures such as ours have been known in Indian art since the earliest period. In Hindu art, ascetics are often associated with Shiva, especially in his role as Bhairava.1
Cleveland Museum of Art. Over the years he served as Chief Curator of Oriental Art, Assistant Director, and Associate Director, becoming Director in 1958. Lee retired from the Cleveland Museum in 1983 and began teaching at the University of North
Carolina-Chapel Hill. Prior to his retirement,
The Sherman and Ruth Lee
he also served as an art advisor to Mr and
Mrs John D. Rockefeller, helping them to build a world-class collection, which
Sherman Emory Lee (1918-2008) was a
was later donated to the Asia Society,
world-renowned American academic, writer
New York, in 1978.
and art historian. He became Curator of Far Eastern Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts in
1941. From 1948 until 1952 he taught at the
1. George Michell, Catherine Lampert and
University of Washington and was also
Tristram Holland, (eds.), In The Image Of Man,
Associate Director at the Seattle Art Museum.
1982, pp. 167-168.
5 S TA R T I L E PA N E L
IRAN (PROBABLY KASHAN), 13TH/EARLY 14TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 72 CM WIDTH: 47 CM DEPTH: 1.5 CM
A tile revetment panel comprising fifteen cross tiles, each covered with a rich cobalt blue glaze, arranged in alternation with twenty-four eight-pointed star tiles, each covered with an opaque turquoise glaze. The individual tiles fit together cohesively to form the large geometric panel. Though the tiles of the panel are monochrome, slight variations in the intensity of both the cobalt and turquoise hues allow for a delicately sparkling play of surfaces, while the classic colour combination of the two shades of blue, developed gradually between the end of the Seljuq and the beginning of the Il-Khanid periods to adorn sarcophagi and palaces, in combination with brickwork and carved stucco, is a particularly satisfying one. The turquoise glaze of the star tiles is typical of Kashan tile-work dating from around 1200. Kashan was the principal centre for the production of fine pottery and tile-work in Iran. Although there were doubtless other centres functioning in the medieval period, evidence of Kashan’s pre-eminent position between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries comes additionally from the signatures of well-known potters, some of whom added their nisbah (place of origin) “Kashani”, next to their signature, or stated that they resided in Kashan.1 The style of two perfectly complementary modules, and eight-pointed stars and a cross with triangular extremities, was popular with ceramicists of both Kashan and Baghdad, and was also used in the famous lustre star and cross tiles of the period, decorated with plant forms, calligraphy, animals and occasionally figures.2
The conventional designation of these thirteenth or early fourteenth century turquoise and blue star and cross tile panels as Seljuq is a problematic one, as the Seljuq dynasty, a branch of the Oghuz Turks, had collapsed by 1194 following a period of erosion begun in 1157 by an offshoot, the Khwarazm Shahs, also of Turkish origin.3 Initially confined to a region between the Caspian and Arat Seas, the Khwarazm Shahs prodigiously expanded their territories. Following the fall of the Seljuqs, they controlled the whole of the Iranian plateau until the Mongol invasions of 1220.4 Ironically, the period of great experimentation and innovation in tile-work began only in the last days of Seljuq rule, but this highly productive period continued well after the Seljuq empire had split into smaller entities.5 Surviving Seljuq monuments dating from the eleventh to twelfth centuries are distinguished by the use of brick, enlivened by the scant and understated use of turquoise, rather than the combination of turquoise and cobalt blue, which only began to develop at the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century, during the very last days of the declining Great Seljuqs, overlapping the Khwarazm Shahs period, in monuments to the east of the Caspian Sea. Tile decorations of Urgenc Sultan Tekesh and Fahreddin Razi türbes, and of Zevzen Mosque, are cited by Gönül Öney in Ceramic Tiles in Islamic Architecture, 1987, p. 16, as examples for this. In these works, the tiles have been used to form bordures, inscription bands, and panels with the star and cross motif. As a Great Seljuq example of the star and cross formation dating from the late twelfth century, Öney illustrates on p. 20 star-shaped lustre tiles, each painted with a figure, spaced by eggplant violet glazed cross tiles. These Seljuq tiles come from Rayy, and are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Following the Mongol invasion, there was a period of stagnation
in architecture and the arts, lasting until around 1270, when there was a resurgence of all types of ceramics.6 The new examples perpetuated the original Seljuq style but in a richer and more complex manner.7 What is designated Seljuq in period is often more accurately Seljuq in style and spirit. Another factor that determined stylistic continuity was that despite all the upheavals, dates on surviving tiles indicate that tile production at Kashan continued almost without a break from just after 1200 to the 1330s.8 The Mongol invasions caused only a brief hiccup in the tile industry of Kashan - there are no dated tiles between 1243 and 1255 - but not the total destruction suffered by the potteries of Afrasiyab, the old city of Samarkand, or Raqqa.9 The same techniques and styles continued in use in tile-work after the Mongol invasions, and developed ever more interesting forms. Similar star and cross tiles in turquoise and eggplant violet from the Il-Khanid period, still in situ at the Pir-i Bakran Mausoleum in Landan near Isfahan (1303-1312), are illustrated in Öney, p. 33, pl. 20. A similar panel of star and cross tiles is in the collection of the Sadberk Hanim Museum, Istanbul. References: 1. Venetia Porter, Islamic Tiles, 1995, p. 33. 2. Dominique Clévenot and Gérard Degeorge, Ornament and Decoration in Islamic Architecture, 2000, p. 144. 3. Gönül Öney, Ceramic Tiles in Islamic Architecture, 1987, p. 15; Gérard Degeorge and Yves Porter, The Art of the Islamic Tile, 2002, p. 46. 4. Ibid. 5. Porter, 1995, p. 32. 6. Öney, 1987, pp. 16-17. 7. Ibid., p. 17. 8. Porter, 1995, pp. 33-34. 9. Ibid., p. 34.
6 TIMURID KUFIC TILE
WESTERN CENTRAL ASIA (TIMURID), SECOND HALF OF THE 14TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 22.2 CM WIDTH: 26.8 CM DEPTH: 7 CM
A carved and glazed terracotta calligraphic tile, finely carved with a plaited kufic inscription in Arabic on a scrolling floriated ground and covered in a rich, luminous transparent turquoise glaze. The inscription reads: al-mulk [li’-llah] “Sovereignty is [for God]” This tile would have formed part of a calligraphic panel within a decorative architectural revetment in which this famous phrase would have been repeated. The phrase is seen on monuments, tiles, pottery, woodwork and metalwork.
A similar turquoise tile carved with the same phrase is in the collection of the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin. This is published and illustrated in Johannes Kalter and Margareta Pavaloi, Uzbekistan: Heirs to the Silk Road, 1997, p. 90, no. 135. A tile with the same phrase glazed in turquoise and crowned by a wide panel with seven vertical bands in alternating turquoise and white, with a horizontal border in dark manganese at the top, is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, (inv. no. 2006.274). Another tile from this group is in the collection of the Sadberk Hanim Museum, Istanbul. This is published in Hülya Bilgi, Reunited after centuries: Works of art restored to Turkey by the Sadberk Hanim Museum, 2005, pp. 22-25, cat. no. 2. Bilgi provides an alternative translation of the famous phrase: “Everything belongs to God.” Carved and glazed terracotta is a highly attractive technique that predates the Timurid conquest. 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.
7 CURVED KUFIC TILE
WESTERN CENTRAL ASIA (TIMURID, SAMARKAND), LATE 14TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 22 CM WIDTH: 25 CM DEPTH: 15 CM
A carved and glazed terracotta calligraphic border tile of curved rectangular form, the concave main field deeply carved in relief with a plaited or knotted kufic inscription covered in a crisp white glaze against a ground of dense, scrolling floriated vines bearing spiky leaves, tightly curling buds and split-leaf palmettes. The scrolling vines are covered in a rich gleaming turquoise glaze that also pools in the shadowy recesses and spills with small delicious drops on the sides of the tile. The horizontal format, angular letters and thick extended strokes of the kufic inscription begin to meld into the surrounding, encroaching tendrils by becoming intertwined with the floral ornament that sprouts organically from the letters, while the elaborate kufic plaits take on the turquoise of the vines as a colourific transition from the white lettering. Thus, though the letters and the vines are
on the same level of relief, the inscription stands out by virtue of its colour but blends in as it subtly transmutes into vegetal form. This section of the tile is finely finished by horizontal turquoise borders to the top and bottom. The inscription reads: [al-]’uzma l’illah “Greatness is God’s” Surmounting the concave inscription band is a projected frieze of scrolling lavender-hued cobalt vines with paired bifurcated buds, also carved in relief and framed by white borders to the top and bottom. To the left is a cross made from overlapping straps that indicate how interstices on the frieze would have been marked, and punctuated, to form long cartouches with diamond-pointed ends to enclose the softer curls of the vegetal scrolls within. Stylistically, this tile falls within the earliest period of Timurid architecture. After a period of political turbulence and protracted battles for conquest, Timur (reigned 1370-1405) emerged
as ruler of the former Chagatayid domains in Central Asia during the last quarter of the fourteenth century and chose Samarkand as the capital of his vast, ever-expanding empire.1 The transitional period of instability during which Timur fought to wrest control from an array of feuding dynasties did not preclude or disrupt architectural activity at the fabled necropolis of the Shah-e Zende.2 In fact, between the fall of the tottering Chagatayids and the rise of the Timurids, several mausoleums were erected where the structural layouts and grammar of ornament fed seamlessly into the emergent, synthesised International Timurid Style. Tiles with similar concave bands of knotted and floriated kufic inscriptions bordered by projecting friezes marked with crossed straps, alternating with dotted circles, can be seen in the mausoleums of Khodja Ahmad and the Unknown Princess. Dating respectively to 1350 and 1361, these two pre-Timurid monuments built just before Timur’s total dominance demonstrate how the vocabulary of architectural ornament straddles dynastic time-lines. Related tiles from these monuments are illustrated in Frédérique Beaupertius-Bressand, L’or Bleu de Samarkand: The Blue Gold of Samarkand, 1997, pp. 112, 114, 115 and 117.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Will Kwiatkowski for his kind reading of the inscription.
References: 1. Venetia Porter, Islamic Tiles, 1995, p. 62; Gérard Degeorge and Yves Porter, The Art of the Islamic Tile, 2002, p. 110. 2. Jean Soustiel and Yves Porter with photography by Antoine Lesieur, Tombs of Paradise: The Shah-e Zende in Samarkand and the architectural tiles of Central Asia, 2003, p. 69; Thomas W. Lentz and Glenn D. Lowry, Timur and the Princely Vision: Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century, 1989, p. 17.
8 PENSIVE COURTIER
IRAN (SAFAVID), 17TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 25.4 CM WIDTH: 24.2 CM
A tile in the cuerda seca technique with a charming design of a courtier standing under a tree. The courtier wears an elaborate green and white striped turban under a conical yellow and turquoise hat with a lavender pompom to the top. He seems deep in thought, the index finger he places on his mouth a conventional gesture of wonder and amazement. His large, expressive eyes and finely shaped brows, delicate mouth and chin, are all shaded with painterly refinement, bringing his fine features to vivid life. Curling locks of hair that emerge from under his turban cascade down the nape of his neck and frame his face to either side. His elegant fingers are particularly beautiful and are drawn with great poise. The rapt attention with which the courtier ponders his philosophical question or romantic conundrum infuses the image with an enigmatic, lyrical quality. Arching over the courtier are the turquoise branches of a tree, bearing flowers with large black and white petals and smaller yellow petals, accompanied by variegated single or bi-coloured leaves in yellow, green and lavender, seen to splendid effect against the rich cobalt blue ground. The vigorous thrust of the branches, the sparkling vivacity of the abundant blossoms, and the energy of the twisting and turning leaves, create an explosion of colour and movement above the quiet and pensive courtier. To the lower right edge of the tile can be seen the green pompom of another courtier’s hat.
The group of seventeenth century Safavid figurative tiles in the present catalogue may be confidently attributed to the hand of the great Safavid tile-maker called the “Master of the Figures” by Sophie Makariou, or to his workshop. Several of this master artist’s superb tiles, all displaying his clear, firm signature style, have been sold at Simon Ray and Spink. They constitute the very best group of Safavid tiles, combining steady assured cuerda seca outlines with bold, imaginative compositions and brilliant colours faultlessly applied. As Makariou notes in her description of a tile in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, decorated by the “Master of the Figures” with a woman carrying two vases:
like a ‘cup’, whereas the upper lip consists of two small inverted arcs placed on an arc of a circle; the nose is always drawn in a straight line and rounded off at the end, with the side of the nose indicated by a curl shape. The eyes are shown with large pupils and the eyebrows are not joined; the ear is always depicted in the same way. The hair is not drawn in fine strokes but forms a mass of curls painted in a saturated black. The deeply coloured glazes are applied with perfect mastery, leaving few bubbles and no sign of any colour-run”.1
Reference: 1. Istanbul, Isfahan, Delhi: 3 Capitals of Islamic Art, Masterpieces from the Louvre Collection, 2008, p. 248, cat. no. 119. The tile Makariou describes is on long term loan to the Louvre
“The similarity in the drawing of the faces on such tiles…is indeed very striking, but it is above all the quality of the brushwork and the skill with which the glaze is applied that provoke admiration. The face is always composed in the same way: the lower lip of the mouth is drawn
from the Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris, inv. no. AD 15120.
9 COURTIER HOLDING A FRUIT BY A TREE
IRAN (SAFAVID), 17TH CENTURY
sinuous turquoise branches bearing unusual bi-coloured serrated leaves in yellow and cobalt blue, each leaf with a white centre. The spreading of the branches and leaves seems to push beyond the boundaries of the tile, creating a wonderful sense of expansion beyond the tileâ€™s borders. A small branch growing from the stump of the tree can be seen to the lower right corner.
HEIGHT: 23.5 CM WIDTH: 23.5 CM
A tile in the cuerda seca technique with a charming design of a courtier by a tree. The courtier wears an elaborate yellow and black striped turban tied with a blue band and decorated with a white ruffled aigrette. His smiling features are beautifully drawn, his wide eyes alert with mischief. He sports trailing side-locks. In his hand he holds a yellow fruit, perhaps a pomegranate or persimmon. His elegant fingers are drawn with exquisite poise and his sleeve, just visible to the right edge of the tile, is dark ochre brown.
The vivid colours of the tile are seen to splendid effect against the luminous turquoise ground. The freshness of the glowing colours and the delight of the scene create a radiant image infused with a lyrical, gentle poetry.
The tree by which the courtier stands has a short bold turquoise trunk outlined in black, from which sprout
10 S A I L O R S O N A WA R S H I P
IRAN (SAFAVID), 17TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 23.8 CM WIDTH: 24.2 CM
A tile in the cuerda seca technique with a very unusual design of three sailors aboard a warship. The sailors stand on deck, busy with the hustle and bustle of the ship’s activities. To the left is the wooden mast of the ship. Two of the sailors are vigorously hoisting up the sails. They reach upwards, tugging at the ropes with both hands. The sailor on the right can be seen vigorously pulling on a trailing rope. The central figure with a bold moustache seems by his commanding stance to be the senior seaman. He stands proudly manning the cannons that protrude from the cusped and arched windows at the gunwale of the ship, which curves upwards dramatically
to the right, giving the design a powerful surging movement. The three bi-coloured cannons suggest the sheen and weight of cast iron, from which heavy artillery in the seventeenth century was made. To the extreme right of the tile is the tiered forecastle, or foredeck, of the ship. The sailor on the left wears a wide brimmed green and lavender hat, a blue shirt and yellow breeches tucked into cobalt blue boots. His hat and costume show that he is a European sailor, perhaps English or Portuguese. Though the other two sailors wear the Persian style coats seen in many other Safavid tiles, their distinctive facial features, with prominent noses and bold jaw lines, suggest that they may be Indian seamen known as lascars. Their turbans are in a post 1640 Mughal style, which seems to confirm this identification. The sailor on the right wears a green coat and a lavender and blue striped turban. The central seaman wears a blue coat and a green and yellow turban. There is a wide literature on the mercantile trade in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean that tells of many occasions when European travellers took ship on native vessels and vice versa. According to Michael H. Fischer in Counterflows to Colonialism: Indian Travellers and Settlers in Britain 1600-1857, 2004, p. 33, the East India Company’s ships “accepted the long established modes of hiring Indians as sailors or as lascars. Some Indians signed on as individual sailors,
contracting personally with ship owners, as was the practice in Europe. But most followed the more widespread custom of joining maritime labour gangs hired as a block. When employed in this mode, they were customarily termed lascars”. The term lascar is believed to have derived from the Persian lashkar, or khalasi, meaning “a group of armed men, an army, a camp or a band of followers”, or more specifically, “the crew attached to an artillery piece”. The first European use of the word lascar dates back to the Portuguese employment of Asian seamen in the 1500s. Lascars were recruited to serve on European ships and paid through a ghat sarhang, an Indian agent. This term comes from the Hindi word ghat, meaning landing place or set of bathing steps, and the Persian word sarhang, meaning commander or overseer. It may be the ghat sarhang that we see to the centre of this tile. There were already a number of lascars who had reached England in the seventeenth century, but they would have been more numerous in the Persian Gulf. That the lascars are dressed as Mughals in this tile indicates their Indian nationality, and should not be taken to represent a lascar’s actual costume in the fleet. It is known that men of all faiths and regions were mingled together in this role. Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Tim Stanley for his initial identification of the Indian seamen and Robert Skelton for kindly providing information on the lascars.
11 TWO MUSICIANS AND A DRUM
IRAN (SAFAVID), 17TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 24.2 CM WIDTH: 24.2 CM
A tile in the cuerda seca technique depicting part of a musical entertainment or spectacle at court. The drummer standing to the right wears a long green coat and a blue and green striped turban. He vigorously beats an oval drum slung from his shoulder by a blue strap, boldly decorated with multi-coloured checks in cobalt blue, turquoise, yellow, green and black. The colourful squares are separated in mosaic fashion by the dark manganese brown lines of the cuerda seca technique. The drumstick that he clenches in his right hand has a yellow ball-headed tip. We can tell from his smiling face and sparkling eyes that the drummer is very much enjoying his music making. He looks upwards, perhaps at dancers and singers that he accompanies with his percussive rhythms. The courtier seated on the left is dressed in a rich cobalt blue robe tied with a green and yellow sash. He wears green and yellow shoes and a matching striped turban. With his distinguished features, heavy beard and luxuriant moustache, the courtier seems older than the
young drummer. He cranes his neck upwards, lifting his eyes to view the performance with great concentration, suggesting that he is a spectator. Yet it is also possible that like the young drummer he is a musician, perhaps playing an instrument placed on the ground before him. The green and yellow shoes and leggings of a third figure can be seen standing in the background. The only landscape detail is a chinoiserie style rock formation that floats to the centre of the tile, anchoring the design between the figures. The black rocks with scrolling outlines in dark manganese purple form a rich contrast with the white ground. From the rocks sprout green, yellow and blue leaves.
12 TA M B O U R I N E P L AY E R
IRAN (SAFAVID), 17TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 24 CM WIDTH: 24 CM
A tile in the cuerda seca technique in shades of yellow, cobalt blue, turquoise, sage green, ochre and white with a charming design of musicians within a landscape. Part of a much larger panel, this particular tile concentrates on the tambourine or daf player as he raises his instrument with both hands, giving it prominence. His showmanship makes the scene not only musical but a visual spectacle as well. Wearing a rich cobalt tunic with turquoise lapels over a yellow shirt, the bearded musician looks slightly to his left, concentrating on the rhythmical playing of the tambourine, or perhaps distracted by someone in the observing crowd. His tambourine has a pale blue centre with a cobalt outline and is edged in white demi-lune cymbals.
He also sports a rounded ochre hat formed in two sections. Portrayed against a vibrant yellow ground, the tambourine player is surrounded by further musicians who stand behind him, one clothed in a tunic of sage green with a pleated ochre skirt, her left foot in a blue shoe with a glimpse of green trouser leg. Her arms are stretched out, and in one hand is a pair of yellow and brown maracas. It is possible that she is passing them to the small hand of an unseen child to the far left of the tile. The other musician has a cobalt blue tunic with a turquoise skirt. Part of a stylised floral and leafy spray and can be glimpsed to the bottom corner. The tile represents a captured moment of a musical event and as such has a movement and personality which is found lacking in a lot of Safavid tiles of the era. The strong, bold colours enhance the scene laid out before us.
13 CALLIGRAPHIC TILE
IRAN (SAFAVID), 17TH CENTURY
group may be by more than one hand and may range in time of manufacture across several decades of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, they all share similar characteristics of thulth calligraphy against a cobalt blue ground. Though fragmentary, they form a cohesive group, which suggests that they might have all come from one monument. The present tile is one of the earliest in the group and dates from the seventeenth century.
HEIGHT: 22.3 CM WIDTH: 23.2 CM
A tile in the cuerda seca technique, which would have formed part of an inscription panel, with elegant thulth calligraphy in crisp white against a rich cobalt blue ground. The tile has a thin white border to the top and a yellow border to the base. This tile comes from a group of calligraphic tiles and tile fragments that was once in the collection of the eminent dealer and collector Saeed Motamed (1925-2013) who lived in Frankfurt. Though the tiles from this
Provenance: The Saeed Motamed Collection, Frankfurt Saeed Motamed started collecting Islamic art in 1953 and continued to do so until the early 1990s.
14 BLUE-AND -WHITE BORDER TILE
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1530 HEIGHT: 26.7 CM WIDTH: 19.5 CM
A border tile of rectangular form, underglaze-painted in cobalt blue and turquoise on a white ground and with a design of stylised meandering floral sprays and cloud bands. The elegant scrolling vines spiral across the main field, and feature composite lotus and rosette sprays all in cobalt blue as well as smaller serrated saz leaves and tendrils. The floral designs are all set against a white ground. Traces of a thin cobalt border frame the main field to the right of the tile. To the left, a solid cobalt and turquoise vertical border
separates the arabesque floral meanders from a stylised series of cusped white cloud bands, painted against a cobalt blue ground. A single trefoil palmette in turquoise can be seen decorating the central cloud with parts of further turquoise cartouches seen to the top and bottom edges. A complete tile with the same cloud band design can be seen in Hülya Bilgi, Dance of Fire: Iznik Tiles and Ceramics in the Sadberk Hanim Museum and Ömer M. Koç Collections, 2009, pg. 142, no. 59. Further tiles with this design can be seen in situ at the Circumcision Chamber of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Provenance: Anon Sale, Sotheby’s, London, 11th February 1964, lot 14.
15 R O S E T T E S A N D S A Z L E AV E S
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1540 HEIGHT: 12.5 CM WIDTH OF EACH TILE: 24 CM WIDTH OF PANEL: 48.5 CM
A pair of underglazed-painted tiles in shades of cobalt blue, turquoise, and white, depicting a meander of stylised floral sprays and leaves within horizontal borders. The two large and prominent serrated saz leaves, leaning to the right as if blown by an unseen breeze, are filled with an inner stylised rosette spray in white with a central cobalt blue bud against the vibrant turquoise ground. Delicate white vines connect the leaves to two large
cusped six-petalled rosette sprays, which compete for our attention. The turquoise outer petals are detailed with heart-shaped cartouches and surround inner cobalt and turquoise rosettes. Further vines emerge from the rosettes to form smaller stylised leafy floral sprays. Set against a strong brushed cobalt ground, the designs are all edged in white, helping to enhance the floral patterns yet further. A strong horizontal turquoise border frames the central field above and below. For a similar pair of tiles, see Hülya Bilgi, Dance of Fire: Iznik Tiles and Ceramics in the Sadberk Hanim Museum and Ömer M. Koç Collections, 2009, p. 100, cat. no. 32.
16 A R A B E S Q U E C LO U D B A N D S
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1580 HEIGHT: 12 CM WIDTH: 27 CM
Two underglaze-painted polychrome border tiles in colours of cobalt blue, turquoise, black and sealing wax red against a white slip ground. The vibrant cobalt blue is thickly applied, providing a richly coloured background to the swirling, scrolling cloud bands. They meander across the tile from left to right, painted with a white ground and decorated
with smaller cusped clouds and tendrils which punctuate their outlines. Small curved patches of sealing wax red add colour to where the cloud bands bend. A thin black line highlighted with splashes of turquoise dissects each cloud band horizontally. One of the tiles has traces of a white horizontal border which can be seen framing the main field to top and bottom. This tile would originally have been used as part of a larger border pattern surrounding an inner design painted on larger square tiles.
17 ARABESQUES AND SPIRALLING VINES TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1570 HEIGHT: 24.5 CM WIDTH: 17.4 CM HEIGHT: 24.3 CM WIDTH: 18 CM
Two 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 green and cobalt blue as they face each other, separated by a single arcing bi-coloured serrated saz leaf in emerald green and rich sealing wax red. Surrounding the palmettes are overblown composite lotus sprays with luxuriant turquoise pomegranates to the centre. The blue spiralling vines that connect the various sprays and leaves give the design a radiant energy. The curling leaves, buds and exotic, stylised flowers are all drawn as much from fantasy as from nature. 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, this magnificent tile epitomises the best of Iznik production at its most brilliant period. Reference: Identical tiles are in the main Islamic gallery downstairs in the Jameel Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum (988-1884). See also Hülya Bilgi, Dance of Fire: Iznik Tiles and Ceramics in the Sadberk Hanim Museum and Ömer M. Koç Collections, 2009, p. 218, cat. no. 116. for a similar example.
18 S A Z L E AV E S , L O T U S E S A N D P R U N U S B L O S S O M S
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1575 HEIGHT: 25.5 CM WIDTH: 24.5 CM
An underglaze-painted polychrome tile in shades of cobalt blue, emerald green and sealing wax red or Armenian bole against a white ground with a design of stylised scrolling floral arabesques and saz leaves. The central focal point of the tile is a figure of eight design of stylised prunus sprays in vibrant sealing wax red, each flower decorated with a pair of small thin green leaves. Two large saz leaves in cobalt hues with a central raised red line dissect the prunus blossoms and from their bases issue scrolling tendrils which link to overblown lotus sprays. Large stylised composite flowers frame the prunus sprays to either side. The design of this tile is a wonderful example of the saz style of decoration, which had reached the height of its popularity by the 1560s. According to Michael Rogers, the
style is one “in which stylised chinoiserie lotuses are worked up into heavily modelled, intricate compositions with feathery leaves.”1 Its origins can be traced back to the Timurid, Aqqoyunlu and Safavid traditions, examples of which would have arrived in Istanbul by the end of the first quarter of the sixteenth century. A set of lunette tile panels of comparable design are now in the Musée du Louvre and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.2 Tiles of related designs can be seen in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Kuntsgewerbemuseum, Cologne; the Pergamon Museum, Berlin; the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon; and the Museum fũr Völkerkunde in Hamburg. A tile of almost identical design, though the motifs are reversed in mirror image, is now in the collection of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. This is published in John Carswell, Iznik: Pottery for the Ottoman Empire, 2003, pp. 78-79, cat. no. 20.
According to Carswell, the design, which relates to the lunette tile panel in the Louvre, can be associated with the Piyale Pasha Mosque (1573) in Istanbul, from which the Louvre panel is known to have come. Piyale Pasha was a favourite of Sultan Selim II, whose daughter he married, and Sokollu Mehmed Pasha was his brother-in-law. Based on related though not identical tile designs from the Ramazan Efendi Mosque (1586) and the chamber of Murad III at the Topkapi Saray (circa 1578), Carswell observes that variations of this type of design flourished for about ten years from 1575, sometimes substituting tulips for the overblown lotuses or cloud bands for the coils of prunus blossoms. An example of this variation can be seen in Hülya Bilgi, Dance of Fire: Iznik Tiles and Ceramics in the Sadberk Hanim Museum and Ömer M. Koç Collections, 2009, p. 206, cat. no. 104. References: 1. J. M. Rogers, Empire of the Sultans: Ottoman Art from the Collection of Nasser D. Khalili, 1995, p. 224. 2. Soliman le Magnifique, 1990, pp. 138-139, nos. 146-147.
