SIMON RAY INDIAN & ISLAMIC WORKS OF ART
SIMON RAY INDIAN & ISLAMIC WORKS OF ART
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SIMON RAY INDIAN & ISLAMIC WORKS OF ART
1 NOVEMBER 2020 TO 30 NOVEMBER 2020
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A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S It is with great pleasure that I present this twentieth catalogue of Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art, which I hope you will enjoy. It has been such a great pleasure publishing our catalogues for the last two decades with beautiful works of art. 2020 has been a challenging year for the world and I hope that as you turn each page of our November 2020 catalogue, the works of art will bring you excitement and joy. I would like to thank the many scholars and experts who have so kindly and generously helped us prepare this catalogue: Jerry Losty, Robert Skelton, Andrew Topsfield, Susan Stronge, Will Kwiatkowski, Katrina van Grouw, Lisa Golombek, Robert Mason, John Seyller, Malini Roy and Matthew Thomas. I would like to thank the following for their expertise in the installation and display of the works of art: Colin Bowles, Louise Macann, Helen Loveday and Tim Blake. Leng Tan has written the entries for this catalogue. I would like to thank Leng for his ability to tell a story about each object that brings the reader along a most enjoyable journey of knowledge and discovery. William Edwards has written the ceramic entries. In particular, his fascination with the beautiful ceramics of the Iznik revival period demonstrates how artistic ideas travel across time and encompass cultures from East to West. Finally, I would like to thank Richard Valencia for his superb photography that makes each object come to life; Richard Harris for his excellent repro, colour preparation and crisp scans with glowing colours of the paintings. It is Peter Keenanâ€™s fresh, modern and stylish design that gathers all these elements together to brilliantly showcase these works of art. Simon Ray
Iznik Revival Ceramics
Peacock Feather Fan
Rock Crystal Dagger
Spinel 68 Indian Stonework
Company School Paintings
1 F L O R A L M E D A L L I O N A N D R O S E T T E S P R AY S Turkey (Iznik), circa 1575 Diameter: 30 cm
An underglaze-painted dish with a foliate rim in hues of cobalt blue and blue-grey against a white ground, with a design of scrolling flowers and tendrils surrounding a central composite rosette spray. The central field is framed by a breaking wave border to the rim. The centre of the main field has a composite floral cartouche painted in greyish cobalt blue with a stylised eight-petalled rosette surrounded by larger overlapping teardrop and trefoil-shaped leaves, all framed to the edge by fleur-de-lis motifs. Set against a white slip ground, the medallion is framed to the cavetto by an arabesque meander of split-leaf palmettes and tendrils surrounding rosette sprays. The border has the common breaking wave motif, painted in cobalt and blue-grey hues. To the back of the dish is a painted foliate border to the edge framing alternating rosette sprays and motifs derived in design from Sanskrit.
This dish is from the same period and is very similar in colour and design to the “Wheatsheaf Style” Iznik ceramics,1 lacking only the ears of wheat motifs which gave the style its name. Rarely appearing on tiles, this style was popular up until the mid-seventeenth century.2 Made at the height of Iznik production, this dish has the more unusual palette of blue-and-white imitating closely the export porcelains of the Chinese Ming period from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Following Sultan Selim’s conquests of Tabriz in 1514, and of Damascus and Cairo in 1517, large quantities of Chinese porcelain and celadons were acquired to adorn the court’s rooms. Iznik potters therefore had access to a wide variety of designs, which had not been available to them before. John Carswell declares
the colour of this Iznik group as “dark ultramarine blue”, with another characteristic being the decorative use of “undulating stems with cloud-like petals”.3 The Yuan dynasty in China used a “breaking wave” motif to the rim of their plates, seen here in a more stylised and expressive form.4 To the Ottoman potter any mythological associations this motif may have had for the Chinese were unknown, but once attracted by its graphic power, it continued to be used well into the seventeenth century.5 By the 1570s the wave border, increasingly removed from its Chinese model, had become a standard feature of Iznik dishes. In its final metamorphosis it became so stylised as to be unrecognisable, to the point of being described as “ammonite scrolls”.6 The very first
Iznik examples however, imitate the Yuan waves closely, their rollers painted with feathery parallel lines. These gradual changes in this border motif allow us to accurately date the motifs on Iznik plates. For ceramics with similar designs, see Frédéric Hitzel and Mireille Jacotin, Iznik: L’aventure d’une collection: Les céramiques ottomanes du musée national de la Renaissance Château d’Écouen, 2005, p. 343; Hülya Bilgi, Iznik: The Ömer Koç Collection, 2015, p. 235; Kjeld von Folsach, Islamic Art: The David Collection, 1990, p. 187; and Maria Queiroz Ribeiro, Louças Iznik: Iznik Pottery, 1996, p. 145. Provenance: Acquired from a Paris Antiques Dealer in 1980 English Private Collection since 1980 References: 1.
Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby, Iznik:
The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, 1989, p. 239. 2. Ibid. 3. John Carswell, Iznik Pottery, 1998, p. 85. 4. Ibid, p. 82. 5. Atasoy and Raby, 1989, p. 121. 6. Ibid.
2 EWER AMONGST SCROLLS Turkey (Iznik), early 17th century Diameter: 32 cm
An underglaze-painted polychrome dish in shades of turquoise, sealing wax red, black and cobalt blue on a white ground, with a design of a lidded ewer on a scrolling ground. The main field is covered in small black scrolling patterns, imitating the “snail shell curls” or “ammonite scrolls” found normally on the rim of Iznik dishes and inspired by earlier Chinese blue-and-white porcelain “breaking wave” designs. To the centre of the scrolling ground is a large turquoise painted ewer, complete with spout, handle and lid. Its outline and S-shaped handle are painted in sealing wax red, and a cusped floral cartouche is placed centrally, with a cobalt edge
and raised red central motif. The pinched neck has a cobalt collar and the domed lid a cobalt border to its lower edge, the top decorated with a small finial. The ewer stands on a tapering foot. Surrounding the ewer is an asymmetrical split-leaf palmette design, with curving vines sprouting small tendrils as well as larger palmette cartouches with raised red centres on a white ground, each edged in cobalt and black. Further small palmettes decorate the lined border, and to the rim of the dish is a repeated design of pairs of confronted leaves and stylised rosettes on a turquoise ground. To the reverse of the dish, repeated black Sanskrit designs compete with cobalt rosettes within lined borders.
A Comprehensive Study Based on the Barlow Collection, 1973, pl.102d. For other examples of Iznik dishes with ewer designs, see Frédéric Hitzel and Mireille Jacotin, Iznik: L’aventure d’une collection: Les céramiques ottomanes du musée national de la Renaissance, 2005, pp. 313-315. Provenance: Collection of Anton Philips (1874-1951) and thence by descent. Anton Frederik Philips co-founded Royal Philips Electronics N.V. in 1912 with his older brother Gerard Philips in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. His father and Gerard had founded the Philips Company in 1891 as a family business. He served as CEO of the company from 1922 to 1939. His son Frits Philips was also passionate about art, expanding
For a similar example, see Géza Fehérvári, Islamic Pottery:
the collection throughout his lifetime. Frits Philips died in 2005 when he was 100 years old.
3 R O S E , H YA C I N T H A N D T U L I P S P R AY S Italy (Florence), circa 1890 By Ulisse Cantagalli Height: 21.5 cm Diameter: 31.5 cm
An underglaze-painted polychrome bowl on a raised conical foot in colours of cobalt blue, sealing wax red, emerald green and black against a white ground, with a design of Iznikstyle floral sprays and lined borders. The main field on the outside of the bowl features large tulips painted in cobalt blue with raised red dots and roses and hyacinth
sprays also in raised red with emerald calyxes and cobalt detail. Slender and serrated leaves painted in emerald green frame the large flowers, which compete with smaller sprays of stylised cobalt hyacinths and other sealing wax red flowers. The sprays all jostle for our attention, crammed into the space framed above and below by thin black lined borders. Above the main field is a border of addorsed leaves framed by cusped rosette sprays. To the foot, a wavy lined border sits above pairs of addorsed red tulips which alternate
with stylised cobalt rosette sprays, below which is a pattern of tight black scrolls. Inside the bowl is a further floral pattern consisting of tulips, roses and stylised rosettes all emerging from a cusped cobalt cartouche and leafy sprays to the edge of the main field. Further raised red central cartouches act as vases from which emerge other sprays that fill the rest of the white ground. Above the field are wavy line, breaking wave