19 PA L M E T T E S , R O S E T T E S A N D S A Z L E AV E S
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1570 HEIGHT: 25 CM WIDTH: 25 CM
A polychrome underglaze-painted tile in shades of cobalt blue, turquoise and sealing wax red against a white ground, depicting a crisp symmetrical design of saz leaves at the centre, half composite lotus blossoms on each edge and quarter floral rosettes in each corner, all connected by spiralling vines. The large overblown lotus flowers seen on the right and left edges each have a demi-lune central bud painted in a vibrant and raised Armenian bole or sealing wax red, surrounded by smaller leaves both cusped and curved in shades of rich cobalt blue with turquoise details. The half-lotus to the top edge of the tile has a contrasting design of spiky serrated petals surrounding a turquoise flower-head with trefoil petals. Small red buds peep out from between the petals. In contrast to
the sharpness of these motifs, the half-lotus to the bottom of the tile has radiating layers of smoother, rounder cusped trefoil petals, though spiky Timuird-inspired forms still loom in the form of pointed turquoise buds, red veins like spokes and a small lotus with sharp petals overlaid to the centre. A large saz leaf emanating from the half-lotus on the left edge curves towards the centre of the design, while a smaller saz leaf emerging from the half-lotus at the bottom curls into the lower right corner, the flourish of these saz leaves suggesting decorative finials. Vines emerging from the half-lotus blossoms spiral into the centre of the tile where they terminate in two large saz leaves, with the central forms paired up and parallel, curving inwards and incorporating semi-circular rosettes divided into small sections by vibrant red petals. Four contrasting quarter-rosettes float in the corners, each with a different design. The white ground against which the floral forms are presented has a subtle blue hue, giving it a watery translucent finish.
The use of the distinctive raised sealing wax red under a flawless glaze, combined with the vivid cobalt blue of the mature phase of Iznik, allows one to date this tile with some precision. The design draws on the so-called saz leaf style, which reached the height of its popularity between 1570 and 1580. The origins of the style were in a genre already established in the Timurid, Aqqoyunlu and Safavid traditions of Persia, examples of which would have arrived in Istanbul by the second quarter of the sixteenth century. Persian artists skilled in these traditions also came to the Ottoman court, notably Sahkulu (died 1555-1556) who went on to become head of the court atelier in the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (reigned 1520-1566) and has been identified as a virtuoso of the saz style “in which stylised chinoiserie lotus leaves are worked up into heavily modelled, intricate compositions with feathery leaves”.¹ Reference: 1.
J. M. Rogers (ed.), Topkapi Saray Museum:
Architecture, 1988, p. 32, figs. 62-64.
20 C LO U D B A N D S A N D F LOW E R S
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1565-1575 HEIGHT: 27.7 CM WIDTH: 27 CM
A large and magnificent polychrome tile, finely underglaze-painted in shades of cobalt blue, green and sealing wax red on a crisp white ground, with a lyrical design combining stylised and naturalistic floral sprays. The addorsed and confronted interlacing stems and leaves emerge in mirror formation from a tier of three mounds that take the form of elaborate chinoiserie cloud bands. Each cloud band is different, with metallic forms of blades, scimitars and crescents around which the scrolling cloud bands cluster or hang like pendant jewels. Though the stems are paired, the delicate drawing, the soft windswept quality of the botanical forms, and the asymmetrical placement of the cloud collar mounds to the right of the tile, impart a feeling of organic growth to the design. The organisational principle of symmetry is partially retained to visually structure the plethora of floral forms, but the shift of the mounds to the right, with the stems growing predominantly towards the left, present to the eye a vivid slice of nature, apparently random and quixotic yet with its own internal order that gently asserts itself without being immediately apparent. A variety of blossoms present themselves for our enjoyment. To the top left corner of the tile is a dramatic spotted tulip with red spots on blue petals that emerge from a red calyx. The unusual long green tulip leaves are similarly spotted. Below the tulip is a composite blue rosette with
two overlapping layers of serrated blue petals radiating from a red flower-head to the centre. The stylised blue rosette grows above a naturalistic red rose shown in flattened three-quarter profile, the heavy blossom nodding on its bending stalk. Accompanying the roses are a profusion of serrated green leaves, each with a red central vein. Growing further down on the stalks are just opening rose buds. To the bottom of the tile are serrated and stippled blue saz leaves that sinuously twist and turn above a quivering spray of hyacinths. To the lower left corner can be glimpsed part of a large composite rosette, with radiating layers of red and green cusped petals that seem to turn simultaneously in clockwise and anticlockwise direction to kaleidoscopic effect. Several elements of the design of this tile may be compared with a tile in the Çinili Köşk Museum at the Topkapi Saray, Istanbul. This tile is illustrated in Gönül Öney and Banri Namikawa, Turkish Ceramic Tile Art, 1975, pl. 71. It has a very similar large rose with radiating concentric petals, a blue composite rosette, two thick curving vines with red dots and a wave border to the centre of the tile from which hang pendant chinoiserie cloud bands. The floral motifs and chinoiserie cloud collars on this tile are also closely related to similar motifs on two large Iznik tile panels in the collection of the Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris, recently combined with and enhancing the Islamic collections at the Musée du Louvre, Paris. These Iznik panels are published and illustrated in Rémi Labrusse (ed.), Purs Décors? Arts de l’Islam, regards du XIXe siècle, 2007, p. 143, cat. no. 102.
21 R Ü S T E M PA S H A T I L E
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1560 HEIGHT: 25 CM WIDTH: 25 CM
This underglaze-painted tile is an example of one of the most celebrated Iznik designs associated with the Mosque of Rüstem Pasha in Istanbul, built in 1561. Tiles with the same pattern decorate the rear wall of the mosque around the mihrab. The tile is painted in shades of cobalt blue, turquoise and sealing wax red or Armenian bole with black outlines on a crisp white ground. The compelling design, rooted in its square form, is simple yet ingenious in structure, giving a tight internal organisation yet allowing the design to flow elegantly in all four directions, continuing into adjacent tiles of repeated identical design that would have formed the revetment panel. The pattern consists of interlacing split-leaf arabesques of rumi leaves on sinuous stems that emerge from a central composite rosette, the radiating, intertwined stems connecting the central rosette to half-rosettes placed centrally on each edge of the tile, and quarter-rosettes at each of the four corners. The half- and quarter-rosettes would be completed by their counterparts in adjacent tiles, allowing the design to multiply infinitely when tiles are joined together. The four stems emerge from the central rosette with a whirling clockwise movement, each stem
bearing an ornately cusped and flanged split-leaf, and terminating in a smaller spear-like leaf at the curling tip. The tips overlap to create small squares that seem to turn in anti-clockwise direction as a result of the direction in which the leaves point. The movement and countermovement of the design has a hypnotic quality, at once dynamic yet meditative. Delicate circular buds on the stems add an alluring sparkle.
A view of the interior of the Rüstem Pasha Mosque showing tiles of this design in situ is illustrated in Ahmet Ertuğ and Walter Denny, Gardens of Paradise: 16th Century Turkish Ceramic Tile Decoration, 1998, p. 53, pl. 24. A panel of these tiles is also illustrated in Fatih Cimok (ed.), The Book of Rüstem Pasha Tiles, 1998, p. 26. According to Walter Denny, posterity has not been kind to Rüstem Pasha, born a Croatian Catholic and inducted as a child into the Ottoman ruling institution, where he rose to great eminence as the sadrazam (grand vizier) of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, who was his father-in-law.1 Rüstem was a member of the Roxelana or Hürrem Sultan faction at the imperial court and married Hürrem’s daughter, Mihrimah. He is implicated in the popular imagination for having plotted with Hürrem in the execution of the popular and competent soldier-prince Mustafa, son of another wife of the Sultan.2 Ottoman and European sources accuse him of favouring Hürrem’s son, Seilm, at the expense of Mustafa, whom many deemed a more suitable heir to the throne than the drunkard Selim, on whom history has bestowed the unfortunate sobriquet “The Sot”.3
A tile with this design in the Sadberk Hanim Museum, Istanbul, is illustrated in Laure Soustiel, Splendeurs de la Ceramique Ottomane du XVIe au XIXe siecle: Des Collections Suna-İnan Kiraç et du Musée Sadberk Hanim, 2000, p. 70, no. 19. This tile is also illustrated in Ara Altun, John Carswell and Gönül Öney, Sadberk Hanim Museum: Turkish Tiles and Ceramics, 1991, p. 40, i.59. A tile of similar design in a private German collection is illustrated in Yanni Petsopoulos (ed.), Tulips, Arabesques & Turbans: Decorative Arts from the Ottoman Empire, 1982, pp. 95 and 116, fig. 104. A panel of fifteen tiles of this design is in the David Collection, Copenhagen, one of which is published in Kjeld von Folsach, Art from the World of Islam in The David Collection, 2001, p. 193, no. 279. The whole panel of tiles is illustrated in the earlier edition of this catalogue, Kjeld von Folsach, Islamic Art: The David Collection, 1990, p. 133, no. 203.
art historian’s view, this negative picture is tempered by the highly significant artistic accomplishments and construction of some of the greatest Ottoman monuments, made possible precisely because of this accumulation of wealth. The Rüstem Pasha Mosque, built by the celebrated architect Sinan, was completed in 1562, a year after Rüstem’s death and a few years after the completion of the huge imperial mosque at the Süleymaniye complex in 1559. A fraction of the size of the Süleymaniye, it is far more successful as a “theatre for the drama of Iznik tiles”, the interior walls covered to an unprecedented degree with brightly coloured tiles.4 It is the first Ottoman building to utilise tiles in the newly developed polychrome technique, with the colour red finally reaching maturity, and the first major Iznik tile decorative project in Ottoman history. Over thirty tile designs suggest that at least a dozen artists worked in a competitive atmosphere to make this site a testing ground and pioneering laboratory of design in the development of Ottoman ceramics.5
References: 1. Ahmet Ertuğ and Walter Denny, Gardens
Rüstem has also been characterised by Ottoman chronicles as a miserly accumulator of enormous wealth. However, Denny observes that from an
of Paradise: 16th Century Turkish Ceramic Tile Decoration, 1998, pp. 37-53; Walter B. Denny, Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics, 2004, pp. 79-94. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid.
22 L I L I E S , H YA C I N T H S A N D C O M P O S I T E S P R AY S
TURKEY (IZNIK), EARLY 17TH CENTURY
Provenance: Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener,
HEIGHT: 25 CM WIDTH: 23.3 CM
1st Earl Kitchener, KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, ADC, PC (1850–1916) and thence by descent. Kitchener was a British Field Marshal and colonial administrator who
A polychrome underglaze-painted tile with a stylised floral design in colours of cobalt blue, black, sealing wax red, emerald green and turquoise against a crisp white ground.
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 control of the Sudan, after which he was given the title ‘Lord Kitchener of Khartoum’. After this, he
The field contains large sprays of lilies painted in a rich raised sealing wax red, with cobalt calyxes and emerald green serrated stems, which issue forth from a composite lotus flower to the bottom, itself filled with smaller five-petalled rosette sprays within a turquoise cartouche. Two smaller single leaves also punctuate the ground around the lotus. Further smaller hyacinths in blue can be seen to the top right and bottom left of the tile, again with emerald stems and leaves. A large single tulip painted in sealing wax red with a blue calyx, stem and an emerald green swirling leaf appears from the bottom right whilst a large turquoise spray with cobalt stem bends towards the left of the tile, as if blown by an unseen breeze. The spray has serrated leaves edged in cobalt with a central eight-petalled rosette to the centre in raised red and blue. For a tile with a similar design, see Hülya Bilgi, Dance of Fire: Iznik Tiles and Ceramics in the Sadberk Hanim Museum and Ömer M. Koç Collections, 2009, p. 210.
went to Egypt as British Agent and Consul-General (de facto administrator) before in 1914 becoming Secretary of State for War. His commanding image, appearing on recruiting posters demanding ‘Your country needs you!’ remains recognised and parodied in popular culture to this day.
This tile was purchased from the great-great-niece of Lord Kitchener. It was formerly used to tile a bathroom in Broome Park in Kent, the family home.
23 FISH SCALE DISH
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1580 DIAMETER: 31 CM
A shallow underglaze-painted dish in colours of cobalt blue, emerald green, black and sealing wax red against a white ground with a pattern of cartouches, split-leaf palmettes and floral sprays on a polychrome central field of fish scale motifs. The dish sits on a short foot below. The main design is of two hourglass shaped medallions which each cross at their centres so creating a symmetrical pattern of four large cartouches, the curved sides of which are formed from two pairs of cusped and serrated stylised saz leaves, painted in raised sealing wax red and white. A small central trefoil cartouche acts as a focal point, connecting the leaves together. The fish scale ground to all sections is decorated with further small stylised rosette sprays, leaves, palmettes and cusped cartouches. The plain white cavetto has repeated cusped trefoil lappets to the inner edge alternating in colours of cobalt blue and raised red. To the rim, a further pattern of white lappets with red centres sits on a cobalt ground with splashes of green alternating with the lappets. To the reverse, the exterior is painted with alternating flower-heads and floral sprays in blue and green between plain blue lines.
Julian Raby, Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, London, 1989, pl. 124, p. 106. The pattern was probably inspired by early sixteenth century Deruta majolica although its use can be seen in Islamic art; see Kjeld von Folsach, Islamic Art, Copenhagen, 1990, p. 207, no. 346, for a fifteenth century twin dragon-headed candlestick from Khorasan. In the late 1570s and 1580s it became popular to enliven the background of vessels with fish scale motifs. The practice of separating panels of fish scales with saz leaves or arabesques, as seen on our dish, also became popular in the latter half of the sixteenth century. For a group of fish scale motif plates, see Frédéric Hitzel and Mireille Jacotin, Iznik: L’aventure d’une collection, 2005, pp. 76-87, nos. 32-49; Istanbul, Isfahan, Delhi: 3 Capitals of Islamic Art, Masterpieces from the Louvre Collection, 2008, pp. 140-141, no. 38B; and for a similar central field design, see Bernard Rackham, Islamic Pottery and Italian Maiolica, 1959, p. 74, pl. 181.
Provenance: Anon sale, Sotheby's, New York, 30 May 1986, lot 136
Published: Walter B. Denny, Ottoman Treasures: Rugs and Ceramics from the Collection of Dr. and Mrs. William T. Price, Birmingham Museum of Art, 2004, fig. 18, p. 15.
The use of the fish scale pattern which covers the ground of this dish is first seen decorating a jug in the form of a fish in the Benaki Museum, Athens, which dates to the 1520s, and can be seen in Nurhan Atasoy and
Exhibited: Ottoman Treasures: Rugs and Ceramics from the Collection of Dr. and Mrs. William T. Price, Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, 2004, cat. 41.
24 PA L M E T T E S A N D C I N TA M A N I
TURKEY (IZNIK), CIRCA 1575 HEIGHT: 20.7 CM DIAMETER: 14.4 CM
An underglaze-painted polychrome baluster jug with a cylindrical body, short flaring neck and curved handle, in shades of cobalt blue, turquoise and black against a white ground with a design of stylised palmettes and cintamani balls, standing on a short foot.
Hülya Bilgi, Dance of Fire: Iznik Tiles and Ceramics in the Sadberk Hanim Museum and Ömer M. Koç Collections, 2009, pp. 373 to 375; and Maria Queiroz Ribeiro, Louças Iznik Pottery, 1996, p. 283, no. 107.
Provenance: The Stéphane Lagonicos Collection Mr Lagonicos was a member of the wealthy Greek community of Alexandria, whose family settled in Egypt in the late nineteenth century. His collection of Iznik ceramics was formed after the First World War, comprising
The bulbous body has an all-over design of large white palmette leaves connected by thin black spiralling vines. The palmettes have smaller cobalt blue split-leaf patterns painted inside. Small tendril buds also decorate the vines and palmettes. Just below the neck sit groups of three cintamani balls which nestle between the larger palmettes. These floral motifs all sit upon a vibrant greenish turquoise copper oxide ground. A collar around the neck of the jug features chevron and lappet border designs. A white lined border sits below the main field just above the foot-rim which itself has a further horizontally split border. To the top of the mouth a stylised lozenge border frames the main pattern. To one side is an S-shaped handle in cobalt blue with a horizontal striped design to the edge. For similar jugs with palmette designs, see Frédéric Hitzel and Mireille Jacotin, Iznik: L’aventure d’une collection, 2005, p. 69;
mostly plates and jugs from the classic period of production of around 1570. At least six pieces from his collection were exhibited in the important 1925 Exposition d’art Musulman in Alexandria. He moved from Egypt to Switzerland in 1937.
25 B U T T E R F LY S E W I N G B O X
SOUTHERN INDIA (VIZAGAPATAM), 1740-1750 HEIGHT: 17.6 CM WIDTH: 35.3 CM DEPTH: 23 CM
A rosewood and ivory inlaid sewing box in the rare and unusual shape of a butterfly, the ivory boldly engraved and stained with lac to give a profusion of large, exotic flowers and leaves that form borders on all sides. The lid lifts open to reveal two vertically stacked layers of nine small inner covered boxes with irregular shapes made of sandalwood and decorated with ivory and lac-stained inlays. The inner boxes fit neatly like a jigsaw puzzle into the curved interior of the butterfly box, surrounding a red velvet pin cushion of asymmetrical cusped ogival form in the upper layer and a covered box of the same cusped ogival form in the lower layer. The lower layer of small inner boxes sits on the soft red velvet covered ground of the butterfly box.
Though fine examples of Vizagapatam workboxes of various forms have been published or can be seen in museum collections, we have never encountered the shape of a butterfly in Vizagapatam work. Not only is the box singular in shape, its complex curved lines require exceptional skill in the construction and carving. The sides of the lid are made up of several curving pieces of rosewood that are seamlessly joined together as are the sides of the box itself and the ivory veneers that embellish the edges. The irregular shapes of the inner sandalwood boxes with their intricate curves and interlocking nooks and crannies, alternating smooth and sharp edges, would be in themselves virtuoso displays of carving yet the need for all the boxes to fit together neatly raise the demands on the carver to another level. The base of the box is decorated with two tiers of ivory borders standing on four cusped feet, all decorated with engraved foliate scrolls stained with lac.
The butterfly was a popular motif in the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. Various species were discovered, collected and studied as part of the growing interest in the natural history of the period. Symbolically the transformation of the repulsive crawling caterpillar to an exquisite but short-lived flying insect had philosophical implications that were explored in the literature and writings of the period and served as a metaphor for the human spirit. It appeared as a motif in the decorative arts, a famous example being the butterflies that flutter on the dishes of the Chelsea and Berlin dinner services that belonged to Warren Hastings, Governor-General of India. The design and execution of the flowers and leaves on this sewing box suggest a close relationship with textiles manufactured in the first quarter of the eighteenth century in areas around Vizagapatam on the north Coromandel Coast, in which flowers and leaves of similar and distinctive character are commonly found. The precise devices used to define flowers and their petals, such as circles of cusped rings, layers of cusped chevrons, scales and dense hatching to the centres of leaves and flowers, are common to both Vizagapatam woodwork and Coromandel Coast palampores (painted or printed cotton bedcovers), the former engraved on ivory and the latter painted on
textiles.1 Both mediums were made for the European market, utilising shared designs known to appeal to the export trade. The British East India Company had a textile factory in Vizagapatam from 1668 and by 1768 the whole area had come under British control. From the late seventeenth century, a tradition grew in Vizagapatam for the manufacture of objects and furniture in a Western style, decorated in a distinctive manner, using ivory etched with lac inlaid into wood veneers. The decoration was initially drawn from Mughal culture, and then adapted. The first written reference to ivory inlaid furniture in Vizagapatam was made in 1756 by a Major John Corneille, who noted that the area was known for the quality of its chintz, which is “esteemed the best in India for the brightness of its colours”, and that “the place is likewise remarkable for its inlay work, and justly, for they do it to the greatest perfection”.2
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, pp. 186-188. For examples of palampore textiles with similar designs, see John Irwin and Katherine B. Brett, Origins of Chintz, 1970, pls. 6, 10, 12, 14 and 18. 2. Jaffer, 2001, p. 172.
26 FA L C O N G E M - S E T P E N D A N T
INDIA (DECCAN), 17TH CENTURY
80-81, cat. no. 36, a falcon pendant is worn by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh of Amber-Jaipur for a visit to Maharana Sangram Singh at Udaipur.
HEIGHT: 7.8 CM WIDTH: 5.9 CM DEPTH: 2.2 CM
A magnificent gold and gem-set pendant in the form of a falcon with spread wings and outstretched tail feathers, the body fabricated from gold around a lac core and set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds in the kundan technique, the back engraved and decorated in repoussé to give fine details of the plumage, depicting two types of feathers. On the breast is an inverted drop-shaped medallion set with a large diamond in a frame of delicately incised square collets of gold, surrounded by smaller lasque-cut diamonds.
John Johnstone of Alva (1734-1795) and thence by direct descent to Sir Raymond Johnstone, CBE
John Johnstone was sixteen when he went out to India to join the East India Company in 1750. In India, he transferred to the army for a few years before rejoining the East India Company. He fought in the battle of Battle of Plassey on 23 June 1757, where he commanded the artillery. Johnstone became very wealthy during his time in India and when he finally returned to the United Kingdom in 1766, he was able to purchase several large estates in Scotland. His main estate was at Alva, where he used the services
The wings and tail are set with cabochon rubies and emeralds within collets of variegated size and shape to create a dazzling mosaic of glinting feathers, the sense of movement enhanced by seven pendant rubies on gold loops finished with glass beads. On top of each wing is a suspension loop for stringing the pendant on a chain. Projecting from the sides are claws constructed from twisted gold, each with four talons grasping a pearl. While the back of the falcon lies flat against the body of the wearer, the head projects forward to increase the animation and three-dimensionality of this small but opulent sculptural object. The beak is a carved ruby from which hangs en tremblant a pendant pearl. The eyes are domed cabochon emeralds with ruby centres for the irises. On the forehead is a large tear-drop ruby. This pendant belongs to a small and rarified group of jewelled bird pendants that share a high quality in terms of materials and outstanding craftsmanship. A closely related pendant in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art is published
in Pedro Moura Carvalho, Gems and Jewels of Mughal India: Jewelled and enamelled objects from the 16th to 20th centuries, 2010, p. 77, no. 21. In the Khalili Collection is another bird of similar form illustrated on p. 76, no. 20. This does not have engraving to the gold on the back but the nape is decorated with glittering pavé rubies. Carvalho dates both Khalili pendants to the early seventeenth century and attributes them to the Deccan or southern India.
L’Inde des Princes: La donation Jean et Krishnâ Riboud, 2000, pp. 146-149, MA 6768. Okada draws our attention to the depiction of these rare pendants in Rajput miniatures where they are worn only by rulers, thus confirming their importance as royal objects of elevated status.
of Robert Adam to remodel and enlarge Alva House extensively and he was known as Johnstone of Alva. He also brought back a collection of jewellery, artefacts and other treasures he had acquired in India, including the present gem-set falcon pendant.
The illustrious Johnstone family, who in the eighteenth century comprised four sisters and seven brothers, is the subject of a book by Emma Rothschild, The Inner Life of Empires:
We illustrate here a detail from a late seventeenth century Mewar painting of “The Emperors Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb Visiting Two Holy Men”, published in our Simon Ray Indian and Islamic Works of Art catalogue, 2014, pp. 104-105, cat. no. 51, in which a similar falcon pendant is worn by Aurangzeb, who may have acquired the pendant when he was Viceroy of the Deccan.
A falcon pendant of similar design and size in the al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait National Museum, is published in Manuel Keene, Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals, 2001, p. 108, no. 8.38, LNS 28 J. Keene assigns a date of late sixteenth to early seventeenth century and similarly gives a Deccani provenance.
In a large Mewar cloth painting of circa 1700 now at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Maharana Amar Singh II wears a falcon pendant of the same form with outstretched wings. This is published in the Spink catalogue, The Sublime Image, 1997, cat. no. 8. In another Spink catalogue, Indian Miniature Painting, 1987, pp.
A pendant in the Krishnâ Riboud Collection now at the Musée Guimet, Paris, is illustrated in Amina Okada,
An Eighteenth-Century History, 2011.
INDIA (JAIPUR), CIRCA 1850 LENGTH: 22 CM WIDTH: 4.5 CM
A gold, enamelled and gem-set bazuband (upper arm bracelet), consisting of a rectangular central plaque flanked on each side by twenty interlocking vertical segments set alternately with cabochon rubies and emeralds. The central plaque is decorated with an eight-petalled flower-head with ruby leaves that scroll on gold stems into the four corners. A fringe of emerald leaves frames the rectangle with a ruby in a circular collet to the top and bottom. Each of the vertical ruby segments is set with five rubies in diamond-shaped collets and finished with a ruby in a
circular collet to the top and the bottom. Each of the emerald segments comprises four diamond-shaped collets flanked by triangular collets finished with circular collets to the top and bottom. The segments tightly interlock to form a dense yet flexible mesh. Completing the strap at each end is a segment of lunette form with ruby leaves framing a trefoil emerald floral spray. Fastened to the suspension loops through small rings of gold are braided cords composed of multi-coloured silk threads and gold braid.
grow from the peak of the mound below. The elephants wear saddlecloths and red caps. Each of the vertical segments is enamelled with red quatrefoil blossoms and green leaves against a white ground. Punctuating the middle of the strap is a horizontal line of gold flowers against a blue ground. Each lunette is enamelled with a bird perched on a flowering bush against a white ground, the charming scene set within a frame of serrated gold leaves against a cusped blue ground.
The reverse of the bazuband is enamelled in polychrome enamels on a white ground. The central plaque has a design of confronted blue elephants, ascending the sides of a triangular floral mound with trunks raised in salutation or lustration of the red lotus buds that
Provenance: Genevieve and Warren Garst, Colorado Purchased on 12th June 1967 from Dhandia Jewellers, Rajasthan Handicrafts Emporium, 68, T.C. Building, Connaught Place, New Delhi. Sold in 2014 to endow The Genny and Warren Garst Scholarship, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado.
28 BIDRI HOOKAH BASE
INDIA (DECCAN, BIDAR), 1650-1675 HEIGHT: 16.5 CM DIAMETER: 15.5 CM
To hold this bidri hookah base in the hand and closely admire its exquisite decoration of silver inlays gleaming against the contrasting matt black ground, is to enter a miniature universe; an ideal world in microcosm that springs to dazzling life as we are drawn, spellbound, into the teeming landscape that unfurls before our very eyes. Of slightly flattened spherical form, its shape derived from the ancient Indian water vessel, the globular lota, the hookah is finely inlaid with silver in the tehnishan technique, where the metal lies flush with the surface of the black zinc alloy. The design shows a hunter aiming a matchlock gun at animals that charge through a hilly landscape dotted with forts and pleasure pavilions on top of craggy, mountainous rock formations of the type seen in Deccani paintings. The walls of the pavilions are lined with chini kana (china room) niches containing cups and flasks. Birds flutter in the teeming skies or perch
amidst the abundant trees and flowering shrubs of the densely forested glades. Underpinning the design at the base of the hookah is a meandering stream containing fish and a turtle. The segmented border between water and land takes the sinuous form of an undulating snake without a head or a tail that winds its way eternally around the base of the hookah, the curves of the shore with its crests and troughs simultaneously indicating the outlines of rolling hills upon which the animals gambol. The stream can be read as a river, a lake, a sea or an ocean, and together with the landscape above, contain myriad beasts of land, sea and sky. The source of the stream is a steeply angled pond or lake from which the water gushes and spills. The splendid array of animals, birds and fish is of intoxicating variety and imagination, no two alike in size, shape or stance and further variegated by incised details of fur, feathers and scales. The denizens of the jungle include tigers, leopards, jackals, monkeys, elephants, deer and a mythical lion or yali with an upraised paw and a flanged tail.
Further enlivening the imagery is the way in which many of the animals are paired or grouped: a predator tiger chasing its antelope prey, roaring felines confronting each other in a game of high territorial stakes, birds riding on the backs of beasts or using their hind quarters to launch into flight, vividly expressing the Newtonian principle of every force having a counterforce or reaction. Cranes that prance and preen on either side of a hill, traditionally a symbol of fidelity when paired together with entwined necks, are now dangerously separated by a watchful and no doubt hungry mountain lynx. Even the yali has a worshipping audience of attendant birds below its regally raised paw. One of the fish swimming sluggishly amongst its leaping companions is Jurassic in aspect. The hunter is all but ignored in this hive of animal activity, but as the only human figure in the composition, he is our link into this paradisiacal pleasure garden. At the shoulder of the hookah is a frieze of iris flowers on a scrolling vine, framed by bands of trefoils and lappets. A ring collar at the neck decorated with tarkashi wire-work chevrons and a protruding flange
with trefoils, support a widening mouth decorated with a smaller version of the world below, having its own undulating stream, tiny pavilions on small hills and a selection of birds and beasts that includes a diminutive elephant and a towering rodent with charmingly scant attention paid to scale. The horror vacui of the decoration on this hookah, with no space left unembellished, recalls Deccani textiles of the period, such as the famous resist-dyed kalamkaris of Golconda. Architecture, landscapes, and animals are almost never found on bidri ware, the majority of examples depicting floral designs. This superb hookah may be related to a celebrated group of five bidri vessels attributed by Mark Zebrowski to a highly original seventeenth century workshop or perhaps even a single master craftsman. The pieces are four hookah bases (three with rare figural ornament and the fourth with moonlit lotus flowers growing from the water) and a lime container (chunam) or flacon with a bird
stopper whose wings mutate into leaves. These are illustrated in Mark Zebrowski, Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, 1997, pp. 228-231, figs. 369, 370 (and 410), 371 (and 509), 372 (and 510), 375 (and 507). Fig. 371, which Zebrowski dates to the mid seventeenth century, is a large hookah in a private collection measuring 21 cm in height. It is also published in Navina Najat Haidar and Marika Sardar, Sultans of Deccan India 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy, 2015, pp. 186-188, cat. no. 87. The decoration is similar to that of our hookah with chini kana pavilions flanked by mismatched pairs of tall
palms, cascades of willowy fronds and dramatic rocky hills. John Robert Alderman, the author of the chapter â€œBidri Wareâ€?, pp. 178-193 in this Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition catalogue, observes that the craggy rocks give the Deccani landscape a lunar aspect. He also suggests that the distinctive black colour of bidri may be interpreted as a night sky against which the shiny silver and brass inlays reflect the shimmering light of the moon. Slightly smaller in scale at 18.5 cm high but evidently from the same workshop with the distinctive motifs of pleasure pavilions replete with
chini kana compartments, shaded by willows and palms on tumbling rocks, and forests populated by watchful animals, is a hookah now in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco; this is illustrated by Zebrowski on p. 229, fig. 372 and also dated to the mid seventeenth century. Based on Zebrowskiâ€™s observation that as the century progressed, hookahs grew smaller with less bulging shapes and narrower necks, our hookah standing at just 16.5 cm must be dated later than mid-century. The inlay is also just in silver, the earlier examples exhibiting inlays in both silver and brass. Despite its small size it still has, however, a bulbous shape and the neck and mouth are wide proportionally to the scale, so retaining mid seventeenth century outlines. We therefore date it to the halfway point between the mid and late seventeenth century, placing it in the third quarter. With the decrease in size came a great improvement in technique. Bob Alderman, who examined our hookah in reality, comments that it
is technically even finer than the earlier large examples. He observes that each motif, in particular the animals, has a second inner outline, incised or hatched just within the outer form. As Kjeld von Folsach has kindly observed, this extra line is not only a way of providing greater depth and detail, it also helps the silver inlay to adhere better.1 The surface is then texturised by incisions, hatching or engraving to make tiger stripes, monkey fur or fish scales, which in turn further assist adhesion. This may account for the superb condition of this hookah base, with little loss of silver inlay.
attendance, shaded by the signature non-matching tall palms, and on the other, animals of ferocious aspect in combat. Based on the stylistic similarities, we can conclude that our hookah is likely to be from the same great workshop, though not from the hand of the single craftsman Zebrowski has tried to identify. Given the reduction in size and the improvements in technique that point to the decades immediately following the masterâ€™s output, we suggest that in our craftsman we encounter a master of the second generation with his own distinctive voice. Of particular note is the way the legs of the animals cut deep into their bodies to become a signature style of our master inlayer.2
Also from the same workshop is a mid seventeenth century mango-shaped bidri container for lime paste now in the David Collection, Copenhagen. This is illustrated by Zebrowski on p. 228, fig. 370 and p. 240, fig. 410; and by Kjeld von Folsach in Art from the World of Islam in The David Collection, 2001, p. 332, no. 537, who assigns a dating to the second half of the seventeenth century. On one side is an enthroned prince inhaling the scent of a flower with a lady in
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank John Robert Alderman for his expert advice.
References: 1. Personal communication with Kjeld von Folsach. 2. Ibid.
29 T O Y S O L D I E R S S E AT E D O N A N E L E P H A N T
SOUTHERN INDIA (VIZAGAPATAM), CIRCA 1795 HEIGHT: 14.2 CM WIDTH: 12.5 CM DEPTH: 6 CM
This large and impressive cast brass group depicts an elephant driven by a mahout holding an ankus (elephant goad) which he rests in a relaxed manner on the head of the elephant. Seated in the howdah is a grand figure accompanied by another figure of less consequence but equally upright bearing in the rear seat. The elephant wears a saddlecloth adorned with bells on each side, a headband and a necklace of bells. The three riders sport wide, flat cap-like turbans, flared pleated skirts and long-sleeved tunics with multiple creases at the bent elbows, an exaggerated but undeniably charming effect. The elephant walks majestically, swinging its coiled curling trunk and swishing its tail as if on a grand parade. The figures are placed on a rectangular platform above which the smiling elephant lifts its front left leg, ready to take its next choreographed step. This toy soldier has a most attractive patina, the brass darkened to a rich burnished glow with deep red hues showing through.
eminent scholar Simon Digby, from whose collection this toy soldier comes. The attribution to Vizagapatam is based on inscriptions on the elephant at the Ashmolean, which has the date of 1795 on its forehead and the name VIZAGAPATAM in Roman capitals on the saddlecloth covering its rump.1 In describing the Ashmolean group, J. C. Harle and Andrew Topsfield observe that unlike Western examples, the toy soldiers are not manufactured uniformly by piece-moulding, but are individually cast by the cire perdue (lost wax) process, thus having a greater variety of detail and expression.2 Even toy soldiers of related design, like similar cavaliers and lancers, differ in many subtle details. With their large hands, squat bodies, enormous weapons and upright bearing, they “graphically illustrate” what Sir George Birdwood terms “the whole gamut of military swagger in man and beast”.3
The history attached to the toy soldiers in the Madras Museum, recorded by the supervisor Edgar Thurston, suggests that they were commissioned by Raja Timma Jagapati IV (died 1797) of Peddapuram, 80 miles south of Vizagapatam, on the advice of his astrologers for presentation to Brahmins in order to avert his death. Another version of the story relates that the astrologer advised the Raja to review his toy army each day without bloodshed in order to escape his demise. They were supposedly designed by a mysterious artist named Adimurti and cast by two brothers, Virachandracharlu and Viracharlu.4
since 1682 and was briefly captured by the French in 1758. The toy soldiers are very skilful caricatures and caricature is not part of the Indian tradition.5 An Indian bronze or brass would have been modelled by the caster and not by a separate designer. The un-Indian rectilinear bases also come from a European tradition. Digby and Harle observe that “the satire is directed at the pretentions of certain military types, their swagger. This is achieved by the posture of the figures and by exaggerating the size of their weapons and certain articles of clothing; this in turn, makes the figures look smaller and their pompousness more ridiculous”.6
For Digby and Harle, this Victorian history of the toy soldiers’ origins is unconvincing as they are not Indian in style; they argue instead that the toy soldiers were conceived by a talented though not professional modeller, an English or French officer in Vizagapatam, which had an English factory (trading post)
Provenance: The Simon Digby Collection
References: 1. Simon Digby and J. C. Harle, Toy Soldiers and Ceremonial in Post-Mughal India, 1982, pp. 5-6. 2. James C. Harle and Andrew Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum, 1986, p. 67. 3. Ibid., p. 66. The toy soldiers were first described in George Birdwood, The Industrial Arts of India, 1880, p. 162, pls. 20-26. 4. J. C. Harle, “Toy Soldiers” in The Oxford Magazine, 6th February 1970, pp. 136-139, quoting Edgar Thurston, “Brass Manufactures in the Madras Museum” in the Journal of Indian Art and Industry, 1892, and an
Examples from this delightful group of toy soldiers can be seen in the collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the National Army Museum, London; the Madras Museum; the Madras School of Art; and the Royal Collection at Sandringham House. The seven mounted figures in the Ashmolean result from the gifts of two private donors, A. J. Prior and the
unissued publication by Thurston. Evidence that model armies were popular with minor nobility is provided by a miniature in Mark Zebrowski, Deccani Painting, 1983, p. 277, fig. 258, depicting a procession of toy soldiers on the raja’s terrace. 5. Harle, 1970, pp. 138-139; Digby and Harle, 1982, pp. 6-7. 6. Ibid.
30 S T E E L K ATA R
SOUTHERN INDIA (TANJORE), EARLY 17TH CENTURY LENGTH OF KATAR: 49 CM LENGTH OF HILT: 18.5 CM WIDTH OF HILT: 8.5 CM DEPTH OF HILT: 4.8 CM
A south Indian steel katar (push- or thrust-dagger) fitted with an imported European rapier blade. The parallel upright arms, which protect the hand and wrist when the three crossbars are gripped, are pierced and chased with a foliate ogival lattice of trefoil leafy sprigs, surmounted on each side by a mythical lion passant. The ogivals gradually increase in size as the arms widen towards the cusped ends. Facing left, the ferocious yali has bulging eyes topped with bushy flame-like brows or horns, and fangs intimidatingly displayed in its wide open mouth. The yali turns its head in three-quarter profile towards the viewer, a device that enlivens the flat surface with a far greater sense of three-dimensionality than possible with the head depicted in profile or guardant. The fluted twisting neck, the deep cleft of the breast, the powerful haunches and the punched leopard-like dots of the pelt, further create the illusion of sculpture in the round. The splayed tail and leafy tongue incorporate the lion into the surrounding foliate ground. The central grip is swollen and decorated with a twisting spiral design. The grips above and below are chiselled as double-headed serpents, the sinuous scale-covered bodies in between forming the curved grips. Ring collars on each grip recall the less ornate baluster form seen in the majority of katars. The curved dish-guard at the base of the hilt is decorated with quatrefoil
flowers surrounded by multiple gadrooned and pelleted borders on the convex upper surface; peacock feathers surround the langets and forte of the blade on the concave underside. The blade is riveted to a mount pierced and chased on each side with a pair of birds with entwined necks, rapidly fluttering wings and sharp pecking beaks, seemingly engaged in aerial combat. The addorsed birds are seen on other Tanjore weapons and the iconography also recalls the Gandabherunda, the fabulous double-headed bird that is the symbol of the Wodeyars of Mysore.
the victory of Achuthappa Nayak (reigned 1560 to 1614) over the parasikas or parangi, the Portuguese, at Nagapattinam in the early seventeenth century.4 The Portuguese were waging a concentrated campaign to conquer Jaffna in Sri Lanka and the Thanjavur Nayak’s attack on Nagapattinam was launched to assist the king of Jaffna. Many Portuguese weapons were captured during their resounding defeat.5
Published: Robert Hales, Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion, 2013, p. 68, fig. 147.
A celebrated group of closely related steel katars fitted with European blades in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is illustrated in Robert Elgood, Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, 2004, p. 15, fig. 1.3, pp. 152-161, figs. 15.17-15.37. The sixteenth and early seventeenth century blades in the group come from Spain, Germany, France, England and Portugal; they include a blade by the esteemed Italian maker Andrea Ferara, who settled in Scotland in the late sixteenth century.1 Blades imported from Europe, known as firanghi, became popular in India from the earliest arrival of the Europeans. They were important trade items produced in great numbers for export to India, where the practical advantage of blades of European manufacture over local blades was much appreciated.2 Precious European blades of superb quality were fitted with handles in the royal Tanjore armoury in the early seventeenth century to both use and preserve them.3 European blades were also obtained as the spoils of battle. Tamil poems such as the Sahityaratnakara record
References: 1. Robert Elgood, Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, 2004, p. 158, fig. 15.30. 2. Robert Hales, Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion, 2013, p. 50. 3. See the Tanjore armoury katars illustrated in Lord Egerton of Tatton, Indian and Oriental Armour: With an Introductory Sketch of the Military History of India, 1896, reprinted 1968 with an introduction by H. Russell Robinson, p. 54, pl. VII. 4. Elgood, 2004 , p. 151; and V. Vriddhagirisan, Nayaks of Tanjore, 2007, pp. 33-36. 5. Ibid.
31 ELEPHANT GOADS
INDIA (MUGHAL), LATE 17TH/EARLY 18TH CENTURY LENGTH: 42.4 CM
A pair of steel elephant goads (ankus) designed for a lady, the hook of each goad taking the form of an elegant stylised peacock or peahen that turns its head backwards to peck and preen its feathers. The beautifully chamfered tails curl above the heads and scroll downwards in a sinuous curve to a sharp point. The peacock can be identified by its slightly larger head and beak, crest on the head, and the elaborate feathers on its wing and tail with the characteristic eyespots. The back of the peahen is plain.
Each ankus has a cylindrical shaft with a lobed bud finial to the bottom, with ring mouldings framing a socket of square cross-section decorated on each side with a blind cartouche. The shaft terminates above the socket with a tapering spike of octagonal cross-section. The scale and delicacy of ornament of these fine elephant goads make them particularly suited for use by a lady. Though small, the goads are surprisingly substantial in weight when held in the hands, allowing for the slightest touch to register with sufficient force to control and direct the elephant by poking it in sensitive areas to guide the animal.
Provenance: Uniara Palace Collection Terence McInerney
32 E L E P H A N T WA R D
INDIA (RAJASTHAN), 19TH CENTURY
pulling on a rope attached to the suspension ring.
HEIGHT: 33 CM DIAMETER: 27 CM
Each spike is of square section, narrowing to a pointed but rounded tip that would have pricked the elephantsâ€™ hide to discourage entry without seriously injuring the beasts. Such a ward would not have controlled an angry rampaging elephant or discouraged a ferocious lion or tiger from entry, but it would have been sufficient to regulate the movement of trained domestic elephants that were used to the delicate controls imparted by the light touch of the ankus (goads) of their mahouts (drivers). If hung from a height, workmen and horses could pass through the open doorway below the wards while preventing the much taller elephants from doing so, thus allowing the daily activities of the palace to carry on without having to shut and lock the gates.
This unusual object is an iron elephant ward of hollow spherical form, fitted with 112 spikes including the finial that protrudes from the base of the sphere on a tier of bulbous ridges of graduated declining size. The largest bulb is a hemisphere that melds into the main body of the sphere while the smallest takes the compressed shape of an onion. Surmounting the sphere is a suspension ring attached to a hemi-ovoidal protrusion. The ward would have been hung on a chain from the top of an open door, arch or gateway to a palace or fortress. This device would have been used to deter elephants from entering or conversely from exiting the inner courtyard or stable area. Larger portals would have required the use of several of these iron wards hung in a row at equal intervals and sometimes at varying heights dependent on the size of the elephants to be controlled. As a further deterrent, they were also swung backwards and forwards by
This object has a sculptural form and an almost abstract quality. The hollow iron sphere has a deep burnt amber patina.
Provenance: Spink and Son, London Sheikh Saud bin Mohammad bin Ali Al-Thani
33 LION HEAD SWORD
INDIA, 19TH CENTURY WITH AN 18TH CENTURY BLADE LENGTH OF SWORD: 94 CM LENGTH OF HILT: 18 CM WIDTH OF HILT: 9.5 CM
This nineteenth century gilt-hilted lion head sword has an earlier mid eighteenth century wootz (watered steel) blade that belonged to the fourteenth Mughal emperor, Aziz-ud-din Alamgir II (1699-1759). Alamgir II was the son of Jahandar Shah and the grandson of Bahadur Shah I. He reigned from 3rd June 1754 to 29th November 1759.
scrolling foliage of stylised iris flowers, leaves, buds and vines against a densely pricked ground.2 It has cusped langets, waisted button quillons, tapering recurved knuckle guard with a bud finial and a swelling grip that rises to a lion head pommel with roaring mouth, bared teeth, flaring nostrils, protruding ears and detailed mane. The knuckle guard is not attached to the pommel and the bud finial hovers just
in front of the lion’s mouth so that it seems to chase it without ever catching it, in the manner of flying dragons in pursuit of flaming pearls. The sword retains its original wooden scabbard covered in purple velvet, embroidered with spangles and silver thread padded with cotton wadding to create high relief floral cartouches that alternate with two couplets in nastacliq: “May God allow your fortune to be forever” and “May you always prosper”. The scabbard has a gilt-copper chape with a trefoil palmette to the top.
The sword has a straight blade that is single-edged for most of its length before it becomes double-edged towards the point. It is cut with three fullers over nearly the entire length on both sides, but the outermost fuller near the non-cutting edge is the shortest of the three as it truncates to allow the blade to narrow and sharpen to a cutting edge. The forte is deeply struck on one side with the ownership mark of “Alamgir Shah”, written in nastacliq within a roundel placed near the langet of the hilt. The form of the straight, single-edged, pattern-welded blade with back edge and triangular cross-section draws on a European prototype, the backsword blade of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.1
The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection
Published: Oliver S. Pinchot, Arms of the Paladins: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection of Fine Eastern Weapons, 2014, p. 69, fig. 4-26.
References: 1. Oliver S. Pinchot, Arms of the Paladins: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection of Fine Eastern Weapons, 2014, p. 69. 2. The scrolling foliage against a pricked ground may be compared with the decoration on the hilt of a sword illustrated in Robert Elgood, Arms & Armour at the Jaipur Court:
The gilt-copper hilt is engraved overall with
The Royal Collection, 2015, pp. 126-127, no. 86.
WESTERN INDIA (KUTCH), FIRST HALF OF THE 19TH CENTURY LENGTH: 65 CM LENGTH OF BLADE: 19.7 CM WIDTH OF BLADE: 5 CM
This unusual weapon is a bhuj or knife axe, named after the town of Bhuj in Kutch, where the form is thought to have originated, and where it remained extremely popular and was commonly produced during the nineteenth century. The bhuj has a broad single-edged blade of diamond section at the point, decorated on each side with a large silver-gilt panel chased with a design of quatrefoil flower-heads with cusped petals against a punched ogival ground. At the forte is a gilt-copper elephant’s head, cast in the round and set with green and red glass beads, two of the latter forming the eyes that bring the elephant vividly to life. Finely chased and punched details further animate the undulating surface of the richly caparisoned elephant’s head: flowers decorate the face; eyelashes bat around the ruby-red glass eyes; tiny punched dots convey the texture of hide on the curling trunk; metal bands wrap around the truncated tusks. Green beads give the impression of cabochon emeralds that glint in the jewelled cap on the elephant’s head. The blade is mounted on a tubular iron haft covered in silver and decorated with gilt flower-heads en-suite with the blade against a punched ground. The pommel with foliate finial at the end is threaded; it unscrews to reveal a slender dagger with a silver grip. The secret dagger concealed within the haft is a characteristic feature of the bhuj.
The bhuj retains its original wood-lined gilt-copper scabbard, embossed and chased with flowering foliage against a punched ground and shaped to fit the blade like a glove, the wavy line at the mouth of the scabbard precisely aligned with the corresponding outline of the top of the elephant’s head. This bhuj is illustrated in Oliver S. Pinchot, Arms of the Paladins: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection of Fine Eastern Weapons, 2014, p. 20, fig. 2-17. Pinchot describes the bhuj as a hafted cut-and-thrust weapon and observes that finely embossed and gilded copper mounts are found with surprising regularity on these knife axes, suggesting strong familial or guild ties among the workshops. Pinchot illustrates in fig. 2-18 a typical variation on the bhuj, dating to the second half of the nineteenth century, where a fully modelled man on horseback placed on the spine of the haft confronts a tiger standing on the elephant’s nape, inventive miniature sculptural embellishments of great charm and whimsy. Four bhuj with related but variant decorative details are illustrated in Robert Hales, Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion, 2013, p. 300, nos. 719 and 720 (a-c). The ornate decoration on all these published examples confirms that bhuj were weapons on which the makers lavished especial care, competing to outdo in splendour other examples of this popular form.
description of “an axe springing from an elephant’s head in high relief, while the handle is hollow, and conceals a pointed dagger” may well apply to the present bhuj or any of the published examples. His line drawing in pl. XIV, no. 714, presents with great clarity the salient features. A bhuj with a similar scabbard to ours is also shown in an old photograph in pl. VIII, between pp. 168 and 169. According to Robert Elgood in Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, 2004, p. 237, the bhuj is also known as a gandasa. A related weapon of antecedence called a hoolurge or crowbill, described by Egerton as an axe with a thin, curved, knife-like blade and the haft similarly concealing a dagger, is illustrated in the 1570 Nujum al-cUlum from Bijapur, reproduced by Elgood on p. 215, AP1.10 of his book. A gold decorated bhuj can be seen in a painting illustrated in pl. IV of B. N. Goswamy and Anna L. Dallapiccola, A Place Apart: Painting in Kutch, 1720-1820, 1983.
Provenance: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection
Published: Oliver S. Pinchot, Arms of the Paladins: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection of
The bhuj is described as “the characteristic weapon of Kach” by Lord Egerton of Tatton on p. 137 of his Indian and Oriental Armour: With an Introductory Sketch of the Military History of India, 1896, reprinted 1968 with an introduction by H. Russell Robinson. Egerton’s summary
Fine Eastern Weapons, 2014, p. 20, fig. 2-17.
INDIA (DECCAN), 17TH CENTURY LENGTH OF DAGGER: 33.2 CM LENGTH OF HILT: 11.5 CM WIDTH OF HILT: 8.6 CM
A cast and chased steel dagger (chilanum) with a gently recurved multi-fullered double-edged blade of brightly polished wootz (watered) steel and a hilt of blackened iron, finely chiselled then inlaid and overlaid with gold floral arabesques in the koftgari technique. The blade is cut with converging fullers on each side that meet at the reinforced tip of flattened diamond cross-section. The forte of the blade is decorated on each side with gold iris sprays raised in gentle relief within cusped panels. Each spray has three iris flowers accompanied by leaves and buds on scrolling vines. On one side of the forte they grow upwards from a leafy mound while on the other they hang pendant as if dangling from the oval disc guard. The disc guard is edged with a string of gilded beads and finished with lotus bud finials at either end. The convex upper surface and concave underneath of the disc guard are both decorated with thick koftgari arabesques of stylised plants that are Persianate in character, which may point to a date in the early seventeenth century. The hilt has a bifurcated leaf pommel surmounted by a lotus bud knop finial, the diamond cross-sectioned baluster grip punctuated to the centre with a compressed circular bead, the splayed quillons
taking the form of elongated petals or leaves. The triangular space at the base of the hilt between the quillons is pierced with an openwork trefoil palmette flanked by four apertures that give a miniature jali effect. A scrolling knuckle guard terminating in a pendant bud finial joins the quillons to the pommel. Each and every surface of the hilt is covered with dense koftgari work of scrolling vines from which sprout a profusion of flowers, leaves, buds and tendrils set within cusped and ogival cartouches. The blade has a velvet covered wooden scabbard with silver galloon binding to the opening and a silver chape.
double-curved and double-edged, but the direct antecedent is the Mughal khapwah, a curved dagger listed in the Aâ€™in-i-Akbari and the Jahangirnama and frequently described as a jewel encrusted presentation weapon.2 The chilanum is regarded as a Maratha dagger, and examples are also attributed to Vizianagram.3 The dagger was common in sixteenth century Vijayanagara and continued in general use in the Deccan in the seventeenth century.4 Chilanum daggers captured at the fortress of Adoni by the Mughal general Rustam Khan in 1689 are now in the Junagarh Fort Museum, Bikaner.5
This chilanum is published in Oliver S. Pinchot, Arms of the Paladins: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection of Fine Eastern Weapons, 2014, p. 46, fig. 3-87. Pinchot observes that the swordsmith has struck an excellent balance between form and embellishment, the hilt elements more compact than usually seen in related chilanums, and lavishly inlaid in gold vine-work overall. He describes the elegantly recurved blade with narrow multi-fullers and an armour-piercing tip as archetypal of the chilanum form.
A similar Deccani chilanum in the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, City Palace, Jaipur, is illustrated in Robert Elgood, Arms & Armour at the Jaipur Court: The Royal Collection, 2015, pp. 48-49, no. 22 and on the front cover. Elgood dates this fine example to the third quarter of the seventeenth century.5
Provenance: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection
Exhibited: Higgins Armory Museum, Worcester, MA,
According to Robert Elgood, the chilanum is a steel dagger associated with the Deccan. It is usually forged in one piece of steel with a recurved blade and a thin baluster grip, with flaring quillons and a variety of pommels surmounted by ornamental knops.1 Though its form remained remarkably consistent throughout the seventeenth century, the examples in the present catalogue show contrasting hilts of jade or koftgari work that add variety to the decorative repertoire. It is thought that the shape of the blade derived originally from a horn knife, being
Published: Oliver S. Pinchot, Arms of the Paladins: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection of Fine Eastern Weapons, 2014, p. 46, fig. 3-87.
References: 1. Robert Elgood, Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, 2004, p. 242. 2. Ibid., pp. 242 and 251. 3. Ibid., p. 242. 4. Ibid. 5. These are illustrated in Elgood, 2004, p. 178, figs. 16.33 and 16.34.
36 JADE HORSE HEAD DAGGER INDIA (MUGHAL), LATE 17TH/EARLY 18TH CENTURY LENGTH OF DAGGER: 39 CM LENGTH OF HILT: 12.4 CM WIDTH OF HILT: 6.3 CM
A finely carved jade dagger (khanjar) with a straight, tapering double-edged steel blade. The hilt of delicate celadon green jade is superbly carved in the form of a horse’s head, with flaring nostrils, pointed ears, rounded cheeks, slightly open mouth revealing teeth, and the mane swept as if by the wind to the horse’s right. The horse wears a lightly etched bridle over which
trails a lock of hair on its forehead. The mane is combed into eleven separate tresses, finely incised in sinuous lines over the subtly changing colours of the jade beneath. The green jade has been carefully chosen and carved with astonishing skill. The expressive features of the horse and the fine proportions of the dagger admirably convey the power and vitality of the aristocratic animal. The careful modelling of the face reveals the underlying structure of bone and muscle beneath the skin, bringing the horse to life before our very eyes. The open mouth and wide, dilated nostrils palpably suggest that the horse has just been on a gallop and is now breathing at a faster pace and perhaps even snorting due to its exertions. The grip of the hilt is subtly grooved with just perceptible indentations and ridges that provide a comfortable hold for the four fingers of the hand. The base of the hilt is carved on each side with a stylised iris flower, with curling petals flanked by serrated leaves that curl into the quillons. The carving is enhanced by the polished translucence of the jade which seems lit from within. The blade is strengthened by a medial ridge.
cat. no. 26. The animal seems to be a lion rather than a horse. Stuart Cary Welch’s close study of the many figures in the Padshahnama reveals that the small number of daggers with animal hilts were reserved for the use of princes such as Dara Shikoh and Shah Shuja.1 The paintings of the imperial Mughal manuscript, now at the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, show that the most common form of dagger worn during the reign of Shah Jahan (1627-1658) was the katar (thrust- or push-dagger), followed closely by the khanjar (pistol-grip dagger). Of the khanjars depicted in the manuscript, there are only very few examples with animal-head hilts. One of these is a horse-headed dagger tucked into the sash of Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan, in a scene by Balchand entitled “The presentation of Prince Dara Shikoh’s wedding gifts”, folio 72B. This is illustrated in Milo Cleveland Beach and Ebba Koch, King of the World: The Padshahnama, An Imperial Mughal Manuscript from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, 1997, pp. 46-47, pl. 14. While the number of daggers with animal hilts increased during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, these continued to function as indicators of the highest rank and position at court.2
The earliest reference to a zoomorphic hilt in Mughal art appears in a painting of Jamal Khan Qarawul by Murad, in a royal Mughal album known as the Kevorkian Album in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This is dated to circa 1610-1615 and published in Stuart Cary Welch et al, The Emperors’ Album: Images of Mughal India, 1987, pp.132-133,
Private collection, France, acquired on the French art market in the early 1980s.
References: 1. Stuart Cary Welch, India: Art and Culture 1300-1900. 1985, pp. 257-258. 2. Other horse head daggers from the Mughal period are illustrated in Howard Ricketts and Philippe Missillier, Splendeur des Armes Orientales, 1988, pp. 95-101.
37 J A D E C H I L A N U M H I LT
INDIA (MUGHAL OR DECCAN), LATE 17TH CENTURY
blade is swollen at the forte to accommodate the jade extension of the hilt.
LENGTH: 15.1 CM WIDTH: 7.2 CM DEPTH: 4.6 CM
A chilanum dagger with a white jade hilt and both a disc guard and a knuckle guard is currently on display at the MusĂŠe du Louvre, Paris.
A carved spinach green jade chilanum (dagger) hilt with a bifurcated leaf pommel surmounted by a lotus bud knop finial, the slim baluster grip punctuated to the centre with a circular bead incised with flower-heads and framed by collars, the splayed quillons taking the form of elongated petals or leaves. A scrolling knuckle guard terminating in a pendant bud finial joins the quillons to the pommel. The knuckle guard is embellished by acanthus leaves on its outer surface. The separate basal mount is carved with a border of overlapping leaves and terminates in a round bead finial on either side. Beneath is a short rounded extension or tang for securing the hilt to its blade.
Mughal jade hilts were popular at the court of the Chinese Qing dynasty and several, including another example of this distinctive form (inv. no.187), are preserved in the Wu-Bei (former Palace) Museum, Beijing. According to Oliver S. Pinchot in Arms of the Paladins: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection of Fine Eastern Weapons, 2014, in which this hilt is published on p. 45, fig. 3-84, the chilanum represents an advancement in the evolution of the guarded dagger hilt in southern India. He observes that the origin of the branching or trilobite pommel is most often encountered in steel. Jade chilanums are comparatively rare and this example carved from deep green jade represents the fully evolved form, including the bud finial at the pommel and platine guard with scalloped edges and beaded quillon terminals. The tabbed extensions which secured the blade are likewise represented, together with the elegantly recurved knuckle-bow.
A Mughal chilanum with a jade hilt of similar form, with a knuckle guard but without a disc guard, is illustrated in Howard Ricketts and Philippe Missillier, Splendeur des Armes Orientales, 1988, p. 98, no. 159. Another variant can be seen in a chilanum illustrated in Bashir Mohamed, The Arts of the Muslim Knight: The Furusiyya Art Foundation Collection, 2007, p. 217, cat. no. 208. Here the jade hilt takes a similar form with a leafy pommel and quillons. Like our hilt, it has a separate oval disc guard but it lacks a knuckle guard. Mohamed dates the Furusiyya chilanum to the mid seventeenth century and assigns it to the Deccan during the Mughal period. He observes that the watered steel
Provenance: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection
Exhibited: Higgins Armory Museum, Worcester, MA, September-December 1994.
Published: Oliver S. Pinchot, Arms of the Paladins: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection of Fine Eastern Weapons, 2014, p. 45, fig. 3-84.
38 JADE GEM-SET DAGGER
INDIA (MUGHAL), 18TH CENTURY LENGTH OF DAGGER: 40 CM LENGTH OF HILT: 12.6 CM WIDTH OF HILT: 5.7 CM
A jade and gem-set pistol grip dagger (khanjar), the hilt carved from greyish green nephrite jade, inlaid with gold in the kundan technique and set with carved emeralds, carved and cabochon rubies, and table- and rose-cut diamonds to form an all-over pattern of flowers and leaves on scrolling vines of gold. On each side of the hilt, the vines rise from a trefoil mound of emerald leaves from which blooms a lotus-like flower with a tear-drop emerald centre surrounded by radiating diamond and ruby petals. Vines bearing nodding and swaying emerald leaves, with tendrils terminating in delicate buds of gold, scroll diagonally across the grip and into the pommel. Decorating the pommel is a large composite flower that seems to turn anti-clockwise on a spiralling vine. Emerald buds scroll into the quillons at the base of the hilt.
stylus (salai) to press the gold foil (kundan pattli) around the gemstones.1 In the kundan technique, the ductile, hyper-purified gold can be shaped, burnished, faceted or ridged into any form the zar-nishan (inlayer) may choose.2 The dagger has a double-edged slightly recurved blade with a central ridge and a swollen reinforced tip. The forte is decorated with a gold floral cartouche in the koftgari technique. The cusped cartouche is flanked by eight-pointed gold stars, surmounted by a leaf palmette at its apex and sits on a band of gold circles at the base. The blade has a wooden scabbard covered in red silk. The abundant floral decoration seen on the hilt and forte of this khanjar is a manifestation of the prevalent style of great floridity seen in architecture and all the decorative arts in India in the eighteenth century, which the architectural historian Christopher Tadgell compares with developments in Rococo Europe. References:
The carved decoration and faceting of many of the gemstones is complemented by the variegated chasing of the gold collets surrounding the petals and leaves. This has been achieved by the use of a
1. The technique of kundan is described in detail by Manuel Keene in Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals, 2001, pp. 18 and 30; and Oppi Untracht, Traditional Jewelry of India, 1997, pp. 304-307. 2. Ibid.
39 JADE KHANJAR
INDIA (MUGHAL), 18TH CENTURY LENGTH OF DAGGER: 38.5 CM LENGTH OF HILT: 13 CM WIDTH OF HILT: 6 CM
the hilt where they meet the leaf extending from the other side. The leaves are tied together by a ring collar, from which the tips of the leaves emerge to flank a flower bud placed near the top of the spine.
Provenance: Dr. Leo S. Figiel
The dagger was formerly in the Dr. Leo S. Figiel Collection of Mogul Arms that was sold on August 24th, 1998, lot 2104, in San Francisco at Butterfield & Butterfield. Dr. Figiel,
A carved jade-hilted dagger with a curved and recurved single-edged wootz or jawhar (watered) steel blade of peshkabz type, the flattened back edge forming a non-cutting T-section chiselled with a trefoil palmette and three raised lines that converge on the tapering reinforced tip. The pale green nephrite jade hilt of pistol-grip (khanjar) form is carved with floral motifs across the quillons, grip and rounded pommel, which is set with a single eight-petalled gold flower-head on each face. At the base of the hilt are acanthus leaves that scroll into the quillons. They form a leafy mound from which rises a statuesque composite plant sprouting two types of leaves and two different flowers. At the bottom are three leaves with single folded edges, arranged like the spokes of a wheel so that the group seems to turn. Above is a five-petalled flower from which sprout a short smooth leaf and a long serrated leaf. The leaves flank an iris that surmounts the spray and begins to bend on its stem in the direction that the grip curves towards the pommel. The serrated leaves on each side of the hilt stretch towards the spine of
On the front of the pommel is a quatrefoil flower with a short leaf below near the neck of the pommel, from which vines scroll on either side to encircle the gold floral disc with leaves and buds. Along the top of the pommel is carved a long leaf of cypress tree form. Completing the plethora of ornate floral motifs are single leaves at the base of the hilt, placed on the spine and on the inner grip opposite.
who died in 2013, was a celebrated collector of Indian arms and armour as well as Indian bronzes, the latter group being acquired by the Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts, in 2006. Dr. Figiel is justly famous for his book, On Damascus Steel, 1991, which makes an important scholarly and scientific contribution to the subject; it remains required reading as the reference text for arms and armour collectors and aficionados.
References: 1. Stuart Cary Welch, India: Art and Culture
The pistol-grip dagger first appears in Mughal weapons of the Aurangzeb period. Its origins can be traced to the Deccan where the form must have been admired by Aurangzeb when he was there as viceroy.1 After Aurangzeb made the khanjar popular, it became extremely fashionable in the Mughal court in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It also appears in miniature paintings; before the Aurangzeb period it was not depicted in Mughal miniatures of the Shah Jahan period.2
1300-1900. 1985, p. 178. 2. Ibid.
40 JADE DAGGER
INDIA (MUGHAL), 18TH CENTURY LENGTH OF DAGGER: 39 CM LENGTH OF HILT: 14 CM WIDTH OF HILT: 5.6 CM
A carved jade pistol-grip dagger (khanjar) with a curved double-edged bi-fullered blade of wootz or jawhar (watered) steel. The hilt of lightly mottled green nephrite jade is carved in low relief with stylised flowers and leaves on scrolling stems. At the base of the hilt on each side is an iris flower on an upright stem, flanked by buds then leaves lower down. These floral elements emerge from a dais created from tiny buds that curl down on tight inward scrolling stems to create the effect of volutes on a capital. Continuing the theme of vegetal ornament of architectonic form are the acanthus leaves that support the
dais at the interstice before scrolling into the quillons to finish with upward curling tendrils. Decorating the spine of the hilt and the bottom of the grip opposite are elongated leaves shaped like cypress trees. The formal rigour of the ornament at the base of the hilt is relaxed by the comparatively languid treatment of the asymmetrically placed motifs on the pommel. At the centre of the pommel on each side is a rosette with two overlapping layers of petals that radiate from an emerald in a gold collet. A long serrated leaf of cypress tree form curves along the top of the pommel from the nape to just above the neck where it is punctuated by a quatrefoil rosette. From the neck of the pommel issue leaves, iris flowers and buds that twist, turn and dangle with a naturalistic sense of weight. The curving steel blade is both strengthened and given added visual elegance by its raised medial ridge, deep fullers and swollen reinforced tip. At the forte are raised edges that form non-cutting T-sections, the curves turning down at right angles to give the base of the blade the shape of a plinth. As the blade does not have a ricasso (the dull unsharpened, unbevelled part of the blade just above the hilt made for fingering) this area of the forte allows the owner to safely hold the blade without being cut. The sudden transition from T-section to chamfered cutting edge is achieved with finesse, the contrasting cross-sections made into a decorative feature where they beautifully align.
41 J A M B I YA
NORTHERN INDIA (PROBABLY DELHI), MID 18TH CENTURY, WITH A BLADE FROM IRAN (QAJAR), 19TH CENTURY LENGTH OF DAGGER: 38 CM LENGTH OF HILT: 11.3 CM WIDTH OF HILT: 5.4 CM LENGTH OF BLADE: 26.5 CM
This elegant Indo-Persian jambiya (dagger) has a hilt of waisted ovoidal form carved from delicately speckled light greyish-green jade, and an unusual curved blade of fine wootz (watered) steel. The blade is double-edged to the reinforced point of diamond section and cut with two fullers forming a medial ridge along each side. A raised edge forms a non-cutting T-section along the back. The forte of the blade is chiselled on each side with the dense foliage of a leafy glade, inhabited by a lion attacking an antelope within a gold-damascened line border.
at the waist. The top of the pommel is carved with a flower-head set with a small cabochon ruby, flanked by acanthus leaves. The flower is a lotus with overlapping petals that radiate from the central ruby.
Ottoman empire. Reflecting the widespread geographical popularity of the form over centuries, the present jambiya has an eighteenth century hilt from northern India and a blade from Qajar Iran.
According to Robert Elgood, the term jambiya derives from the Persian word janb meaning “side”.1 The jambiya is a dagger with a crooked, double-edged blade with a median ridge. In Arabia the dagger is used in the Hadhramaut and the western part of the peninsula. It is also used in Syria.2 Many Arabs served as mercenaries in India and they had weapons manufactured there in traditional Arab style.3 The jambiya was worn by Indians including Hindus in the Deccan and on the west coast, for example, the Hindu Rajas of Kutch.4 The weapon was also popular in Persia and the
For a late eighteenth century Persian jambiya of related design, with a carved fluted jade hilt and a panel at the forte chiselled with lions attacking deer, see Robert Hales, Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion, 2013, p. 82, fig. 179.
Provenance: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection
Published: Oliver S. Pinchot, Arms of the Paladins: The Richard R. Wagner Jr. Collection of Fine Eastern Weapons, 2014, p. 42, fig. 3-72.
References: 1. Robert Elgood, Hindu Arms and Ritual: Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865, 2004, p. 247.
The grip of the jade hilt is carved with flutes above and below a central rounded collar framed by thin bands
2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid.
42 THE HISTORY OF A THOUSAND YEARS
INDIA (MUGHAL), CIRCA 1594 HEIGHT: 42.4 CM WIDTH: 24.7 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. A double-sided folio from the Tarikh-i-Alfi (History of a Thousand Years), with text and illustrations on both sides. The Tarikh-i-Alfi was an ambitious project celebrating the first thousand years of Islam, expressly commissioned by the Mughal emperor Akbar in AH 990/1581-1582 AD, ten years before the end of the first millennium, with the aim of completion before the year AH 1000/1591-1592 AD. However, the final revised and
corrected form of the history, made under the supervision of the eminent Mughal courtier and scholar Badauni, was not completed until AH 1002/1593-1594 AD, thus taking twelve years in total, longer than Akbar had anticipated or hoped for.1 Sometime towards the completion of the text, a lavishly illustrated copy of the history was made for Akbar. Scholars have debated when this
volume was prepared and suggested dates range from 1585 to 1595. Milo Cleveland Beach has argued that the illustrated copy must have included Badauni’s revisions, which were begun in the millennium year 1591 when Badauni was summoned to Lahore, and finished by 1594, the year Badauni died. It is usual that illustrations were made as the text was written, so it is likely that the illustrated copy was made between 1592 and 1594. Stylistically, this dating also feels right as the paintings are considered to be earlier than the 1596 Chingiznama but later than the Victoria and Albert Museum Akbarnama which is dated to circa 1586-1587.
considered a heretic who “wrote whatever coincided with his sectarian prejudices”. However, in the three years between 1586 and 1588, Mullah Ahmad brought the history from the 36th year up to the reign of Genghis Khan (1206-1227). As Beach observes, this represents an enormously speeded production as in the preceding four years the seven authors had only completed 35 years of the narrative. In 1588, Mullah Ahmad was murdered in a street in Lahore by Mirza Fulad, who had summoned him from his house on the pretext that Akbar had requested his presence at court. The reasons for the murder were an apparent slight or personal injury but also, crucially, violent opposition between the two men on matters of religion. The murder of Mullah Ahmad demonstrates the heated feelings generated by the writing of the Tarikh-i-Alfi between Mughal courtiers divided into opposing camps of religious thought and interpretation.
Unlike most works illustrated for Akbar, the Tarikh-i-Alfi was written by his courtiers, with most of the work done in Lahore. The process of its composition is well documented by Badauni in his Muntakhabu-tTavarikh, as well as mentioned by Abu’l Fazl who states in the A’in-i-Akbari that he wrote the introduction. In 1582, Akbar appointed a group of seven courtiers, led by Badauni and Naqib Khan, Akbar’s reader and boyhood friend who was now very influential at court, to compile the history of all the Islamic rulers from the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 up to his own reign. The seven authors took it in turn to write one year each starting from 632, and then repeated the cycle to account for the first 35 years after the death of the Prophet. Perhaps coordinating seven authors was too slow and complicated a process so in 1586 the whole project was entrusted to Mullah Ahmad of Tat’hah, whom the religiously conservative Badauni
Pratapaditya Pal has noted that the Tarikh-i-Alfi was significant to Akbar as part of his overall programme of infusing Islam with his own brand of liberalism, a doctrinal bias that caused much controversy in his court. It also aimed to demonstrate that Akbar was the Iman Mahdi or mujaddid, the prophesied reformer who would appear at the end of the first millennium to forestall the apocalypse. According to Linda Leach, the word tarikh means “history” but it could also mean “era”, implying a limited time span. Thus the Tarikh-i-Alfi is the “History of a Thousand Years” but the title also includes the connotation that change is imminent with the end of the first thousand years of Islam. Akbar even founded his own religion, the syncretic Din-i-Ilahi, which amalgamated various doctrines including Jainism and Zoroastrianism, with a lessened emphasis on conservative Islam and traditional studies of Muslim law and the Qur’an, while promoting religious tolerance.
For the powerful orthodox faction at Akbar’s court, such views were heretical. The murderer of Mullah Ahmad, Mirza Fulad, hinted that he would have liked to do away with an even bigger heretic, perhaps Abu’l Fazl, who came from a prominent family of freethinkers, or even the emperor Akbar himself. After the demise of Mullah Ahmad, the completion of the manuscript was entrusted to Asaf Khan Jafar Beg, a renowned poet of liberal inclinations who wrote the history up to the 997th year. Then in 1591 or the year AH 1000, Badauni was selected by Akbar to revise and correct the whole manuscript, compare it with other histories and arrange the dates in proper sequence. The choice of Badauni is surprising as his extremely strict orthodox views were in direct opposition to the liberal authors of the manuscript. However it must be remembered that he was one of the seven original authors of the history, so he knew the project well, and he had the assistance of two sub-editors, one being his good friend Mulla Mustafa Katib, who shared his views, and Asaf Khan, who did not. Perhaps in choosing Badauni, Akbar sought to appease the orthodox camp by appointing one of their most outspoken members to revise his history, but Leach also suggests that Akbar enjoyed teasing Badauni, who famously disliked his task. He thought that the second volume, penned by “Mullah Ahmad, the Heretic” was so full of bigotry that he was granted permission by Akbar to modify it, but in the end he altered little, for fear of being considered a bigot himself. By AH 1002/1593-1594 AD, Badauni had revised volumes I and II, while volume III was completed by Asaf Khan. Only a small portion of the Tarikh-i-Alfi illustrated manuscript has survived, that discovered by Ajit Ghose in the 1930s. All the known pages deal with historical events of the Abbasid Caliphate. Both paintings on the present folio illustrate episodes of Abbasid history from the year 806.
On the recto is the story of Yahya ibn Khalid al-Barmaki and the petitioner. The text describes the circumstances of Yahya’s death in prison, then goes on to relate several anecdotes from his life, the last of which is illustrated here. Yahya was reputed to have given never less than 200 dirhams to those who came to him in need. One day, he was approached by a man who recited a quatrain to the effect that this amount was too little and did not match his circumstances. Yahya saw that he was speaking the truth and told him to come to his house. On learning that the man wished to marry, Yahya gave him four amounts of 4,000 dinars: the first for the bride's dowry; the second for the purchase of a house; the third for household goods; and the fourth for entertainment and hospitality. Yahya’s generosity is demonstrated by the trays loaded with gold coins brought in by his attendants. Yahya ibn Khalid al-Barmaki was a member of the powerful Barmaki family that originally came from Balkh in modern-day Afghanistan. His grandfather, Barmak, had converted to Islam and served the Ummayad Caliph Hisham. His son Khalid, the father of Yahya, joined the Abbasid revolution and was an intimate of the Caliph al-Saffah. Yahya was tutor to the prince Harun al-Rashid during the reign of the Caliph al-Mahdi. During the short reign of Caliph al-Hadi, he was thrown into prison, but after Harun al-Rashid succeeded to the Caliphate, Yahya was appointed vizier and for a period of seventeen years was the most powerful person in the Abbasid empire after the Caliph himself. Together with his sons Fadl and Ja’far, he was part of a Barmakid triumvirate that dominated the Abbasid hierarchy. The family fell out of favour with the Caliph, however, probably because they had become too
powerful and there were accusations of arrogance; in 803 Yahya was arrested and he died three years later in 806.
in the original manuscript. These have been dispersed into museum and private collections worldwide, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Freer Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the San Diego Museum of Art; the Cleveland Museum of Art; Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts; Seattle Art Museum; the British Museum, London; and the National Museum, New Delhi.
The painting on the verso illustrates the conversion of Fadl ibn Sahl by al-Ma’mun, the son of Harun al-Rashid and the future Caliph. The text mentions Harun al-Rashid’s campaign in Asia Minor as well as the Arab invasion of Cyprus. The text immediately preceding the miniature briefly mentions the conversion of Fadl ibn Sahl, whose father was a Zoroastrian from Kufi in Iraq who converted to Islam and attached himself to the Barmakid family. Fadl also converted to Islam; according to the historian al-Tabari, this was at the hands of al-Ma’mun himself. Fadl served as the head of the military and administration in the eastern half of the Abbasid empire under al-Ma’mun and helped engineer the Caliph’s triumph over his brother al-Amin, who ruled over the western half of the Abbasid empire from Baghdad. After the unification of the two halves under al-Ma’mun, Fadl incurred the hostility of various factions in Baghdad, including those who resented the dominance of Persians over the government of al-Ma’mun. Fadl was murdered in 818 in a bathhouse in Sarakhs, according to rumour, on the orders of the Caliph who wished to placate his enemies.
A page formerly in the collection of Edwin Binney, 3rd exhibited at the Portland Museum, Oregon and now in San Diego, is published in Edwin Binney, 3rd, Indian Miniature Painting from the Collection of Edwin Binney, 3rd: The Mughal and Deccani Schools, 1973, p. 38, cat. no. 16. According to Binney, a group was formerly in the collection of H. A. N. Medd, New Delhi, one of which is illustrated in Sir Leigh Ashton (ed.), The Art of India and Pakistan, 1947, pp. 146-147, no. 653, pl. 118; and in Emmy Wellesz, Akbar’s Religious Thought Reflected in Mogul Painting, 1952, pl. 30. Binney notes another group formerly owned by the late A. C. Ardeshir.
Ghose are now in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D. C. These are published in Milo Cleveland Beach, The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court. 1981, pp. 91-92, 94-95, 97-99, cat. nos. 10a-d. Another page also once owned by Ajit Ghose now in Cleveland is published in Linda York Leach, Indian Miniature Paintings and Drawings: The Cleveland Museum of Art Catalogue of Oriental Art, Part One, 1986, pp. 53-58, cat. no. 15. A page in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is published in Joan Cummins, Indian Painting from Cave Temples to the Colonial Period, 2006, pp. 46, 48 and 49, pl. 18. To the best of our knowledge, this is the only folio currently in private hands.
Provenance: Dr. Claus Virch
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Will Kwiatkowski for his kind reading of the inscriptions and his preparation of the histories from the Abbasid Caliphate for this catalogue entry.
Two folios formerly in the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection are illustrated in Alice N. Heeramaneck, Masterpieces of Indian Painting, 1984, pp. 174-175, pls. 142 and 143. These are now in Los Angeles and published in Pratapaditya Pal, Indian Painting: A Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection, Volume I, 1000-1700, pp. 224-227, 1993, nos. 56A, B and C. Four pages formerly owned by Ajit
The present work is a rare folio. There are only twenty-six or so extant leaves that are known from an estimated three hundred illustrations
Reference: 1. The notes for this catalogue have been compiled from Milo Cleveland Beach, The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court, 1981, pp. 91-92, 94-95, 97-99; Linda York Leach, Indian Miniature Paintings and Drawings: The Cleveland Museum of Art Catalogue of Oriental Art, Part One, 1986, pp. 53-58; and Pratapaditya Pal. Indian Painting: A Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection, Volume I, 1000-1700, 1993, pp. 224-227.
43 SHAH JAHAN ENTHRONED ON A TERRACE
INDIA (MUGHAL), 1707-1712 ATTRIBUTED TO BHAVANIDAS HEIGHT: 30.3 CM WIDTH: 19.7 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-1658) is seated on a gold jewel-encrusted throne with an honorific parasol, beneath a pearl-fringed canopy decorated with swooping birds of paradise that flank a central solar disc, a popular arrangement of royal symbols that appears fairly often during the period.1 The canopy, supported by poles with jewelled feet and finials, and tethered by silk-wrapped ropes that extend beyond the composition, may be based on a known type of Mughal awning. Though seen in compositions by other artists, it is a particularly favoured motif in the work of Bhavanidas.2
Wearing a robe of silk and gold that seems almost an extension of his throne, the nimbate Shah Jahan is the most resplendently dressed of the many finely clothed figures in this exquisitely detailed composition. He leans against red velvet cushions decorated with gold flower-heads. In front of the throne is a jewelled footstool covered in red velvet with small gold quatrefoils. Seated on the carpet next to Shah Jahan is his third son, Aurangzeb, who ruled as the next Mughal emperor from 1658 to 1707 after murdering his three brothers in the fratricidal wars of succession and confining Shah Jahan to house arrest at Agra Fort, where he was nursed until his death in 1666 by his daughter, Jahanara. Aurangzeb’s expression is impassive but his strength of purpose and iron will are clear even despite the fact that he is seated on the floor, not yet the emperor but still a prince of unyielding ambition.
(illustrated here), in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, shows the aged and white-haired Aurangzeb, now emperor, enthroned and nimbate, receiving his second son Prince Mucazzam, the next Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah I (reigned 1707-1712), who was by the end of his father’s long reign also white-haired and quite elderly. Aurangzeb sits beneath the same canopy with birds of paradise. Behind him are two attendants bearing morchals and seated beside him is his third son, Prince cAzam Shah, born in 1653 and now advanced into middle age. The place occupied by the Rajput officer in our painting is here taken by a Muslim Sheikh. This painting is published in Linda York Leach, Mughal and Other Indian Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library, 1995, vol. 1, pp. 480 and 489, colour pl. 47, no. 4.7; Michael Ryan, Charles Horton, Clare Pollard and Elaine Wright, The Chester Beatty Library, 2001, p. 77, no. 93 and front cover; and Navina Haidar, “Bhavanidas” in Milo C. Beach, Eberhard Fischer and B. N. Goswamy (eds.) with Jorrit Britschgi (project director), Masters of Indian Painting II: 1650-1900, 2011, pp. 536-537, fig 4. Haidar also publishes our painting on p. 537, fig. 5.
Shah Jahan receives a nobleman holding a petition. Standing behind are two young attendants bearing peacock feather fans, while an older courtier with a grey-flecked beard carrying a black shield stands guard to the lower right within the royal enclosure. Standing below the terrace, approached by marble steps leading to an opening in the jalis, are two courtiers bearing staffs. Tucked into their patkas are swords and katars of great refinement. They wear magnificent boots, intricately decorated with floral diapers of gold. To the lower left corner is a dignified Rajput officer in a pink jama. While the courtiers in the painting are depicted in a fairly characterful manner, they are not true portraits but idealised types.3 The setting continues to project the unparalleled refinement seen in the costumes. The floriated trellis of the balustrade is so delicate and open that myriad details of the dark carpet on the terrace and the garden with cypress trees behind are revealed.
group of dynastic portraits could not have been produced while he was still alive. She believes that they were made for Bahadur Shah between 1707 when he ascended the throne and his death in 1712.4 Haidar however suggests that they could have been made a few years earlier during Bahadur Shah’s period as vice-regent and extends the possible composition dates to circa 1700-1715, with the period 1700-1707 being the most likely.5
Provenance: Archibald Elliot Haswell Miller, a soldier, painter, Keeper then Deputy Director of the National Galleries of Scotland between 1930 and 1952. Between 1910 and 1930, he was a Professor at the Glasgow School of Art. Miller purchased this painting in the 1920s-1930s.
Published: Navina Haidar, “Bhavanidas” in Milo C. Beach, Eberhard Fischer and B. N. Goswamy (eds.), Masters of Indian Painting II: 1650-1900, 2011, p. 537, fig. 5.
References: 1. Leach, 1995, p. 489. 2. Haidar, 2011, p. 536. 3. Ibid. 4. Leach, 1998, p. 149. 5. Haidar, 2011, pp. 531, 532, 536.
Haidar observes that Mughal genealogical subjects appear to have been a particular forte of Bhavanidas as evidenced by the number of surviving works in the genre. She illustrates a durbar scene depicting an idealised gathering of the fratricidal sons and two grandsons of Shah Jahan from the Edwin Binney, 3rd Collection, now in the San Diego Museum of Art, on p. 535, fig. 2. The figures are seated on angular gold thrones below the familiar canopy and the painting is discreetly signed on a centrally placed porcelain vase. A dynastic group portrait depicting the Mughal dynasty from Timur to Aurangzeb in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection is published by Haidar on p. 536, fig. 3; and Linda York Leach in Paintings from India, 1998, pp. 146-149, no. 40. For Leach, Aurangzeb’s prohibition of history painting from 1668 suggest that this
This painting is one of a pair intended to be mounted on facing folios of a Mughal album. Its mirror image
© The Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
44 PORTRAIT OF A NOBLEMAN
INDIA (MUGHAL), CIRCA 1670 HEIGHT: 18.8 CM WIDTH: 11.5 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. This elegant portrait depicts a young nobleman standing on a patch of grass in the foreground with gently rolling hills behind, under a shimmering red and gold streaked sky lit by the setting sun. He faces left, seeming to gaze into the far distance beyond the margin of the painting. With his long shadow stretched out behind him we can tell that he faces west. Calm and dignified yet alert rather than contemplative, his fine features are beautifully painted to convey an intelligent mind and decisive character, suggesting a man of action now standing quietly at ease. The hairs of his eyebrows, moustache, sideburns and nape are individuated and combed in directions that allow the viewer to follow their line of growth while faint, barely perceptible hairs continuing the pattern of growth texturise and contour his face. His profile, with a distinctive bump on his forehead and just protruding lower lip graced by a tuft of hair below, must be admired for the strength of its continuous, supple line. He wears a green jama with a repeated diaper of gold sprigs, tied by a patka (sash) of silk and metal-wrapped thread, coloured a delicious lavender in the main field and bordered by red poppies on a gold ground. Tucked into his patka and secured by a jade toggle in the form of a quatrefoil flower-head tied by gold cords is a katar (thrust- or push-dagger), its white upright arms suggesting the material depicted is either carved white jade or white enamel studded with gems. From the sash-cord ornament hang a tassel of pearls and two thumb rings, one
carved in jade, the other made of amber or gold. Three broad flat straps hold a long sword (talwar) with a red velvet scabbard in place, its white hilt once again suggesting white enamel, jade or possibly silver, inlaid with gem-set floral sprays. Of particular note is the lion’s head on the scabbard, perhaps a regimental insignia, and the cusped chape decorated with gold fronds. His left arm rests on the pommel of his sword while his right arm grips the gold hilt of a second sword sheathed in red velvet with the gold chape resting on the ground, his fingers protected by the velvet-lined knuckle guard. The cup-shaped pommel is derived from the Afghan pulouar sword.
Tehan (?)”, which may be a guess at the identity of the nobleman, and above this, the name Robert Beamte vom Hafen, which translates in German to “Robert, an official from the port”. If the latter is a real name and not a collector’s pseudonym, it may be proof of an earlier provenance. Provenance: The William K. Ehrenfeld Collection, acquired in 1984.
The restrained splendour of his attire continues with the riding boots in which he proudly stands, decorated with green foliate scrolls against a buff felt or leather ground. To cap it all is his exquisite turban. While the silk patka seems to be Gujarati in origin, the no less fine turban seems in colour and texture to be woven from pashmina wool from Kashmir and takes the form of a vermilion strip decorated with irises. Several features of this painting suggest a dating to the first decades of Aurangzeb’s reign: the length of the jama, which increased as the century progressed; the pronounced use of shadow; the multi-coloured streaking of the sky; and the prevailing fashion for portraiture in boots rather than shoes, slippers or bare feet as seen in earlier Mughal paintings. J. P. Losty and Malini Roy publish several portraits from the 1670s to 1690s in Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, 2012, pp. 154, 156-158, figs. 96-100, where the subjects all wear boots. There are enigmatic, barely legible and hence almost indecipherable European inscriptions in pencil on the reverse: one saying “Shnali
45 R A M A A N D L A K S H M A N A C O M B AT D E M O N S T O P R O T E C T V I S H VA M I T R A’ S S A C R I F I C E
INDIA (MALWA), CIRCA 1690 HEIGHT: 20 CM WIDTH: 28.3 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration to a Ramayana series. Inscribed on the verso in devanagari: “The slaying of Subahu to protect Vishvamitra making the sacrifice” and above, the number “5”.1 This painting illustrates a scene from Book I of the Ramayana, the Balakanda. It is a tale from Rama’s youth that charts his development into a skilled warrior under the guidance of the sage, Vishvamitra, whose attempts at performing a sacrifice to achieve his spiritual goals are constantly impeded by the rakshasas Maricha and Subahu who defile his sacrificial altar with blood and flesh just before the ritual reaches its climax.2
guard and repel the demon attack. As Rama is only sixteen and inexperienced in battle, Dasaratha is at first unwilling, but is later persuaded by his spiritual advisor the rishi Vasishtha that Vishvamitra, who was an adept warrior before he became a Brahmin, will teach Rama the use of a thousand celestial weapons that will render him invincible, plus the mantras required to control these magical implements. The first test for the boys is a battle in a foreboding forest with the grotesque yakshini Tataka, possessing the strength of a thousand elephants and mother of Maricha, whom Rama slays with an arrow through her heart. At the hermitage of Vamana, the dwarf avatar of Vishnu, of whom Vishvamitra is a devotee, Rama and Lakshmana watch over the sage for six days without sleep as he performs his fire ritual. Nothing happens for five days but on the sixth day, when the altar fire blazes incandescent after recitations of sacred formulas
and intense meditative practices, the demons burst through clouds in the sky to drench the altar with showers of blood. Rama hurls the Manava weapon at Maricha and flings him wounded into the sea. He next discharges the Agni weapon at Subahu’s breast and kills him. Finally, he destroys the remaining demons of the horde with the Vayu weapon. Without obstruction, Vishvamitra completes his sacrifice and attains spiritual perfection, while Rama and Lakshmana gain immeasurably in skills, bravery and experience. Four pages from this series are published in Joachim Bautze, Lotosmond und Löwenritt: Indische Miniaturmalerei, 1991, pp. 202-205, nos. 88-91; another in Pratapaditya Pal, Stephen Markel and Janice Leoshko, Pleasure Gardens of the Mind: Indian Paintings from the Jane Greenough Green Collection, 1993, pp. 48-49, no. 13. Other pages are in Brooklyn and San Diego.
Provenance: Richard B. Gump
As Vishvamitra cannot manifest anger or curse the demons while performing his sacrifice, he requests that Dasaratha allow his sons Rama and Lakshmana to accompany him to the hermitage to keep
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Jerry Losty for his expert advice and kind reading of the inscriptions.
References: 1. According to Losty, the inscription begins with pancame, “in the fifth”. It is not clear what this refers to but may link to the number “5” inscribed above, as the fifth painting in this series. 2. The story given here is compiled from Arshia Sattar (abridged and trans.), Valmiki: The Ramayana, 1996, pp. 36-53; and Hari Prasad Shastri (trans.), The Ramayana of Valmiki, 1953 & 1962, vol. I, pp. 48-69, chapters 19-30.
46 T W O M O N K E Y S A N D A B E A R AT TA C K A D E M O N S P Y
INDIA (MALWA), CIRCA 1690 HEIGHT: 20.2 CM WIDTH: 28.2 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration to a Ramayana series. Inscribed in devanagari on the verso: sri raghunath ju suka sardula vadha “Raghunatha [i.e. Rama, and] the killing of Suka and Sardula”. It is also numbered “61” in both black and red ink. This lively painting illustrates a scene from Book VI of the Ramayana, the Yuddhakanda. In order to recover his wife Sita, who has been captured by the demon Ravana and taken to the island of Lanka, Rama and his army of monkeys and bears have crossed the sea from the mainland on a bridge and are now camped on Lanka’s northern shores on Mount Suvela, organising battalions in readiness to attack the citadel. Ravana has sent out demon spies disguised as monkeys to assess the strength of Rama and his allies. The first spies are Suka and Sarana, but they are recognised despite their disguise by Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana who has come over to Rama’s side as his wise counsels to return Sita and avoid decimation in battle have been wilfully ignored.1 The spies are captured and released by the magnanimous Rama, who tells them that as captive envoys they do not merit death. Instead, he invites
them to freely inspect his forces and sends them back to Ravana to report on their vast and fearsome numbers. In describing the simian army, they cite Sugriva alone as commanding twenty-one million monkeys in his division. Furious, Ravana condemns the pair as useless incompetents and next sends Sardula, who again is discovered by Vibhishana; he is captured and beaten by the monkey chiefs and Jambavan, the king of the bears. This seems to be the episode illustrated in this painting. Sardula is however also released by Rama and returns to Ravana with another report confirming everything that Suka detailed to the demon king. The inscription is therefore puzzling, as neither Suka nor Sardula are killed by Rama in the Ramayana, both being released after capture on Rama’s orders. The poet Valmiki is keen to contrast the generosity of Rama’s treatment of the spies with Ravana’s vilification of his own emissaries and his blatant refusal to listen to their accurate and truthful reports. He berates them, “Having such unintelligent servants as you are, it is a miracle that I am still able to wield the sceptre!”2 The dramatic action takes place on the side of a hill, down which the combatants tumble at speed. The demon has been brought to his knees and
blood drawn from his wounds by Jambavan and two monkey chiefs. They are watched by Vibhishana, the princely figure seated at the bottom of the hill, and by Rama, Lakshmana and another monkey chief seated on a high promontory in the distance.
Provenance: Richard B. Gump, who was a composer, artist and president of Gump’s, the famous San Francisco home decoration and gift store.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Jerry Losty for his expert advice and kind reading of the inscriptions.
References: 1. The story given here is compiled from Arshia Sattar (abridged and trans.), Valmiki: The Ramayana, 1996, pp. 518-434; and Hari Prasad Shastri (trans.), The Ramayana of Valmiki, 1953 & 1962, vol. III, pp. 23-75, chapters 10-30. 2. Shastri, 1962, p. 71.
47 A D O R AT I O N O F S H I VA
INDIA (UDAIPUR), CIRCA 1730 HEIGHT: 44 CM WIDTH: 23.7 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with two shades of gold on paper. Inscribed in devanagari in the top yellow column with a Rajasthani text heading in red that reads: sri sadashivaji ro pradosha samay ro dhyana followed by three lines of dhyana (meditation) text written in black. The text and its pictorial visualisation therefore relate to the auspicious worship of Sadashiva (the Eternal form of Shiva) on the thirteenth day of the lunar fortnight (pradosha). Shiva and Parvati are seated on a tiger skin (vyaghra-charma), shaded by a tree in front of a cave at the foot of Mount Kailash. Shiva can be identified by his third eye (trinetri); the crescent moon (chandra), the symbol of time; the river Ganga that flows from the top-knot of his matted locks of hair, coiled into the shape of a conch shell; and the snakes, symbols of worldly attachment, that coil around his arms. His rattle-drum (damaru) is suspended from one of the branches of the tree and his trident (trishula) leans against the trunk.
In front of Shiva is a white marble fountain. Flanking the couple on either side are four-quartered gardens planted with trees, palms and flowers, and watered by fountains and water courses. At the summit of Mount Kailash is Shiva’s golden palace overlooking a golden pleasure pavilion. Four shrines perch on top of craggy rock formations, each with a cave opening below. On the grassy area in front of Shiva, gods, priests and musicians form a circle to worship him. On the right, Vishnu dances and plays a pakhavaj drum while Brahma looks up in adoration with all four faces while he claps with two of his arms. Two forms of the goddess Devi sing and clap. On the left, Indra dances and plays his flute, accompanied by a musician carrying a vina. Indra can be identified by the many eyes that cover his body. One of Indra’s many names is Sahasraksha or “thousand-eyed”. The eyes were transformed from the thousand yonis that once covered his body as a result of a curse by the sage Guatama, who caught Indra making love to his beautiful wife, Alhaya.
The pair of gods to the lower left are Surya, the sun god from whom the Sisodia rulers of Mewar claim descent, and Chandra, the moon god who attends to Shiva in the form of the crescent moon. This unusually tall and narrow composition may be compared with a circa 1725-1730 painting of Shiva, also accompanied by Parvati and attended by deities and priests in a golden palace set in a riverine landscape. This is now in the Museum Rietberg Zürich, and illustrated in Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at Udaipur: Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar, 2002, p. 151, fig. 126.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Andrew Topsfield for his expert advice and kind reading of the inscription.
48 M A H A R A N A A R I S I N G H AT L E I S U R E W I T H H I S N O B L E S I N T H E PA L A C E
INDIA (UDAIPUR), DATED 1762 BY THE ARTIST SAHAJI HEIGHT: 59 CM WIDTH: 61 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with two shades of gold on paper. On the reverse, a long and detailed fifteen line inscription written in devanagari describes the scene and tells us the names of the courtiers and musicians that accompany Maharana Ari Singh (reigned 1761-1773) on his evening of leisure in the palace at Udaipur. Relaxing with his nobles, Ari Singh is seen twice with a nimbus: above, in the Chini ri Chitrasali or “Chinese Picture Hall”, named after its decoration of blue-and-white Chinese export tiles and Delft tiles; and below, holding a hawk in the courtyard of the Surya Mahal or “Sun Apartments”, named after the solar symbol, seen in the
central archway of the sun god Surya, from whom the Maharanas of Mewar claim descent. According to the inscription: This is a portrait of Maharana Ari Singh, seated in the upper Chitrasali. He is playing chaupar with Baba Bakhat Singh. Seated with them are Dhabhai [royal foster-brother] Rupji, Chundavat Bhim Singh, Kuvar Samat Singh, Ravat Sahidasji, Ravat Durjan Singh and Kuvar Gopal Singh. Dhabhai Jodoji [standing behind the Maharana] waves the morchal (peacock feather fan). Standing [to the side] are: Dhabhai Kikoji, Dhabhai Udai Ram with Saha Kisor Das, Jait Singh, Gordhannath, and another. [Three musicians seated on a durrie perform with] the bhagtan (female musician) Amarati, who is singing. Below this, in the Surya Mahal courtyard, Maharana Ari Singh is seated with Kaka [uncle] Durjan Singh, Baba Sagat Singh, Shambhu Singh, Dhabhai Rupji, Thakur Amar Chand, Sahaji Sadaram, ?Dharuvaji Nagaji, Amar Das. The kapardar (servant) Garib Das waves the morchal.
Standing are: The kapardar Nago?ji, ...? Nathuram, the khilavar Samo. The musicians (kalavants) Udai Ram and Kalukha? are singing. The attendant Veni Das is standing. ... by the artist Sahaji. [Received by?] Purohit (priest) Anup Ram, VS 1818 Pausa sudi ..9? some [In another hand:] Entered into the picture store (ori) on Pausha sud 11, Tuesday, VS 1818, [a date probably in early January 1762]. Numbered [with the royal Mewar inventory number] 3/36 and an old valuation of Rs. 20. According to Andrew Topsfield, the Chini ri Chitrasali depicted in the upper portion of the picture is no longer extant. Dating from the reign of Jagat Singh II (1734-1751), it is sometimes referred to in inscriptions as Bari Chitrasali or the “Great Picture Hall”, to distinguish it from the lower and earlier Chini ri Chitrasali that still survives, built by Sangram Singh II (reigned 1710-1734) and sometimes called Choti Chitrasali or the “Small Picture Hall”. Topsfield’s description of this painting as “a pleasingly informal
study by Syaji/Shahji” is borne out by the wealth of charming anecdotal detail.1 The ancient game of chaupar that Ari Singh plays with his nobles is the ancestor of pachisi, the national game of India, both created in the fourth century. Chaupar is a skilful and complex game for four players in two teams. The board, made of wood or cloth, has the configuration of a symmetrical cross with four arms of equal length, each with three adjacent columns of eight squares. Chaupar uses sixteen game pieces of beehive shape in four colours of yellow, black, red and green. Each player has four pieces of one colour. The objective is to move all four pieces completely around the board anti-clockwise before the opponents do so. The movements are based on the throw of the three long dice seen next to Ari Singh, whose turn it must be.2
gripping his glove with its talons as he strokes its feathers. Another delightful detail is the way the musicians seated on the lower right look to each other to keep time as they clap and sway to the music.3 Provenance: Mewar Royal Collection Spink and Son, London, 1987
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Andrew Topsfield for his expert advice and kind reading of the inscriptions.
References: 1. Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at Udaipur: Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar, 2002, p. 205. 2. A picture of Maharana Jagat Singh II playing chaupar is illustrated by Topsfield, 2002, p. 180, fig. 155. 3. For a discussion of musicians named by inscription in Mewar paintings, see Andrew
Below the exotically decorated Chini ri Chitrasali is the Surya Mahal, where the flaming nimbus is flanked by walls set with frescoed dadoes and multi-coloured glass panels in cusped niches between elaborate fluted pillars. Beneath the nimbus is a fresco depicting elephants in combat. Ari Singh is seated on a green dais, admiring the prize hawk
Topsfield, “The Kalavants on their Durrie: Portraits of Udaipur Court Musicians, 1680-1730”, in Rosemary Crill, Susan Stronge and Andrew Topsfield (eds.), Arts of Mughal India: Studies in Honour of Robert Skelton, 2004, pp. 248-263. The famous Udai Ram, now the white-haired leader of the band in our painting, is depicted in paintings made for Sangram Singh thirty years earlier; see Topsfield, p. 259, fig. 13 and p. 261, fig. 16.
49 MAHARANA ARI SINGH HUNTING WITH HIS LADIES
INDIA (UDAIPUR), CIRCA 1765 HEIGHT: 29.3 CM WIDTH: 39.4 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold and silver on paper. From the safe vantage point of an elegant hunting lodge built on an outcrop of craggy rocks in the rolling hills outside the city of Udaipur, Maharana Ari Singh (reigned 1761-1773) accompanied by five ladies of his court, aims a long matchlock gun through the window of an octagonal turret at a tiger that is vigorously attacking a buffalo. The ferocious tiger has leapt forwards and now grips the buffalo’s neck with its powerful jaws, drawing blood as it claws the face and back of the buffalo and brings the struggling animal to its knees. The landscape at dusk, covered with dense vegetation and lit by the rising moon and a sprinkling of stars in the sky, is bisected by a meandering stream that divides the composition into two halves and runs along the base as it bifurcates or joins a lake or river. The silver used for the moon and the stars has oxidised to black but this seems to enhance the atmosphere, underlying the courtly ritual of the
royal hunt with a sense of foreboding, even terror at the sight of the primal struggle between predator and prey on the right. The ladies of the court do not, however, seem too perturbed as they await their turn to shoot after Ari Singh has demonstrated his prowess. It is clear from the confidence with which they carry their weapons and their evident enjoyment of the event that they are here not just to wait on the Maharana, but to take an active part in the hunt. Following the Mughal fashion of taking queens and princesses on royal hunts, Rajput rulers also encouraged their women to be adept at hunting.1 One of the ladies carries a gold hookah. Another, who carries a sword and shield, turns back to her companion who holds a spear, to gauge her reaction to the unfolding events. A lady standing at the back of the group is armed with a gun, another with a bow and arrows in a quiver. As the dashing hero and focus of our attention, Ari Singh has resplendently dressed the part in a dark green tunic embellished with gold leaves, and jodhpurs tucked into embroidered riding boots. A gold katar (thrustdagger) is tucked in his patka (sash).
The hunting lodge is a small but lavishly appointed structure built of white marble standing on a base of red sandstone. Its role as a pleasure pavilion and observation point in an otherwise desolate but dramatic landscape is enhanced by the exquisite formal garden on the roof, planted with rows of flowers on manicured lawns. The heavy wooden doors to the lodge are securely shut to protect the noblewomen from wild beasts but also, in this painting, to show off its fine decorative carving. It is possible that the location of the hunt is Nahar Magra or “Tiger Hill”, fourteen miles east of Udaipur, which is dotted with hunting lodges, shooting platforms (odi) and hunting blinds, some of which can still be seen today.2
but Andrew Topsfield has observed that he is a much slimmer figure than Sangram Singh ever was and the overall mise-en-scene would date the picture to the Ari Singh period, around 1765 when he sported a beard.3 In almost all the paintings dating from the beginning of his reign in 1761 to 1764 Ari Singh is clean shaven but from around 1765 to 1767, after which painting at Udaipur abruptly stopped due to political turmoil, Ari Singh is seen sporting a beard.4 Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Andrew Topsfield for his expert advice.
References: 1. Vishakha N. Desai, Life at Court: Art for India’s Rulers, 16th to 19th Centuries,
Waiting in the upper left corner of the painting to take the Rana and his ladies home is the rest of the hunting party, which includes an elephant with its driver (mahout) carrying a steel goad (ankus) and two horses, notably a white horse with charming black dots.
1985, p. 80. 2. Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at Udaipur: Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar, 2002, pp. 170 and 173. 3. Personal communication with Andrew Topsfield. 4. For hunting and other paintings of the same period in which Ari Singh can be seen with a beard, see Topsfield, 2002, p. 202,
The painting has no inscription on the reverse which might help us with the identification of the Maharana, and at first glance the main figure looks rather like Sangram Singh (reigned 1710-1734),
fig. 184, p. 204, fig 186, p. 206, fig. 188 and p. 207, fig. 189. These paintings all date from 1765-1767. On p. 205, fig. 187, in a painting of 1764, the as yet un-bearded but already very vain Ari Singh admires his own profile in a mirror at Jagniwas.
50 R A J A S A R D A R S I N G H W I T H H I S FA L C O N
INDIA (BUNDI OR UNIARA), 1770-1775 HEIGHT: 19.8 CM WIDTH: 15.2 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. Inscribed in devanagari to the top of the red border: maharaja sardar shri singhji Further inscribed on the reverse: maharaja ji shri sardar singh ki chhe “This is [the portrait] of Maharaja Sardar Singh”.
Sitting cross-legged and leaning against a giant mauve bolster, Sardar Singh holds the monal (mouthpiece) of his hookah against his lips, his alert and tethered falcon attempting to catch his eye as the grey-haired Sardar stares past him lost in contemplation. He sits against a verdigris background as clouds swirl above. His sheathed sword and a book are laid out on a floral carpet. The round hookah base has a design of brass or gold flowers and the red hookah tube coils elegantly before meandering up to Sardar’s lips. The talons of the falcon grip a red leather cushion, below which can be seen a small gold pandan with a domed lid and a knop finial. The inscription on the recto is contemporary with the painting while the one on the verso seems to have been added much later by another hand. On the front inscription, an attempt has been made to obliterate maha from the word maharaja, leaving just the title of raja. This may be because the scribe has realised, too late, that his subject is not entitled to the Maharaja appellation and so crossed part of it out. The sitter of the portrait is therefore likely to be Rao Raja Sardar Singh of Uniara (reigned 1740-1777), where the rulers held the title of Rao Raja rather than Maharaja. Though now depicted white haired and whiskered towards the end of his reign, he is still recognisably the same Sardar Singh with the large curving forehead, long curling moustache
and chunky neck that we see in earlier portraits of him made ten to fifteen years ago. There is also no ruler named Sardar Singh from Bundi. There is a Sardar Singh listed in the genealogical charts, but he is not a ruler; he is Sardar Singh (Dugari), the youngest brother of Maharaja Ajit Singh of Bundi.1 The image of a much younger Rao Raja Sardar Singh may be seen in a painting at the end of the colophon from a Hitopadesha manuscript commissioned in Samvat 1818 or 1761 to1762 AD by Kunvar Jaswant Singh, the only legitimate son of Sardar Singh. This is published in J. P. Losty, “A Hitopadesha Manuscript of 1761-62 from Uniara” in Andrew Topsfield (ed.), Court Painting in Rajasthan, 2000, p. 111, fig. 2. The close stylistic links between Bundi and Uniara painting during this period are demonstrated by the fact that the manuscript is the work of the Bundi artist Dhano, who includes his self-portrait in the colophon page, seated behind the princes Jaswant and Maha facing Sardar Singh on his throne. Losty illustrates another portrait of Sardar Singh, again with his two sons, on p. 114, fig. 4. Another portrait of Sardar Singh forms the frontispiece to a Bhagavata Purana manuscript, “Rao Raja Sardar Singh of Uniara and his son at worship”, painted at Uniara in 1759 by Mira Bagas, another Bundi artist who was the principal painter of Sardar Singh’s reign. This is illustrated in Milo Cleveland Beach, Rajput Painting at Bundi and Kota, 1974, pl. XLVII, fig. 48. The present painting of Sardar Singh may be compared with a closely related Bundi portrait of another white-haired Raja, Megh Singh Hara, formerly in the collection of Nasli
and Alice Heeramaneck. This is illustrated in Alice N. Heeramaneck, Masterpieces of Indian Painting, 1984, pp. 25 and 54, pl. 56. Megh Singh Hara leans against a large cushion and smokes a hookah as he holds a falcon in his gloved hand. A sword in its sheath is placed on the floral carpet in front of him. The green background with a strip of blue sky high above streaked by wispy white clouds is almost identical, as is the broad red border with an identifying inscription to the top. Even the way the falcon looks challengingly at the ruler, trying to establish direct eye contact, is similar, as is the leg of the Raja crossed over the end of the patka (sash) that emerges below. These numerous points of comparison suggest that the two paintings come from a now dispersed series of ruler portraits made in the Bundi environs in the late eighteenth century. Seeing that the Heeramanecks once owned its likely companion, it is also possible that Claus Virch, the previous owner of this painting, may have acquired it from Alice Heeramaneck, from whom he made numerous purchases in the 1970s.
Provenance: Dr. Claus Virch, collected in the early 1970s
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Robert Skelton for his reading of the inscriptions and Jerry Losty for his expert advice on the possible identification of the sitter as Sardar Singh of Uniara.
Reference: 1. See the genealogical charts of Bundi and Uniara in Milo Cleveland Beach, Rajput Painting at Bundi and Kota, 1974, pp. 53-54, Appendices A and C.
51 K R I S H N A A N D B A L A R A M A D E PA R T G O K U L A W I T H A K R U R A
INDIA (BUNDI OR KOTAH), LATE 18TH CENTURY HEIGHT: 27 CM WIDTH: 19.8 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration to a Bhagavata Purana series, depicting an episode from Book X, chapter 39. The demon king Kamsa has hatched a devious plot to kill Krishna and Balarama under the pretext of a wrestling match that takes place in Mathura during the sacrifice of the great bow. His plan is for spectators to witness a “contest between willing participants” and not an act of premeditated assassination.1 He dispatches Akrura, a prominent member of the Yadu clan and Krishna’s uncle as well as his devotee, to Gokula to bring the boys back to the city. They see through Kamsa’s transparent scheme, but willingly agree to return with Akrura in his chariot to face Kamsa’s champion wrestlers in the arena.2
The gopis form a hysterical chorus of disapproval, reaching out to protest and cry with grief at Krishna’s departure. Three bullock carts form part of the entourage; the man in the first cart wearing a red turban is Nanda. To the upper right, Krishna’s departure is watched by a herd of cows that are as saddened by his leaving as the gopis. Akrura appears three times in the continuous narrative. We first see him in the chariot wearing a green robe, facing the blue-skinned Krishna dressed in yellow and the white-skinned Balarama dressed in red. We then see him at the bottom of the picture wearing a yellow dhoti, bathing in the swirling waters of the river Yamuna. Immersing himself while reciting hymns from the sacred Vedic texts, Akrura has a vision of the boys in the water and wonders how they could possibly be there. He leaves the water to check the chariot and sees them still sitting in it, just as before. This is the third time we see Akrura, standing on the shore, gazing with open-mouthed astonishment at the sight of the boys in two places at once.
of the continuous narrative that depicts Akrura three times, the rules of time are subverted and contiguous, sequential reality is displaced by the eternity of a single visionary moment.
In this painting, Krishna and Balarama are departing from Gokula with Akrura in an ornate golden chariot drawn by dappled horses.
Akrura then returns to the river to resume his ritual ablutions. Cleansed by the sacred water that absolves all sins, he is granted a vision of Krishna’s true form as divine Vishnu, the four-armed Supreme Being who bears a lotus, a conch shell, a disc (chakra) and a mace. The second depiction of Akrura in the lower left corner is therefore a compression into a single image of his first and second immersions in the water, which the viewer sees simultaneously, an effect not dissimilar to Akrura seeing the boys in the chariot and in the water at the same time. Through this device and also through the use
of paintings in conjunction with the institution’s Centennial celebration, Virch left the museum to create an art fund with Christian Humann to invest in art from world cultures. Humann’s active collecting,
Akrura becomes ecstatic with his vision and offers his praises to Vishnu in the eulogy that forms chapter 40, Book X, of the Bhagavata Purana. Upon his return to the chariot, Krishna asks him, almost nonchalantly, as if gently teasing, whether Akrura has seen something wonderful in the water.
especially of Asian art, coincided with Virch’s wide-ranging tastes. Dr. Pratapaditya Pal met Virch in 1973 when he accompanied Virch and Humann on a visit to acquire works of art from Alice Heeramaneck after Nasli Heeramaneck’s death. Some of the purchases went to form Christian Humann’s famous Pan-Asian Collection. Claus Virch’s large collection of Indian paintings was very likely acquired around that time, with significant
purchases from the Heeramanecks.
Dr. Claus Virch, collected in the early 1970s References: Claus Virch (1927-2012) was an esteemed
1. The story given here is taken from B. N.
scholar and connoisseur of European paintings.
Goswamy and Anna L. Dallapiccola, Krishna:
He was a member of the curatorial staff at the
The Divine Lover, 1982, pp. 62-64; and Edwin
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from
F. Bryant (trans.), Krishna: The Beautiful Legend
1957 to 1970 as a specialist in the Department
of God (Srimad Bhagavata Purana, Book X),
of Old Master Paintings and Drawings.
2003, chapter 36, pp. 151-153; chapter 39,
A highlight of his career was the acquisition of
pp. 161-166; and chapter, 41, pp. 169-170.
Rembrandt’s “Aristotle Contemplating the Bust
of Homer” in 1961. Born in Germany, Virch
3. Bryant, 2003, pp. 163 and 410. According
completed a dissertation on the drawings of
to Bryant, an “a” placed before a noun in
Ernst Barlach in 1952 at the University of Kiel.
Sanskrit negates that noun, as it does in
After the war, he immigrated to California at
certain instances in English, for example
the invitation of his grand-aunt, but soon
“theistic” and “atheistic”.
moved to New York where a chance meeting
They are accompanied by their foster father, Nanda, and the gopas (cowherds) who bear tribute of dairy products such as milk, butter and curds as offerings to Kamsa for the bow festival. The gopis (milkmaids) however, are very distraught at the thought of Krishna leaving Vraj. With ashen faces and tears in their eyes, they accuse Akrura (whose name means “not-cruel”) of great cruelty (krura) when he takes their beloved Krishna away.3
In 1970, after overseeing the new installation
with Henry Francis Taylor, then Director of the Metropolitan Museum, led to his working there.
52 NOBLEMAN SMOKING A HOOK AH ON A TERRACE
NORTHERN INDIA (MUGHAL STYLE, POSSIBLY AT ALWAR), CIRCA 1800 HEIGHT: 16.2 CM WIDTH: 13.4 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. Inscribed in pencil on the reverse in a cursive hand: “An Omrah or Lord of the Emperor of Hindoostan”. Lit by the fading light of the setting sun that casts its amber glow over the exquisite landscape behind, a nobleman is seated on his riverside terrace, on a bed with a white lace-edged cover, enjoying the cool air of the early evening and gazing meditatively into the distance while smoking a hand-held hookah. The hookah takes the form of a small footed vase complete with chillum (fire-cup) and a stiff shape-retaining tube and monal (mouthpiece), so requiring only one hand to enjoy the whole smoking experience. With his other hand he holds his green-trousered leg in position, his foot resting comfortably on a cushion. Placed before him is a gold pandan on a dish, its domed cover open to reveal as well as contain some delectable betel quids, the leaves all wrapped up into small parcels ready for consumption. The knop finial of the cover functions as a tiny foot on which the cover miraculously balances. These indolent, sensory pleasures are enhanced by the visual refinement of his attire and palatial setting. The nobleman wears a white muslin jama with cuffs and collar unbuttoned to reveal a diaphanous undershirt with lace decoration of
cintamani balls. His cap is made of this same sheer material, strategically placed to cover his receding hairline while revealing lustrous curls that cover his ears and nape. Draped with considerable élan over his fashionable shoulders is a lavender shawl with frilled lace edges. Hidden beneath is a satchel made of interwoven leather strips.
Adhering to the reverse of the painting’s old frame is a typed letter dated 3rd November 1957 from Nils Lindhagen to Robert Schroff, giving details of this painting and three other miniatures that Robert Schroff lent for the exhibition Orientaliska miniatyrer, “Oriental miniatures and manuscripts in Scandinavian collections” at the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm in 1957. Nils Lindhagen was the curator of the exhibition and he thanks Robert Schroff for lending the four Indian
The white marble pavilion behind has cusped panels carved in low relief on the exterior and deeply carved chini kana niche compartments in the interior that hold cups and ewers. Our glimpse of the interior is afforded by a chevron door curtain that has been rolled up and fastened on its rail by rope and toggles. A second door remains concealed by its chevron curtain. On top of both doors, the heavy red velvet curtain for winter draft exclusion remains firmly rolled up, thus conveying an accurate sense of the temperature of the scene to the viewer: cool but not cold, requiring the use of only one set of the double curtains.
miniatures, which he says made a valuable contribution to the exhibition. He writes in the second paragraph that he would like to provide Mr Schroff with details relating to his miniatures (datings, subjects and attributions), which have arisen through collaboration with Mr W. G. Archer of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London who advised the Nationalmuseum for this exhibition. It is Archer who suggests Alwar as the possible provenance of the painting and 1800 as the date.
Exhibited: Orientaliska miniatyrer, “Oriental miniatures and manuscripts in
The bed on which the nobleman sits has bell-shaped gold feet. It is placed on a woven carpet that covers the full extent of the terrace. Shade is provided by a red and gold awning supported by a thin pole. On the edge of the terrace is a low jali balustrade trimmed with gold. Beyond the jalis are flowering shrubs and a large tree on the edge of the river. The opposite bank of the river traces a zig zag line before rising to rolling hills dotted with trees and small marble pavilions.
Provenance: The Robert Schroff Collection, Stockholm, 1950s
Scandinavian collections” at the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm in 1957.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Anna Grundberg for her kind reading and translation of the letter from the Swedish.
and battling antelope on the lower vase, who fence with interlocked antlers against a background of grassy clumps and floral sprigs. This unusual painting does not have an inscription that can help us decipher its enigmatic subject, but the fighting rams suggest a link to the iconography of Kacheli Ragini and the possibility that this is a Ragamala page. In the Pahari tradition, Kacheli Ragini is an elegant noblewoman seated on a terrace overlooking two charging rams that symbolise the reality of her turbulent emotions despite the cool, calm exterior that she presents to the world.
53 L A D I E S W I T H C H I N E S E VA S E S
INDIA (BIKANER), CIRCA 1770 HEIGHT: 18.8 CM WIDTH: 11.5 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. A noblewoman sits on a cushion at the edge of her bed, arranging flowers in two Chinese blue-andwhite vases placed on a red plant stand. She holds in her delicately hennaed hands two red floral sprays as she considers their placement within the exquisite symmetrical bouquets of red and yellow flowers amidst green leaves that she has
already assembled. Her standing attendant brings her yellow flowers to add to her arrangements. Holding a spray in each hand, hennaed like those of her mistress, she seems to be asking, as she raises one or the other, which the lady would prefer. Though the vases seem to be made of Chinese porcelain decorated in the blue-and-white underglaze technique, their rounded forms and wide rims for easy carrying and pouring recall the shape of the traditional Indian water vessel, the lota. Clearly a pair, they are each similarly decorated with a scene of fighting rams in the upper vase who butt their heads and horns together,
Kacheliâ€™s churning heart and mind are of course precipitated by love in all its complex manifestations of anticipation, longing, conquest, denial, unattainability, consummation and rejection as catalogued in poems such as the Sat Sai of Bihari and the Rasamanjari of Bhanudatta, and illustrated by miniatures that depict every type of nayika in myriad permutations of love experienced, lost or yearned for. It is when we turn our attention away from the floral arrangements to the bed that we feel its stark white emptiness, perhaps signalling the absence of the hero. Were it not for the red and gold decorated panel on the side of the bed and the charming charpoy foot, the bed would almost disappear into the white marble terrace and against the white pavilion behind. The painting is thus constructed along a rough diagonal of two halves that explore the dichotomy of emptiness versus the
abundance signalled by saturated colours, rich costumes, green grassy backdrop and vivid blue sky. The pairing of the women, the vases and the sparring animals further underlines these rhythms of duality. A painting of Kacheli Ragini with fighting rams and a seemingly cool heroine with supportive attendant is published in the Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, 2014, pp. 136-137, cat. no. 65. A related painting of Kacheli Ragini is in the Kangra Ragamala series at the National Museum, New Delhi. This is published in M. S. Randhawa, Kangra Ragamala Paintings, 1971, p. 76, no. 43. Also at the National Museum is an early eighteenth century drawing from Basohli that depicts an unaccompanied Kacheli Ragini watching two fighting rams from the safety of a viewing platform within a high pavilion reached by a flight of steps. This is illustrated in Klaus Ebeling, Ragamala Painting, 1973, p. 279, fig. 324. A Bikaner painting of fighting rams is illustrated in Ernst and Rose Leonore Waldschmidt, Miniatures of Musical Inspiration in the Collection of the Berlin Museum of Indian Art, Part I: Ragamala Pictures from the Western Himalaya Promontory, 1971, p. 199, fig. 72. Though this painting is not from a Ragamala series and there is no heroine depicted, only the male herders of the battling beasts, the striking similarity of iconography brings Kacheli Ragini immediately to mind as does the present painting where the turbulent scenes are frozen, as in Keatsâ€™ Grecian Urn, in a work of art, within a work of art.
54 VA S U D E VA C R O S S E S T H E YA M U N A W I T H T H E I N FA N T K R I S H N A
INDIA (BASOHLI), 1760-1765 ATTRIBUTED TO FATTU (CIRCA 1725-1790), THE ELDEST SON OF MANAKU HEIGHT: 30.2 CM WIDTH: 40 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration from a Bhagavata Purana series. On the verso are two devanagari verses describing the scene: “Since the clouds in the sky were mildly thundering and showering, Ananta-naga, an expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, followed Vasudeva, beginning from the door, with hoods expanded to protect Vasudeva and the transcendental child.
“Because of constant rain sent by the demigod Indra, the river Yamuna was filled with deep water, foaming about with fiercely whirling waves. But as the great Indian Ocean had formerly given way to Lord Ramacandra by allowing Him to construct a bridge, the river Yamuna gave way to Vasudeva and allowed him to cross.”
the prison cell, the baby Krishna reveals his true form as four-armed Vishnu to Devaki and Vasudeva, who offer their homage in supplications and eulogies. After the revelation, Vishnu reverts to the form of an ordinary child and following his instructions, Vasudeva prepares to smuggle the baby out of prison and away from the palace. Miraculously, the prison guards are suddenly deprived of consciousness and all the citizens of Mathura, including Devaki, fall into a deep sleep. All the entrances that have been closed shut by huge doors secured by iron bolts and chains now magically fling open on their own accord.
These two verses seem to be a condensed version, rather than the complete text, of two verses from the Bhagavata Purana, Book X, 49-50, which tell the story in more elaborate detail. At the end of the verses is the number “8”, while the painting is numbered “9” to the side. A takri version of the story is written at the top of the page.
The rain sent by Indra begins mildly but soon becomes heavy and incessant to shroud the escaping Vasudeva in darkness as he carries the baby Krishna across the river, shielded from the thunderous outpour by the umbrella hood of the serpent Shesha. The Yamuna starts to rise and becomes agitated by a hundred whirlpools as the water yearns to be touched by Krishna. When the baby puts one little foot into the water, it subsides to allow Vasudeva safe passage to Gokula where he secretly exchanges Krishna for Yashoda’s daughter. Vasudeva then returns to Kamsa’s palace, places the baby girl on Devaki’s bed and re-fastens his leg shackles as if nothing has happened on this dramatic night.
It is deepest, darkest midnight at the palace of the demon king Kamsa, where baby Krishna has just been born in a prison cell to his mother Devaki, Kamsa’s sister, and her husband Vasudeva. Krishna’s parents have been locked in the palace for years by Kamsa, on account of a prophecy that the eighth child of Devaki will kill Kamsa. Though Kamsa 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 in Gokula. Officially, Devaki has a miscarriage. The eighth child is Krishna. He is swapped at birth with the baby daughter of Yashoda, wife of Nanda, who is born at exactly the same time at Gokula and is an incarnation of the goddess Yogamaya (the power of illusion).1
This illustration is part of the large Guler-Basohli Bhagavata Purana series that is called by W. G. Archer the “fifth Basohli Bhagavata Purana”. According to Darielle Mason, who publishes another folio in Intimate Worlds: Indian Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection, 2001, pp. 188-189, cat. no. 80, over thirty pages have been published although the series contained many more. One of the pages now in the Edwin Binney, 3rd Collection at the San Diego Museum of Art, bears the date 1769, and it is
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
by this date that many scholars date the series.2 However, because this date appears not as part of a colophon but in the middle of a narrative sequence, some scholars including Archer prefer to date the series slightly earlier (1760-1765), others slightly later (1770-1780), though the earlier dating of this transitional series is more convincing stylistically.3 The compositions, choice of narrative moments, and style of this series are undoubtedly based on the extensive
set of Bhagavata Purana paintings and drawings of circa 1740 attributed to Manaku.4 The series is large and though the basis of the style is derived from Manaku, it displays a great variety of styles and is pivotal in the development of the distinctive Pahari style that reached its apogee in the late eighteenth century. The stylistic transition is from the vivid clarity of the early Basohli style to the delicate idealism of paintings at Guler and Kangra.5 In his recent writings, B. N. Goswamy attributes
the bulk of the images in the series to Fattu, who during its production came more and more under the influence of Nainsukh.6
References: 1. The story given here is taken from B. N. Goswamy and Anna L. Dallapiccola, Krishna: The Divine Lover, 1982, pp. 28-30; and Edwin F. Bryant (trans.), Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of
God (Srimad Bhagavata Purana, Book X), 2003,
Mrs F. K. Smith, sold at Sothebyâ€™s, London,
chapter 3, pp. 19-24.
1st February 1960, lot 2.
2. Darielle Mason, Intimate Worlds: Indian
The Anthony Hobson Collection
Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection, 2001, p. 188.
We would like to thank Jerry Losty for his
expert advice and kind reading of the
55 K A M S A B E G S F O R G I V E N E S S F R O M VA S U D E VA A N D D E VA K I
INDIA (BASOHLI), 1760-1765 ATTRIBUTED TO FATTU, THE ELDEST SON OF MANAKU
HEIGHT: 30 CM WIDTH: 40.2 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration from a Bhagavata Purana series. Inscribed in devanagari on the verso with a group of three verses, of which the first reads: “Kamsa begged, ‘My dear sister and brother-in-law, please be merciful to such a poor-hearted person as me, since both of you are saintly persons. Please excuse my atrocities.’ Having said this, Kamsa fell at the feet of Vasudeva and Devaki, his eyes full of tears of regret.” This verse is Bhagavata Purana, Book X, chapter 4, verse 23. The other two verses have not been identified. They do not seem to be from chapter 4 of the Bhagavata Purana and the whole group of three verses is numbered v. 12. However, below the main block of three verses written in black is a single line in red that identifies the text as the fourth chapter of the Bhagavata Purana. To the top is a takri version of chapter 4, verse 23, and to the side of this, the painting is numbered “12” in the series. It is the morning after Vasudeva has smuggled the baby Krishna to Gokula and brought back Yashoda’s daughter as a substitute. The doors of the palace, which had magically opened at night, now appear closed and locked securely.1 The guards are woken by the sound of a crying child and rush to inform Kamsa of Devaki’s delivery. Agitated and dishevelled, Kamsa stumbles from his bed to
Devaki’s chamber to seize the child as it is Devaki’s eighth, the one prophesied to bring about his demise. Despite the piteous implorations of his sobbing sister to leave her one daughter after he has already killed her six sons (she has, it seems, a miscarriage of the seventh, when Balarama is transferred to Rohini’s womb), he grabs the child by its feet and dashes its head against a rock. Flying from his grasp, the child rises to the sky and reveals her true form as the eight-armed Yogamaya, a manifestation of the Great Goddess. She laughs and asks him, “What will be achieved by killing me, you fool? Your enemy from a former life, the bearer of your death, has already been born somewhere else.” 2 She then vanishes. Astonished, Kamsa reveals a softer, more compassionate side that demonstrates the possibility of good within even the most evil of characters. He frees Devaki and Vasudeva from their chains and addresses them with utmost courtesy. On the right of the painting, we see Kamsa falling at their feet, begging for their pardon. He compares himself to a cannibal devouring his own children and recognises that he is an evil person, a sinful reprobate now damned for having killed the children of his own sister. Appealing to their innate nobility, Kamsa utilises his profound understanding of the concept of advaita (non-duality) to comfort them for the loss of the children he has killed. He reasons that their deaths, though at his hands, are the result of karma from deeds in previous lives and hence cannot be avoided. Furthermore, no living entity can remain in one place for ever. All lives are temporary, whatever their timespan, before the innermost self or soul is reabsorbed into the atma (unchanging pure eternal consciousness) from which nothing
can be differentiated. The perception of reality as separate from atma is the cause of all illusion and sorrow in the world. After these extraordinary passages of philosophising, Kamsa bursts into tears and grasps the feet of his sister and brother-in-law. Pacified by this glimpse into the true nature of reality, though afforded by a murderous tyrant, they forgive him. Vasudeva even comments with a smile, “O noble one, things are indeed as you say. The consciousness of ‘I-ness’ and ‘other-ness’ is due to ignorance… [People] do not perceive that it is this very mentality that is causing them to kill each other.” 3 The irony of this discussion in the light of Kamsa’s actions will not be lost on the reader, or the viewer of this painting, where on the left, Kamsa is depicted the following morning being advised by his demoniac ministers to seek out and kill all babies ten days old. Supressing his own better nature, Kamsa listens to his counsellors with rajasic (self-interested) dispositions who act with minds bewildered by tamas (inertia, illusion and anger). We see in Kamsa the co-existence of wisdom and folly, good and evil, all aspects of the one absolute truth (brahman). It is the qualities he cultivates that determine his fateful outcome.
Provenance: Mrs F. K. Smith, sold at Sotheby’s, London, 1st February 1960, lot 2. The Anthony Hobson Collection
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Jerry Losty for his expert advice.
References: 1. The story is taken from Edwin F. Bryant (trans.), Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God (Srimad Bhagavata Purana, Book X), 2003, chapter 4, pp. 24-28. 2. Ibid., p. 25, verse 12. 3. Ibid., p. 26, verse 26.
56 J A M B AVA N K I L L S A L I O N A N D O B TA I N S T H E S YA M A N TA K A J E W E L
INDIA (BASOHLI), 1760-1765 ATTRIBUTED TO FATTU, THE ELDEST SON OF MANAKU
HEIGHT: 30.8 CM WIDTH: 41.2 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration from a Bhagavata Purana series. The main inscription in devanagari on the verso is the second half of a verse followed by a chapter colophon in black and red. The verse is Bhagavata Purana, Book X, chapter 56, verse 14: “[A lion killed Prasena and his horse and took the jewel. But when the lion] entered a mountain cave he was killed by Jambavan, who wanted the jewel.” Jerry Losty notes that the scribe treats this as the final verse of a chapter in the Syamantaka Upakhyana (The Tale of the Syamantaka Jewel) and adds the number “107”, which is presumably the verse number in that tale. However, the inscription on the left confirms that the verse is from chapter 56 of the Bhagavata Purana and tells us the painting is number 229? [the final number is unclear]. The inscription to the top is in takri and gives the same second half of verse 14 as the main Sanskrit inscription, but with a different number, “218”. On the swell of a bleak plateau edged by forests, next to the tumbling rock formations of a steep mountain face sparsely dotted with moss and grass, Jambavan, the King of the Bears, has killed a lion and seized the Syamantaka jewel. The lion, depicted as often in Indian miniatures with stripes like a tiger (sher being the interchangeable name of the two great beasts), lies on its back
with twisted head and broken neck, bleeding profusely from multiple wounds. Jambavan triumphantly holds the glittering gem in his razor-sharp claws that have inflicted such damage on his powerful opponent, the gold chain of the precious stone now looped casually over his wrist. The priceless Syamantaka jewel is a gift from the sun god Surya to his close friend Satrajit. Such is its lustre that when Satrajit walks down the street, the citizens of Dvaraka find it impossible to look at him and believe that Surya himself has arrived. At his opulent home, Satrajit installs the jewel in a brahman shrine where it produces eight bharas of gold a day. Krishna once asks Satrajit to present the jewel to Ugrasena, the Yadava king, but Satrajit, addicted to wealth, declines without reflecting on what his refusal might mean.1 As Linda Leach observes, the Syamantaka jewel is a source of great contention that changes hands several times by gift or seizure, and is variously a symbol of avarice, generosity or atonement. One day, Satrajit’s brother, Prasena, borrows the jewel and wears it around his neck as he goes hunting in the forest. The lion kills both Prasena and his horse and tears off the jewel before he is killed in turn by Jambavan who covets the great gemstone. Returning to his
mountain cave, Jambavan gives it to his baby son to play with. Unable to locate Prasena, Satrajit spreads the rumour that his brother has been killed by Krishna in order to obtain the jewel. Krishna sets off with a team to clear his name of this libellous smear and retraces Prasena’s path to the forest where they find Prasena’s body and that of his horse. Then, on the side of the mountain, they find the lion’s corpse. Leaving his entourage outside, Krishna enters the cave where he sees the child playing with the jewel and he is just about to take it when Jamabavan rushes at him in a fury and a titanic battle lasting twenty-eight days ensues.2
loss and recovery, then presents it to the remorseful Satrajit. Deeply ashamed of imputing vile motives to Krishna and misreading the whole situation due his own incessant craving for wealth, Satrajit decides to appease Krishna by offering him both the jewel and the hand of his daughter, Satyabhama, “a jewel among women”. Krishna marries Satyabhama but refuses the gem, saying that Satrajit should keep it as a devotee of Surya. Of all the protagonists in this convoluted tale, Krishna is the only one who has no desire for the jewel, but the adventure rewards him with two beautiful wives, Jambavati and Satyabhama.
Despite his immense power and fighting skills, Jambavan is no match for Krishna. With ebbing strength and aching limbs, he realises that his opponent is none other than Vishnu. As a devotee of his previous incarnation Rama, Jambavan bows down to be blessed by the touch of Krishna’s hand. When Krishna explains that he seeks the jewel in order to clear a false accusation, Jambavan happily offers not only the jewel but his daughter, Jambavati, in marriage. Upon his return to Dvaraka, Krishna summons Satrajit to an assembly, announces the retrieval of the jewel, describes the circumstances of its
Provenance: Mrs F. K. Smith, sold at Sotheby’s, London, 1st February 1960, lot 53. The Anthony Hobson Collection
A prodigy in his field, appointed Head of Sotheby’s Book Department at 27, Anthony Hobson (1921-2014) was the world’s greatest authority on Renaissance bookbinding. Academic honours were showered on him but his pre-eminence in the book world was sealed by his presidency of the Internationale de Bibliophilie from 1985-1999, where his patrician elegance, charm, command of languages and profound scholarship made him a magisterial figure. Greatly informed by the taste of his wife, Tanya Vinogradoff, granddaughter of the painter Algernon Newton, R.A., his collection ranged with confidence across periods and cultures, testament to the exceptional life and mind of the man singled out by Cyril Connolly as one of the most impressive scholar aesthetes of the day.
References: 1. The story is taken from Edwin F. Bryant (trans.), Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God (Srimad Bhagavata Purana, Book X), 2003, chapter 56, pp. 240-244. 2. Four paintings from this series are in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, including the one where Krishna battles Jambavan in his cave (inv. 68.15). This is illustrated in Linda York Leach, Mughal and Other Indian Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library, 1995, vol. II, pp. 1052-1053, cat. no. 11.51.
57 R A D H A M E D I TAT I N G
INDIA (KANGRA), 1775-1780 ASCRIBED TO A MASTER OF THE FIRST GENERATION AFTER NAINSUKH HEIGHT: 17.4 CM WIDTH: 27.1 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration to a Gita Govinda series. Inscribed in devanagari on the verso with a Sanskrit verse from the Gita Govinda, Part IV, verse 8, together with a Hindi paraphrase below. In Barbara Stoler Miller’s translation, Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda, 1977 and 1997, p. 87, the verse reads: “She evokes you in deep meditation to reach your distant form. She laments, laughs, collapses, cries, trembles, utters her pain. Lying dejected by your desertion, fearing Love’s arrows, She clings to you in fantasy, Madhava.” A drawing in liquid sanguine by Nainsukh which has been identified by B. N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer as the preliminary, almost impromptu, sketch for this composition is, together with two other preliminary sketches for paintings in this great Gita Govinda series, on the verso of a drawing of a Poet-Warrior, now in the Museum Rietberg Zürich. This is published in B. N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer, Pahari Masters: Court Painters of Northern India, 1992, pp. 300-301, no. 127.1 Devanagari inscriptions in what appears to be Nainsukh’s own hand, identifying the
subjects of the brief sketches, are written and numbered on the recto above and below the seated figure of the Poet-Warrior. The inscription for the sketch of Radha meditating, which is part of verse 8 given above, is numbered 6 and the sketch is correspondingly numbered 6 on the verso. Written in the top left on the recto of the drawing, with the sketch correspondingly in the top left of the verso, the opening words of verse 8 succinctly describe the scene: “dhyanalayena purah parikalpam…”.2 In the drawing and in our painting, Radha is seated cross-legged, hands folded in the midst of the forest enclosure on a swell on the riverbank, evoking Krishna in deep meditation to reach his distant form. For Goswamy and Fischer, these swift sketches that relate unmistakably to the finished paintings provide strong indication that the Gita Govinda series was envisioned and planned by Nainsukh himself, even though it
was worked on and finished by the next generation. Close to 140 paintings of this Gita Govinda have been published but according to W. G. Archer, the original set must have contained over 150 images. Goswamy and Fischer note the number “151” which appears on possibly the last of the paintings, suggesting that this was the extent of the series. 3 The set of highly refined preparatory drawings for this series that closely correspond with the finished paintings also numbers 151. Many of these drawings are now in the National Museum, New Delhi.4 They show faint underdrawings of the type swiftly sketched by Nainsukh. Archer speculates that the series may have been the work of Khushala, Manaku’s younger son, and Gaudhu, Nainsukh’s second son.5 While this is difficult to substantiate, the paintings clearly relate to the workshop-lineage of Pandit Seu, Nainsukh and Manaku.6 Goswamy believes that the planning and preliminary sketches for many of the paintings were done by the master Nainsukh himself in the last decade of his life. Goswamy and Fischer do not however attempt to designate an individual hand for the completed paintings, attributing them generally to the workshop and a “Master of the First Generation after Nainsukh”.7 Whichever hand was responsible, however, the combination of style and subject in this Gita Govinda series makes it arguably the apotheosis of the idealised vision for which Pahari painting is known, an unblemished world of exquisite people and delightful landscape.8 Darielle Mason observes that while the series retains the delicate detailing of Nainsukh himself, it is
no longer anchored in his love of individualisation but creates and depicts a self-contained dream of earthly perfection. For Goswamy and Fischer, the series ranks among the finest achievements of Pahari painting, epitomising the fluent, effortless naturalism and mellow grace that characterise the remarkable achievements of the First Generation.9 It is generally referred to as the first Kangra Gita Govinda or the Teri Garhwal Gita Govinda series as it was discovered in the Teri Garhwal royal collection by N. C. Mehta in 1926 and subsequently widely dispersed. Archer believes that the series was prepared for Maharaja Sansar Chand of Kangra circa 1780 and reached Teri Garhwal as part of a dowry in 1829. Goswamy and Fischer refer to the series as the second Guler Gita Govinda, on account of its awareness of the first Guler Gita Govinda series of 1730 by Manaku.10 While sketch 6 provides the initial conception for our painting, the sketch numbered 3 clearly relates to the finished painting of “Radha Grieving” now in the Musée Guimet, Paris, illustrated by Goswamy and Fischer on p. 313, fig. 108. They note that sketch 6 finds a parallel in a detail of a painting published in M. S. Randhawa, Kangra Paintings of the Gita Govinda, 1963, p. 62, fig. 22. The parallel is close but not exact. Radha is deep in meditation but her arms are not crossed at her waist as in our painting and in Nainsukh’s sketch, but placed higher on her chest. Her face also exhibits a greater degree of distress as thoughts of Krishna churn through her mind, reflecting another stage of her meditation. Finally, the trees that enclose her press in and partially obscure her body, whereas in our painting and in the sketch Radha sits in a partially open space framed by a comforting but not oppressive semi-circle of trees. Our painting therefore closely follows Nainsukh’s first thoughts much more closely, which have survived almost unchanged in the final composition, including the wrap (dupatta) that protects her head and shoulders.
The detail shown by Randhawa comes from a folio formerly in the collection of Dr. William K. Ehrenfeld, published in Daniel J. Ehnbom, Indian Miniatures: The Ehrenfeld Collection, 1985, pp. 238-239, no. 119. The Ehrenfeld picture has on the left the huddled figure of Radha within her retreat, cut off from the idyllic landscape, while on the open slopes on the right her confidante or sakhi is relating to Krishna the turbulent state of Radha’s mind caused by their long night of separation. The division of the painting into two halves with two simultaneous but separate scenes that speak eloquently of the lovers’ separation is based on the initial division of space in Nainsukh’s sketch 7, though other details, primarily Radha’s meditative posture and the tight enclosure of trees, have changed significantly. And while the brief text for Nainsukh’s sketch comes from Part IV, verse 9, as with our painting and the preliminary sketch for the Guimet’s, which has verse 5, the finished Ehrenfeld painting illustrates Part VI, verse 9, showing how initial ideas for scenes and compositional layouts were adapted to different contexts within the finished series of paintings.
religious eroticism of his masterpiece the Gita Govinda earned sainthood for Jayadeva and a wide audience for the poem. It is a dramatic lyrical poem dedicated in devotion to the god Krishna, concentrating on Krishna’s love for the cowherdess (gopi) Radha in a rite of spring.13 Jayadeva uses intense earthly passion to express the complexities of divine and human love. However, the frank eroticism of the poem has led many commentators to interpret the love between Radha and Krishna as an allegory of the human soul’s love for God, a metaphor for the spiritual yearning of the soul to unite with the divine.14 However, as Miller elucidates, the earthy eroticism that has drawn both admiration and criticism is in fact the essential component that provides the impetus for the progression of the narrative. When expressed through the refining process of the complex lyrical techniques used in Jayadeva’s songs, combined with the conventional language of Sankrit erotic poetry, the poet creates an aesthetic atmosphere of erotic mood (sringarasa) that is bliss for devotees of Krishna.15
In her discussion of the poem in the introduction to her renowned translation, the scholar Barbara Stoler Miller observes that the lyrical
Provenance: Arthur Tooth and Sons Ltd., 31 Bruton Street, London W1, 1974.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Jerry Losty for his expert advice and kind reading the inscriptions.
References: 1. Also published and discussed in B. N. Goswamy, Nainsukh of Guler: A great Indian painter from a small-hill state, 1997, pp. 244-246, no. 97. 2. Ibid., p. 244 and Goswamy and Fischer, 1992, p. 300. 3. Goswamy and Fischer, 1992, p. 312. 4. Ibid.
Jayadeva utilises the unique power and aesthetic potential of sexual passion (ratibhava) in all its aspects of pain and pleasure. The erotic mood that emerges from passion is expressed in the antithetical modes of “separation” (vipralambhasringara) and “consummation” (sambhogasringara). To experience the mood (rasa) in the interplay of these two modes is considered the height of aesthetic joy.16 According to Miller, Jayadeva creates the religiously potent atmosphere of the poem by exploring the poignant feeling of separation within the broader play of divine passion in consummation.17 The poet distills essential qualities from the confusion of spontaneous emotion and then patterns them according to the universalising rules of composition. Sanskrit theorists dictate that the gestures exposing a character’s mental status must be subtle, expressive enough to arouse a
The composer of the Gita Govinda, Jayadeva, was one of the greatest Sanskrit poets and a court poet of the Sena King Lakshmanasena (reigned 1179-1205). Active in the latter half of the twelfth century, Jayadeva is though to have been born in Kindavali, Bengal, though competing traditions locate his birthplace near Puri in Orissa or Kenduli in Mithila.11 Jayadeva reformed the Krishna cult and influenced a number of Vaishnava sects. The Gita Govinda may have been written at the court of Lakshmanasena, or the richly syncretic environment of Puri, where Krishna was worshiped as Jagannatha, “Lord of the World”, by the Vaishnava devotional cult.12
sensitive audience but never so crudely detailed as to stimulate wanton desire. In the Gita Govinda, this restraint functions to make potentially pornographic subject matter the material of aesthetic and religious experience.18 In the superb paintings of this Gita Govinda series, the painters of the First Generation after Nainsukh have created an intense yet highly refined visual correlative that expresses every nuance of Jayadeva’s poem.
5. Ibid. 6. Darielle Mason, Intimate Worlds: Indian Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collecton, 2001, p. 194. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid. 9. Goswamy and Fischer, 1992, pp. 314-317. 10. Summarised in B. N. Goswamy and Eberhard Fischer, “The First Generation after Manaku and Nainsukh of Guler’” in Milo C. Beach, Eberhard Fischer and B. N. Goswamy (eds.) with Jorrit Britschgi (project director), Masters of Indian Painting II: 1650-1900, 2011, p. 689. 11. Anna L. Dallapiccola, Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend, 2002, p. 103; p. 3 and Barbara Stoler Miller, Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda, 1977 and 1997, pp. 4-7. 12. Ibid. 13. Miller, 1997, pp. xiii. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid., pp. 14-15. 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid.
58 QUARREL IN A MARKET
INDIA (PAHARI), 1770-1780 HEIGHT: 15.5 CM WIDTH: 22.5 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. A commotion has broken out between armed men in this lively street scene set in a market place, under the watchful gaze of a young seller of pan and other intoxicants sitting calmly at his stall, ready to serve the motley gathering of soldiers with black shields, holy men with meditation crooks and villagers with cages containing competition song birds. He holds in his hand a heart-shaped betel leaf (tambul) which he fills with condiments like areca nut (supari), lime, catechu resin and spices from exquisite gold vessels that signal his success as a purveyor of mind-altering pleasures to the riotous denizens of this hill town. The assembled pan quids are placed as delectable enticement to the front of his red tablecloth; his other flasks may contain liquid bhang (Cannabis indica) or opium. Whatever the initial cause of the fighting that has broken out, it is clear that the judgment of the combatants has been severely impaired and their emotions greatly heightened by the products of his stall. At the centre of the chaos is a soldier who grabs his opponent by the throat and aims the sharp point of his unsheathed katar (thrust-dagger) into his open mouth. He has leapt on top of his fallen victim, pinning him to the ground with his knee. The assailant has benefitted from the element of surprise as the man in the saffron robe has been unable to unsheathe his sword. Both their turbans, like several of those worn by other figures, have started to unravel. Behind them, another quarrel is about to begin as two soldiers have locked fists in a wrestling hold. Entering the fray to the upper left are more soldiers including one with a ginger beard of Caucasian aspect, and a man with an escaped song bird
perched on his head, dangling a stone on a string as if to hypnotise the man in a red turban holding a spear, who turns back with a jaded expression. Striding majestically into the picture is a corpulent man dressed in white, holding a large mynah on his wrist. At the bottom is a swordsman with a bandaged eye that has been injured or blinded. To the lower right is a man in green who signals to others to join the fight, followed by a mystic wearing a conical hat, balancing a cage containing a small thrush on his finger tips. Three rather subdued figures complete the picture at the top. Sitting in front of smouldering ashes smoking a hookah is an ash-covered ascetic; next to him stands a holy man with a vacant expression holding a bird cage; just behind the stall, a soldier with a blank stare sits huddled in a corner aimlessly twirling his moustache. The figures in this painting demonstrate all the stages of intoxication from pan, drugs and tobacco as described by Ludwig V. Habighorst, Peter A. Reichart and Vijay Sharma in Love for Pleasure: Betel, Tobacco, Wine and Drugs in Indian Miniatures, 2007, p. 112: early excitation, followed by drowsiness, indolence and delusion. According to Habighorst, the status of intoxication is always depicted in a similar way: an absent expression on the face; a turban unfolding; a bird sitting on a head or shoulder; empty cages; pots and bottles falling down. He illustrates on pp. 110-111, figs. 72 and 73, two paintings with intoxicated figures, loosened turbans, escaped birds and all the accoutrements of drug preparation and ingestion. Sunil Sharma has drawn our attention to a Mughal painting of circa 1604 from the Gulistan of Sa’di depicting “An Altercation in a Bazaar”, published by Joseph M. Dye III in “Imperial Mughal Painting” in Zeenut Ziad (ed.), The Magnificent Mughals, 2002, p. 161, fig. 122. In a crowded street a foolish man has grabbed a wise man by the collar but for Sa’di,
a wise man who involves himself in a fight is no wiser than the greatest fool. The two main combatants and wildly reacting crowd are watched by a chapati seller who is as serene and unflappable as our drug-smith. Though clearly the work of a supremely accomplished painter, the authorship of this picture remains an enigma. The scholars to whom we have presented the painting for discussion have instinctively suggested that it might be a late work by the great artist Nainsukh of Guler or someone closely associated with him, a son or nephew. The style of the beautifully drawn and highly characterful faces is very close to that of Nainsukh and we can suggest a tentative attribution to him. The colour is stronger than we normally find in paintings by Nainsukh but in this instance he might have used colour to heighten emotion and also indicate the less than refined social standing of the characters. A quality that we associate with Nainsukh is a certain stillness at the core of his paintings and the composition seems too hectic for Nainsukh. On the other hand, it is difficult to think of another painter with such an interest in individualised physiognomies and character as opposed to idealisation of features, and while the painting is splendidly satirical, the warmth and humanity of the depiction ensure that it never descends into caricature. Finally the pan seller with his trailing locks and the unusual later border are both Mandi in style. Could it be that Nainsukh, who died in 1778, made at the end of a long illustrious career a late masterpiece for the idiosyncratic Shamsher Sen whose equally long reign ended in 1781?
Provenance: The Françoise and Claude Bourelier Collection, Paris
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Robert Skelton, Roselyne Hurel and Sunil Sharma for their expert advice and kind discussion of this fascinating painting with us.
59 PRINCESS VISITING AN ASCETIC
INDIA (KANGRA), CIRCA 1820 HEIGHT: 23.2 CM WIDTH: 18.8 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. In the idyllic setting of a forest hermitage on a promontory jutting into a meandering river, a beautiful princess holds the arm of a youthful ascetic who stands before a thatched hut on his meditation mat. Placed on the mat are libation vessels, a meditation cushion and a holy text for the recitation of mantras. Behind the ascetic is a deer that seems just as surprised as the rishi at the sudden intrusion into his remote abode, dedicated to austerities and the solitary study of sacred manuscripts, by a perfumed, hennaed, bejewelled, and sumptuously dressed lady from the city that we see in the far distance. The deer’s response mimics that of its master, lifting one hoof as the ascetic lifts the palm of his free hand to protest, though not too vehemently, at the unexpected predicament in which he finds himself. In contrast to the woman’s splendour, the ascetic wears a simple robe and a string of prayer beads. Behind him are earthenware lotas stacked on wooden racks and inside the hut, a dhoti and a yogapatta (meditation strap) are hung on a rod. Yet the lush setting with a pleasant springtime climate, abundant fruit and blossoms, fresh water from the river and the company of birds and beasts, affirm that the ascetic has hitherto everything he needs to achieve his spiritual goals. In a palace beyond the river, two men can be seen conversing. They may be the narrators of the scene, telling the story that unfolds so charmingly before our eyes. The river flowing in the foreground curves back in the middle ground to suggest the promontory. The painting has no inscriptions to identify the ascetic but Roselyne Hurel has kindly drawn our attention to
parallels with the story of Rishyashringa, a young sage who resides in the forest, devoted to holy study, spiritual practices and austerities, wholly unacquainted with women, whom he has never seen, or the pursuit of pleasure. His father is the sage Vibhandaka, and his mother is a doe, hence his name Rishyashringa, which means “deer-horned”. He is often depicted with a protuberance on his forehead and while this is not evident in our painting, the deer may be the symbol that identifies him. There are various Hindu and Buddhist versions of his story but his appearance in the opening chapters of the Ramayana has all the salient features.1 King Dasaratha has no heir and is advised by his counsellors to conduct the auspicious horse sacrifice (Ashvamedha) in order to be blessed with a son. His chief minister Sumantra relates the story of Rishyashringa to demonstrate how eminently suitable he would be to conduct the ritual. He tells Dasaratha the tale of King Romapada of Anga, whose oppression of his citizens has caused a severe drought in his country that only a great practitioner of brahmacharya (the double vows of celibacy and austerity during the student stage of a young man’s life) can resolve. Romapada’s ministers suggest that Rishyashringa should be lured to the capital by sending the most alluring courtesans to entice him from his hermitage. They also suggest that he offers his daughter Princess Shanta in marriage to the rishi.
turmoil. The next day he returns to the spot where he first met the irresistible creatures and they invite him to “their hermitage, where fruits and roots of every type can be found in abundance.” As he enters the city of Anga, it begins to rain. Romapada then introduces him to the most beautiful woman of them all, his bride, the Princess Shanta. While most illustrations of Rishyashringa show him being visited by several women, such as a related painting that depicts “A group of women visiting Rishyashringa” in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, in our painting Shanta herself visits the hermit. The narrators may be identified as Sumantra telling the story to Dasaratha.
Provenance: The Carter Burden Collection, New York
Published: Sotheby’s, The Carter Burden Collection of Indian Paintings, New York, 27th March 1991, lot 62.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Roselyne Hurel for her expert advice.
Reference: 1. The story is taken from Arshia Sattar (trans.), Valmiki: The Ramayana, 1996, pp. 20-25; and Hari Prasad Shastri (trans.), The Ramayana
When the women approach the hermitage, Rishyashringa is stunned as he has never seen a woman before, or any other human being apart from his strict father Vibhandaka, who is out gathering herbs. He invites them into his hermitage, washes their feet and offers them fruits and roots; they in turn ply him with delicious confections which he has never tasted and thinks of as strange and wonderful fruits. They sing, dance and caress the youth. After they take their hurried leave to avoid being caught by Vibhandaka’s return, Rishyashringa spends a night in
of Valmiki, 1953 & 1962, vol. 1, pp. 25-28, chapters 9 and 10.
60 THE DEMON NIKUMBHA KIDNAPS P R I N C E S S B H A N U M AT I
INDIA (KANGRA), CIRCA 1820 HEIGHT: 37 CM WIDTH: 47 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 the number “92” on the flyleaf and on the reverse. The red-skinned demon Nikumbha has captured the Yadava princess Bhanumati from the golden palace of her father, Bhanu, much to the distress of the Yadava ladies who watch helplessly as he takes off into the sky. The crowned figures seen three times in the continuous narrative are Vasudeva, Krishna’s father dressed in green, and Ugrasena, Krishna’s maternal grandfather and king of Mathura, who wears a pink robe. Suddenly realising the abduction of Bhanumati due to the commotion in the palace courtyard, they leave their antechamber, quickly arm themselves, then set off at high speed in their horse-drawn chariots to ask for Krishna’s help. The action of the painting proceeds forcefully from right to left, following in the demon’s trail and left behind by his upward trajectory. Nikumbha is the demon king of Shatpura (six towns) 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 Nikumbha 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 who abducts princess Bhanumati. In this painting, we see him just before he transforms into a bird and takes flight. The story progresses with the rescue of Bhanumati by Pradyumna, Krishna’s son, and the defeat of Nikumbha by Krishna, Pradyumna and Arjuna with the help of Garuda after a protracted battle, during which the demon seems at times invincible. The thoroughly enjoyable saga of Nikumbha is one that the painters of this Harivamsha series have relished illustrating as it affords many opportunities to depict dynamic action. A painting published in our Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, 2010, pp. 102-103, cat. no. 45, depicts a battle to rescue the three abducted daughters of the pious Brahmin, Brahmadatta. The painting shows three identical versions of the multiplied demon king carrying the limp bodies of the three daughters in the midst of battle. In the narrative of the Harivamsha, this is a scene anterior to the abduction of Bhanumati. Another picture illustrated in the 2013 Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, pp. 130-133, cat. no. 50, shows a great battle with Nikumbha after Bhanumati has been rescued by Pradyumna. As with the present painting, it uses continuous narrative to great effect, showing 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.
make a pilgrimage to a sacred bathing place by the sea to celebrate a joyous festival by frolicking in the waters, an episode that has resulted in the famous sequence of swimming pictures with many partially disrobed figures cavorting in the water with a delightful sense of play. Two are published in the Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art 2006 catalogue, pp. 164-171, cat. nos. 75 and 76. It is during the course of the riotous festivities that Nikumbha, seizing his chance with Krishna distracted and away, kidnaps the princess. 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. The story of Nikumbha appears in Parva.2.90.
Provenance: Private German Collection, acquired
The story of Bhanumati’s abduction takes place when the entire Yadava clan led by Krishna and Balarama
from the Royal Mandi Library in 1969. The fly-leaf bears the stamp of the Mandi Royal Collection.
61 K R I S H N A A N D B A L A R A M A L I B E R AT I N G T H E I R PA R E N T S VA S U D E VA A N D D E VA K I INDIA (KANGRA), CIRCA 1830 HEIGHT: 36 CM WIDTH: 47.5 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration from a Bhagavata Purana series. The demon king Kamsa and his wrestlers have been defeated by Krishna and Balarama in the arena during the festivities of the sacred bow in Mathura. Krishna has killed Kamsa by dragging him from his throne by the hair and dashing his body to the ground. With the demon forces overthrown and the long era of Kamsa’s tyranny brought to a welcome end, Krishna and Balarama liberate their parents Vasudeva and Devaki from the prison at Kamsa’s palace, where he has shackled them for years.
The mauve-skinned Krishna and the white-skinned Balarama, as well as their parents, Vasudeva and Devaki, are all identified by their names inscribed in devanagari above their heads. The family are shown twice in the continuous narrative: entering the palace and seated inside a chamber. They are accompanied by gopas (cowherds). The female figures seen in the surrounding palace rooms are the wives of Kamsa and his courtiers, whom Krishna comforts for their loss. According to Stanislaw Czuma, the intensity of colouring; the busy composition with multiple scenes connected by diagonals and horizontals; the large size of the folio; as well as the general style of figures and facial types, all suggest that the painting was done no earlier than 1830 and possibly slightly later. Provenance: The George P. Bickford Collection, acquired before 2nd February, 1962. The painting was
The brothers pay homage to their parents by respectfully touching their feet with their heads. There is an awkward moment when Vasudeva and Devaki suddenly realise that their sons are the Lords of the universe. Awed and bewildered by their divine presence, they do not dare embrace the children whom they have not seen since they were born and magically transported to Vrindavan.
on loan to the Cleveland Museum of Art from 2nd February, 1962 to 6th June, 1984.
Published: Stanislaw Czuma, Indian Art from the George P. Bickford Collection, 1975, cat. no. 121.
Exhibited: Indian Art from the George P. Bickford Collection, 14th January - 16th February, 1975 at the Cleveland Museum of Art; 20th March - 25th April, 1975 at University Art
Realising their predicament, Krishna casts over his parents the “curtain of maya, which infatuates the world”, so that he and Balarama appear as nothing more than their sons. He then bows to them humbly and speaks sadly of the years they could have spent together as a family, now irretrievably lost to the forces of destiny. At this point, unable to contain their emotions and choked with tears, the parents break down and embrace their sons with extreme joy.
Museum, the University of Texas in Austin; 5th October - 9th November, 1975 at Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois in Champaign; 3rd February - 7th March, 1976 at Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; 28th March - 3rd May, 1976 at University Gallery, University of Florida in Gainesville; 28th May - 30th July, 1976 at Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona; 5th October - 28th November, 1976 at University Art Museum, University of California at Berkeley; 2nd January - 13th February, 1977 at University of Michigan Museum of Art at Ann Arbor.
62 SUDAMA VISITS KRISHNA DURING THE RAINY SEASON
INDIA (KANGRA), 1830-1840 HEIGHT: 29.8 CM WIDTH: 39.5 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration from a Krishna-Sudama series. Inscribed in devanagari with Sanskrit verses on the reverse that compare the sky of the rainy season to Krishna’s body: “Then the rainy season being upon them, together with all its qualities, the circle of the world being lit by lightning and the surface of the sky resounding with the thunder, [Krishna’s] deep blue body seemed, to those who understood, like Brahma himself with all his qualities clothed in light illuminated by the thundering sky and the flashing lightning.” The text from which these verses come is unknown. They are not from the Bhagavata Purana, which tells the story of Sudama in chapters 80-81 of Book X. The verses here are numbered 3 and 4 from chapter 20, and this is painting no. 77 from what is evidently a large series.
It is possible that the verses are a Sanskrit translation of a long Hindi poem, the Sudama charita by Narottam Das (1550-1605). If so, this would be most unusual as the famous Hindi poem is much better known. Sudama, childhood friend of Krishna, is a supreme Brahman and master of the Vedas. Serene of mind, with no worldly attachments, Sudama leads a life of spiritual purity but great privation. Sudama and his wife have little to eat, are clad in rags and dwell in a decrepit hovel. Emaciated with hunger, Sudama’s wife begs him to visit Krishna, now a great king in Dvaraka. Krishna, she implores, will understand his circumstances and bestow wealth on a poverty-stricken householder. Reluctantly, Sudama agrees. She gives him four handfuls of fried and beaten parched rice (prthukas) tied up in an old cloth as a gift to Krishna.
underlined by the presence of two gopas (cowherds) in the magnificent palace and the four cows snug in the warm stable below. In contrast to the gemütlich of the interior scenes is the storm that rages outside: curved flashes of golden lightning in the dark swirling clouds; flocks of sarus cranes taking flight; peacocks sheltering on the eaves; water levels rising dangerously up the swollen river banks; and townsfolk pointing at the spectacle with alarm. These are all elements we associate with the iconography of the monsoon month of Bhadon (August/September) in Baramasa (Twelve Months) paintings. The artist has taken inspiration from the inscription, comparing Krishna’s body to the rainy season, to incorporate the striking imagery of Bhadon into his Sudama narrative.
The story has a happy ending. Krishna welcomes his friend with open arms, embraces Sudama with tears in his eyes, washes his feet and sprinkles drops of water from the basin on his own head. Though Sudama is too reserved to offer his humble gift, Krishna seizes the parcel and eats the flat rice with delight and appreciation. Next morning, Sudama takes leave of Krishna. All this time, he has not had the courage to ask for anything. Sudama arrives home to find his hut magically transformed into a palace surrounded by pleasure gardens. His wife emerges with ecstatic delight to receive him, looking like the goddess Lakshmi. Without a word being said, Krishna has guessed at Sudama’s need and attended to it.
The Pearl King Collection
Pearl King (1918-2015) was a leading British psychoanalyst at the forefront of the fields of organisational and industrial psychology. As well as a clinician, King was a historian and archivist of her discipline. Her most important book, The Freud-Klein Controversies 1941-1945, discussed the internecine disagreements between the followers of Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. She owed allegiance to neither, moving easily across different schools of theory. King’s own analyst had been John Rickman, himself analysed by Sigmund Freud, Sándor Ferenczi and Klein, and like Rickman she found her own distinctive path. She was friends with Jacques Lacan, who introduced her to Indian miniatures. Her long-time companion, with whom she entered into civil partnership in 2005, was Elizabeth (Tina) Carlile, a
In this painting, Sudama arrives in rags at Dvaraka. We then see him again, dressed in finery, seated in a palace chamber with Krishna, Balarama and Rukmini, who listen with rapt attention to his learned discourse. The fact that Krishna never forgets his childhood or his friends is
Canadian artist whom she met just after the Second World War. Carlile influenced King in her interest in eastern religion and theosophy, though she also returned to her Anglican faith.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Jerry Losty for his expert advice and kind reading of the Sanskrit inscriptions.
63 R A J A B A G H S I N G H O F A O R WA R A S H O O T I N G W I L D B O A R
INDIA (JODHPUR), CIRCA 1830 HEIGHT: 26 CM WIDTH: 33.3 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold and silver on paper. Inscribed on the reverse in devanagari: raje shri bagh sighji // mohai batta sighotai // khanp jodha: thikano auravarai “Raja Bagh Singhji, son of Moha B(h)att Singh, of the Jodha clan [and] Aorwara thikana”.1 In this charming picture, Raja Bagh Singh, a minor raja from the Marwar thikana (fiefdom) of Aorwara, is shown shooting wild boar in a rocky landscape dotted with scrub vegetation. Low-lying trees and shrubs, with stylised triangular shapes and variegated leaves, form attractive patterns against horizontal lines of craggy rocks, dry sands and spiky tufts of grass. The elements of the landscape combine to generate a terrific visual rhythm, at once bracing yet hypnotic. The gentle curve of the horizon in the distance is marked by a cusped line of trees, echoed by low-lying clouds that hang pendant, theatrically enclosing a strip of sky above and a white marble palace of dollhouse
proportions on the left, no doubt Bagh Singh’s residence. A silvery pond on the side and a stream in the foreground offer sporadic refreshment to the sparse landscape, so characteristic of the Rajasthani hinterland that borders the desert sands. Hidden in the scrub are diminutive birds and hare, tiny deer and a very small tiger. This attendant cast of Lilliputian animals indicates the range of game that may be hunted in these scrub lands, but the large and magnificent boar is clearly the desired prize. Bagh Singh wears a green robe tied with a vermilion patka (sash), lavender riding boots, and a red and white chevron turban tied with a gold chevron headband, capped by a feathered aigrette (sarpech). Suspended from his patka are a sword in a velvet scabbard and an ornately decorated and painted powder horn, which holds the charge powder for his musket. He kneels down to shoot, taking steady aim at the boar which has stopped to drink at the pond on the opposite side of the picture. Bagh Singh has injured the boar on the forehead, though not yet killed it completely. It now staggers on the edge of the pond, about to collapse into the water with bent knee. A second boar hides from the guns behind an outcrop of pink rocks.
Two retainers stand behind the raja, one with a second gun at the ready. Like the raja, the retainer also has an exuberantly decorated powder horn slung on his belt. Two grooms on the horizon stand guard with the raja’s horse. One of the grooms tries to soothe the agitated horse by tugging gently at the reins and staring calmly at the horse, which has been excited by the sound of gunshots and snorts with open mouth and flaring nostrils. The horse rears and backs into the border of the painting on the right. The two grooms facing in opposite directions echo the two boars doing the same. According to M. A. Sherring in The tribes and castes of Rajasthan, 1881, pp. 29-31, the Jodha sub-clan of the Rathor Rajputs traces its descent from Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur state. Aorwara was a thikana chieftainship in Banswara district, south-east of Udaipur, held by members of the Mairtia branch of the Jodha clan.2
Provenance: The Stuart Cary Welch Collection Acquired by Maggs Bros. Ltd., London, on Tuesday, 12th December 1972 from the auction at Sotheby’s, New Bond Street, London, of Fine Indian and Persian Miniatures and a Manuscript: The Property of Cary Welch, 1972, lot 136.
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Andrew Topsfield for his expert advice and kind reading of the inscription.
References: 1. Topsfield observes that the name of Raja Bagh Singh literally means “King Tiger Lion”. 2. M. A. Sherring, The tribes and castes of Rajasthan, 1881, p. 30.
64 MALABAR TROGON
INDIA (CALCUTTA), DATED 1779 BY SHEIKH ZAYN AL-DIN HEIGHT: 53.2 CM WIDTH: 75.3 CM
Pencil, pen and ink, and watercolour with gum Arabic heightened with bodycolour on English paper watermarked, “J Whatman”. Numbered “65” in the upper left corner and stamped with the rectangular seal of Sir Elijah Impey on the reverse, located on the diagonal branch below the claws of the bird. Inscribed in the lower left corner: “In the Collection of Lady Impey/Painted by (Zayn al-Din) Native of Patna 1779” Further inscribed above with identifications in Bengali; the uppermost inscription reads: bari-karibi (karabi?) Though the word is spelt karibi, it is likely to be karabi, the Bengali name for Oleander. Below is the identification of the bird: tatmur(?) ya suda suhagin “Tatmur(?) or Suda Sohagin”. Suda Sohagin is the Bengali name for the Fasciated Curucui. This painting is mentioned in John Latham, A General History of Birds, Volume III, Winchester, 1822, p. 213. In his discussion of the Fasciated Curucui, Latham writes of his communication with Dr Francis Buchanan to whom live examples of both sexes were sent for examination. He also writes that Curucui are described from drawings
by Mr Middleton and, “This is likewise figured among those of Lady Impey, but in the latter, the band on the breast is very narrow.” It is clear that Latham is referring to this very painting.
forwards” arrangement of parrots and woodpeckers; but there is a difference. Instead of the outer toe facing backwards to lie parallel with the hind toe, in trogons it is the inner toe that is rotated.
We can identify the Fasciated Curucui in this painting by its modern name Malabar Trogon (Harpactes fasciatus). It sits on a branch of an exquisite flowering shrub with turning leaves.
Another famous trogon fact is that they have skin “like wet tissue paper”, prone to tearing and shedding feathers, which makes them the most difficult of all bird families to prepare as museum specimens. They are cursed by taxidermists everywhere and barely any reference to trogons exists in the scientific literature that does not make a passing remark about this.
Trogons, or “Curucui Birds” as they were sometimes known in the past, are among the most beautiful and striking of all tropical bird families. They have a remarkably wide distribution, being found throughout the tropics: in South and Central America, Africa and Asia, though they are thought to have originated in Africa. This bird is a female; the males are elaborately ornate, with bright red underparts, a rich brown back, black head and bright blue facial skin. Despite their great beauty, trogons are notoriously difficult to spot as they perch motionless for hours at a time in the shady forest interior. Occasionally they make a sallying foray to grab some choice insect, before returning to their perch again. Although they spend most of their time just sitting, they are barely mobile when perched; their legs are positively tiny and walking is out of the question. This is not a disadvantage for a trogon, however. Sitting still is what they are good at, and it works equally well for evading predators and remaining unseen by prey. Besides, they are superbly manoeuvrable in the air and are very strong flyers.
Despite the Bengali inscription naming the plant as an Oleander, the flowering shrub is in fact the Melastoma malabathricum, a widespread South and Southeast Asian species. According to E. G. Balfour’s Cyclopaedia of India, 1857, it is “one of the Black-Dye Plants of Asia “, with edible fruit, and in Bengal “cultivated as a garden flower”. The longitudinally veined leaves and curiously curved anthers or stamens reminiscent of spiders’ legs are distinctive features of the Melastomataceae family.
Provenance: Sir Elijah and Lady Impey The Linnaen Society since 1855 which sold the painting at Sotheby’s, London, 10th June, 1963, lot 44. The Anthony Hobson Collection
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Katrina van Grouw for her identification of the bird and kind preparation of the notes for this catalogue description; Henry Noltie for
Trogons are unique in the bird world for the unusual structure of their feet. At first glance they appear to have the “two toes backwards, two toes
his identification of the plant; and Will Kwiatkowski for his reading of the inscriptions as well as his discovery of the painting’s mention by Latham.
65 BOMBAX CEIBA
INDIA (CALCUTTA), 1800-1805 HEIGHT: 51.9 CM WIDTH: 36.5 CM
Watercolour heightened with gum Arabic on English paper watermarked, “J Whatman”. Inscribed in brown ink to the lower left corner: Monadelphia Polyandria. Bombax ceiba of Linnous. Seemul This magnificent watercolour depicts the fruits and flowers of Bombax ceiba, a large Indo-Malayan tree that flowers before the leaves. The flowers are brilliant pink, crimson, orange, yellow or a light scarlet. They are large, with soft hair. The fruit is egg-shaped, with dark brown seeds inside embedded in white cotton wool. The cotton is called Indian Kapok, and is used for stuffing pillows and mattresses. It is a medicinal plant, used for curing tuberculosis of the lung in Ayurvedic medicine, and it heals gum wounds. The calyx of the flower is used as a vegetable.1 The great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, makes numerous references to the Shalmali tree. Brahma, the creator of the world, rested under this tree, tired and exhausted after the creative act. It is also called Yamadruma (Yama being the god of death), as it makes a great show of flowers but has no
edible fruit. Its wood is used in funeral pyres. Shalmali has thorny branches having been cursed by Draupadi, who was annoyed at being tricked into massaging a log by one of her husbands, Bhimsena.2 The botanical authority William Roxburgh (1751-1815), was the Superintendent of the East India Company’s Botanic Garden at Sibpur, on the west bank of the Hooghly River, just north of the Calcutta outskirts, from 1793 to 1813.3 Roxburgh may have been the first British botanist to commission native artists to produce watercolours of indigenous flora, employing Indian painters when he was previously in charge of the Company’s garden at Samalkot, 360 miles north of Madras on the Coromandel Coast, where he worked for twelve years prior to his move to Calcutta. The superb group of drawings from which this watercolour comes was almost certainly made at Sibpur under Roxburgh’s supervision.4 This drawing was part of a group belonging to Edward Smith Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby (1775-1851) and formed part of his unparalleled collection of horticultural books, prints and drawings kept at Knowsley Hall, Merseyside. Lord Derby was still in his early twenties when he began his collection, and may have
acquired them from the patron who commissioned them. Lord Derby was the president of the Linnean Society from 1828 to 1834, and the London Zoological Society from 1831 until his death in 1851, and so was a key figure in natural history circles.5 In the last decades of the eighteenth century, just before these drawings were made, botany became a fashionable hobby among all classes of society. This was partly due to the work of Carl von Linné, a Swedish botanist known as Carolus Linneaus who in his Species Plantarum, 1753, established a system of binomial nomenclature, the naming of plants by two words, using a genus name and a specific name, for example, Bombax ceiba.6
individuals - amongst others, Carolus Linneaus, Sir Joseph Banks, Colonel Robert Kyd, Roxburgh and Francis Buchanan - each of whom pushed back the boundaries of knowledge, often at considerable personal cost. Their spirit of enquiry resulted in this record of botanical specimens at a time when the wealth of India’s flora and fauna was first being revealed to the West.8 Provenance: Edward Smith Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby
Exhibited and Published: Fifty-One Flowers: Botanical Watercolours from Bengal, London, May 2006, Colnaghi in association with Hobhouse Limited, pp. 68-69, cat. no. 36.
The drawings, which have been in the Earl of Derby’s important private collection for the past two hundred years, are the product of a fleeting historical moment, when the Western interest in science combined with the eastern tradition of fine workmanship to create images both accurate and beautiful, highly decorative as well as scientifically useful.7 According to William Chubb, the story of how they came to be made involves a series of
1. The notes for this catalogue entry are compiled from the Colnaghi catalogue, with its introduction written by William Chubb, pp. 7-17, and the catalogue entry no. 36, pp. 68-69, edited by Chubb from information provided by Henry Noltie and Vibhuti Sachdev. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid.
66 EUROPEANS ON FIVE ELEPHANTS HUNT A TIGER IN THE MARSHLAND GRASSES
INDIA (LUCKNOW ), CIRCA 1810 FOLIO: HEIGHT: 44 CM WIDTH: 63.5 CM MINIATURE: HEIGHT: 37.2 CM WIDTH: 56.2 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. Four Europeans seated in howdahs on elephants with Indian mahouts and riflemen, accompanied by hunters with bows and arrows on a fifth elephant, progress steadily through the tall marshland grasses as they close in on their prey, a huge tiger who leaps fearsomely out of the grass, claws unfurled and mouth open in a roar. Next to the tiger are the skeletal remains of an animal, perhaps a goat or deer that it has just eaten. The atmosphere is charged; the striking composition dramatically pits the encroaching hunters on the right against the empty wilderness on the left, where nothing can be seen for miles except the waving wetland grasses concealing the tiger under the austere blue sky. A trickling stream in the foreground completes the forbidding territory.
This painting and its companion, cat. no. 67, depict scenes from a hunting expedition that takes place during the reign of Nawab Asaf al-Daula of Awadh (1775-1797), seen shooting a tiger from a howdah in the next picture. In keeping with a scene from his reign, the Europeans seated in the howdahs have late eighteenth century costumes and hairstyles. However, Jerry Losty has observed that the two paintings cannot be as early as late eighteenth century in date as their composition and landscape clearly show the influence of Thomas Williamson and Samuel Howitt’s Oriental Field Sports; Being a Complete, Detailed, and Accurate Description of the Wild Sports of the East, which was published in 1807. This is a lavish two-volume work in which hand-tinted aquatints by Howitt are interspersed with anecdotes by Captain Williamson, who spent twenty years in Bengal. Several of the hunting scenes depicted by Howitt take place in territory filled with long grasses and these clearly provided inspiration for the present two pictures.
which did not linger as late as 1810. A possible source may be the print of Johann Zoffany’s “Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match”, the painting of which is now at the Tate Britain Gallery, London. Our very interesting Lucknow watercolour is clearly influenced by European sources and presumably done for a European client. Despite the early compositional date, the striking modernity of the design and the way the tiger emerges out of a sea of dense vegetation, prefigure the work of Henri “Le Douanier” Rousseau by nearly a century. The Victoria and Albert Museum has a similar Lucknow watercolour of “Four elephants with Europeans seated in howdahs taking part in a tiger hunt”, (IS.1-1964). This is published but not illustrated in Mildred Archer, Company Paintings: Indian Paintings of the British Period, 1992, p. 124, no. 93. Archer tells us that the picture is published on the dust jacket of Peggy Woodford’s Rise of the Taj, 1978, which shows the enormous tiger leaping from the grass. Provenance: Colonel Robert Dundas Alexander (1880-1948)
The Europeans on the other hand seem not to be taken from Howitt, but from an earlier source since some have their hair en queue, a fashion
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Jerry Losty for his expert advice on this pair of paintings.
67 N AWA B A S A F A L - D A U L A A N D H I S E N T O U R A G E O N N I N E E L E P H A N T S H U N T A T I G E R AT TA C K I N G A H O R S E M A N INDIA (LUCKNOW ), CIRCA 1810 FOLIO: HEIGHT: 44.4 CM WIDTH: 63 CM MINIATURE: HEIGHT: 40.2 CM WIDTH: 58.5 CM
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. In the centre of a semi-circle formed by an expedition of hunters riding on nine elephants, a tiger has brought down a horse and its now unconscious rider. The tiger has gripped the horseman with its claws and bites the back of his neck as the struggling horse turns back to look helplessly, its eyes open wide in terror. Coming perhaps too late to the rescue are the hunters with long flintlock guns riding in howdahs, accompanied by an entourage armed with bows and arrows. This dramatic hunting scene takes place amidst tall marshland grasses growing almost as high as the elephants, with wet swampy patches seen to the foreground. The grand Indian ruler shaded by a royal umbrella is Nawab Asaf al-Daula of Awadh (reigned 1775-1797). The man with a green turban next to him, or perhaps the man in blue seated in the next howdah, may be a depiction of his chief minister and favourite body guard Hasan Reza Khan. Hasan Reza also had a distinctive moustache, with a dramatic upward curl, but the arm of the man in the green turban blocks his face as he takes aim at the tiger so we cannot
be certain of his identity. A delightful detail is how the hunters close one eye to make an accurate shot. In keeping with a scene from the reign of Asaf al-Daula, the two Europeans seated in the howdahs look eighteenth century in costume as well as hairstyle. However, Jerry Losty has observed that this painting and its companion, cat. no. 66, cannot be as early as late eighteenth century in date as their composition and landscape clearly show the influence of Thomas Williamson and Samuel Howitt’s Oriental Field Sports; Being a Complete, Detailed, and Accurate Description of the Wild Sports of the East, which was published in 1807. This is a lavish two-volume work in which magnificent hand-tinted aquatint illustrations by Howitt are interspersed with anecdotes by Captain Williamson, who spent twenty years in Bengal. It is described by C. F. G. R. Schwerdt as the “most beautiful book of Indian sport in existence”. The Europeans on the other hand seem not to be taken from that publication but from an earlier source since some have their hair en queue, a fashion which did not linger as late as 1810.
A possible source may be the print of Johann Zoffany’s “Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match”, the painting of which is now at the Tate Britain Gallery, London. An illegitimate son of the Earl of Peterborough, the illiterate Mordaunt was a particular favourite of Asaf al-Daula. He was commander of the nawab’s bodyguard and leader of court amusements, including the cock-fights. It is tempting to speculatively identify the European figure in the red jacket as Mordaunt. Zoffany’s painting includes all the major figures at the Lucknow court including Antoine Polier, Claude Martin, John Wombwell, Robert Gregory and Lieutenant Golding. It seems reasonable to assume that some of these court favourites from the inner circle would also accompany the nawab on a tiger hunt.
Provenance: Colonel Robert Dundas Alexander (1880-1948)
68 A CHESTNUT C ARRIAGE HORSE HARNESSED AND HELD BY A GROOM
BY SHAYKH MUHAMMAD AMIR OF KARRAYA INDIA (CALCUTTA), CIRCA 1835 HEIGHT: 33 CM WIDTH: 47.5 CM
Pencil and watercolour on paper. Inscribed: “Shaykh Muhammad Amir Musawwir [pronounced Mosavver in Persian, meaning ‘Painter’]” With a note written in pencil by the patron, Thomas Holroyd, in the lower margin: “Maidan Calcutta – One, of ten – driven alternately in the Coach – each could do her mile in 3 minutes – T. H.” This elegant painting of a chestnut carriage horse, harnessed and held by the groom, comes from Thomas Holroyd’s album of pictures, given to the Oriental Club in Hanover Square when he became a member in 1839 and sold by the Oriental Club in December 1961. Horse and groom stand on a sandy patch of ground with a gentle landscape dotted with trees in the background. The horse is wearing a harness for a carriage but Holroyd’s note suggests that his horses were used for both carriage work and racing alternately. Horseracing was extremely popular in nineteenth century Calcutta, with the circuit laid out at the bottom end of the Maidan, the present home of the Royal Calcutta Turf Club. It is clear that Holroyd was proud of the speed of his horses. Horseracing was the passion of many a displaced Englishman out in India, such as Walter Raleigh Gilbert, whom Holroyd must have known. There is a painting of one of Gilbert’s racehorses, circa 1820, in the collection of the British Library in London. Under Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General from 1774, Calcutta developed rapidly, fine neoclassical
buildings were constructed and many British settled there. The new breed of Calcutta residents were no longer the tough adventurers of old, but cultured and educated patrons of the arts such as the Chief Justice of Bengal, Sir Elijah Impey, and his wife Lady Mary, who commissioned Indian artists to paint subjects of special interest to them. 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 and 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 Shaykh Muhammad Amir’s paintings are the view of a splendid neoclassical mansion and its grounds with an artificial lake, and pictures of carriages, servants, horses and dogs, all made for an eminent and wealthy but now unknown resident. Two paintings from this fine set now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, are published in Mildred Archer, Company Paintings: Indian Paintings of the British Period, 1992, pp. 104-105, cat. nos. 80(i) and 80 (ii). These depict “A carriage with a groom standing beside a horse” and “Two dogs sitting in the compound of a Calcutta house”.
Welch also illustrates on p. 71 and on his front cover the painting “Pony Riding”, in which a European child accompanied by servants goes riding, its back to us and its face completely hidden by its bonnet. Welch observes that such isolation not only symbolises the position of the English in India before the Mutiny but was also one of the causes of the Mutiny. Welch further notes that though Shaykh Muhammad Amir’s work is often touched by humour and whimsy, his paintings also contain elements of sadness, as though he knew that the world he was recording would soon be disrupted. Another Calcutta businessman, Thomas Holroyd, Esq. of No. 5 Park Street, Chowringhee, commissioned a famous album of pictures from Shaykh Muhammad Amir that included his house, servants and carriage. Our painting of a horse and groom comes from this album. Welch illustrates on p. 72, no. 24, a picture from this set of a “Palankeen with Bearers”. Holroyd’s Palladian house at 5 Park Street is illustrated in Stuart Cary Welch, A Flower from Every Meadow: Indian Paintings from American Collections, 1973, p. 123, no. 73.
Provenance: Thomas Holroyd The Oriental Club, Hanover, Square, London The painting was part of the album given by Holroyd to the Oriental Club after he
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. In addition to the pair of dogs published by Archer, Welch illustrates two paintings now in the India Office at the British Library, London, depicting the view of a “House and garden”, and a picture of “A tandem harnessed to a high-wheeled gig”.
became a member in 1839. Sold by the Oriental Club in December 1961 Maggs Bros. Ltd., June 1962
Published: Maggs Bros. Ltd., Oriental Miniatures & Illumination, Bulletin No. 3, June 1962, p. 56, no. 57.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Roselyne Hurel and Jerry Losty for their expert advice.
69 THE PERSIAN AMBASSADOR ASKER KHAN
FRANCE (PARIS), DATED 1808
coming into the picture, and a small face inked on his collar.
BY JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID (1748-1825) HEIGHT: 10.2 CM WIDTH: 7.2 CM
Pen and black ink on paper. Inscribed, signed and dated by the artist on the left of the sheet: Croquis d’Asker Kan ambassadeur/ du roi de Perse en 1808/par David “Sketch of Asker Khan ambassador of the King of Persia in 1808 by David” In this elegant bust portrait of Asker Khan, the ambassador is depicted facing left with a full beard and wearing a tall and impressive turban. His shoulder is inscribed with numerals. On the reverse of the sheet, turned in orientation from portrait to landscape, is the swiftly sketched face of a man with a moustache, the brim of his hat just
Asker Khan Afshar was a Persian ambassador who was sent to Paris during the brief period of the Franco-Persian alliance, formed between the French Empire of Napoleon I and Fath-Ali Shah, the second Qajar Shah of Persia, against Russia and Great Britain from 1807-1809. While the Shah needed help against the Russian menace on the northern frontier of Iran following the annexation of Eastern Georgia in 1801, Napoleon was motivated by his long cherished dream of invading British India, using Iran as both an ally and a gateway, and joining forces with Tipu Sultan to expel the British. Following the visit of the Iranian envoy Mirza Mohammed Reza-Qazvini to the court of Napoleon, then based in Tilsit in eastern Prussia, the alliance was formalised with the Treaty of Finckenstein on 4th May 1807 and ratified a week later on 10th May.
Asker Khan arrived in Paris on 20th July 1808 and met Napoleon on 4th September 1808 at Château de Saint-Cloud, an event recorded in a drawing by Benjamin Zix. Asker Khan left France in April 1810, as Persia in turn allied with Great Britain, France’s enemy in the Napoleonic Wars. This drawing must have been done soon after he became ambassador. Its small size and the images on the reverse suggest that it comes from David’s pocket book. The drawing has been seen by Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-Antoine Prat, the authors of Jacques Louis David, 1749-1825: Catalouge raisonné des dessins, 2002, and is accepted by them as the work of David. An oil portrait of Asker Khan by Césarine Davin-Mirvault, a painter of portraits and miniatures and a student of David as well as Suvée and Augustin, is at the Château de Versailles.
70 DOUBLE-SIDED MARBLE JALI
INDIA (MUGHAL, SHAH JAHAN PERIOD), CIRCA 1650
This jali may be compared to a similar design used in the jali screens flanking the entrance to the mausoleum of Aurangzebâ€™s wife at Aurangabad in the Deccan. This mausoleum is called Bibi ka Maqubara and dates from circa 1670. However, unlike this jali screen the trellis is not carved on a slant. The use of the slanted trellis creates both a sense of additional movement as well as hinting at the mysteries that lie beyond. The slant suggests that this jali was originally from a raised level, perhaps from a harem looking down.
HEIGHT: 142.7 CM WIDTH: 98 CM DEPTH: 6.8 CM
A magnificent double-sided pierced white marble jali screen, finely and deeply carved with an angled trellis of interlinked large stepped ogivals with overlapping leaves and floral sprays at the interstices. The large ogivals are filled with smaller interlinked ogivals. The carving is of exceptional quality, deeply cut and continuous from surface to surface, while the large ogivals also stand out in bold relief. The slanting of the grooves in the trellis is both rare and technically a tour-de-force. The jali is constructed from two linked sections and has a plain border to the top and sides.
Provenance: Spink and Son, London
Exhibited and Published: Spink, Gopis, Goddesses & Demons, 2000, pp. 68 and 69. cat. no. 43.
71 P E A C O C K PA N E L S
NORTHERN INDIA (MUGHAL), 18TH CENTURY DIMENSIONS OF EACH PANEL: HEIGHT: 70 CM WIDTH: 93 CM DEPTH: 6 CM
A carved pair of asymmetrical red sandstone panels in high relief each depicting a peacock within a cusped mihrab arch. When the panels are placed side by side, the birds are confronted, creating a symmetrical and balanced scene. The focal point of each panel is its magnificent peacock, presented in side profile with one of its wings pressed against its body with the other hanging down almost touching the ground. The wings have small cusped overlapping feathers above longer and larger feathers to the tips. Each bird has a large tear-drop shaped eye and prominent head crest. Its huge fanned and cusped tail is spread out, filling most of the mihrab in which the bird is placed. The space around the peacock is plainly carved, giving greater space and depth.
Each bird is shown balanced on its two large feet with a snake in its mouth, as if a captured moment, the bird having just caught its next meal. Each cusped mihrab arch is decorated with a large central acanthus leaf to the top, with further smaller leaves above and below the cusped section. To each spandrel is a stylised poppy spray. The whole main field is framed to every side by plain, fluted and leafy borders. A symbol of India, thousands of peacocks can still be found in Indian temples, perhaps because they are said to be great snake-slayers. Reputed to be immune to snake bites, their venom-rich blood is believed to chase away evil spirits. The god Krishna wears peacock feathers in his hair and legend tells of the sons of Shiva riding on the back of the peacock. Originally these panels would have formed part of a faรงade of a grand Mughal pavilion.
Provenance: Spink and Son, London
72 SILK COVERLET
INDIA (PROBABLY BENGAL FOR THE PORTUGUESE MARKET ), 18TH CENTURY LENGTH: 300 CM WIDTH: 226 CM
A spectacular coverlet of blue satin finely embroidered in chain stitch in pale yellow, white, puce and pale blue silk with a mirror image, the overall design of stylised flowers in bud and bloom, scrolling tendrils, leaves and bows. These decorative elements are repeated in the border, which is framed by smaller borders of scrolling floriated tendrils and a tasselled polychrome fringe. A very similar design, with a central escutcheon, is in the Museu de Arte Antiga in Lisbon (ex-Aragao Collection 1902/3). This would suggest that these export embroidered coverlets were made along set designs and were produced in some quantity. However, they are now quite rare and, when found, the silk is in distressed condition. This textile is in superb condition with strong, glowing colours and no loss to the embroidery. A textile of related colour and design is in the collection of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island.
Provenance: Spink and Son, London
Exhibited and published: Spink exhibition, Selvage To Selvage: Textiles from East to West, 1998, cat. no. 2.
Literature: Embroidered Quilts from the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga Lisboa: India Portugal China 16th/18th Century, Kensington Palace, London, 1978, no. 28. Clara Vaz Pinto, Colchas de Castelo Branco, 1998.
ÂŠ 2015 World copyright reserved British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Design by Peter Keenan
Photography by Alan Tabor Richard Valencia
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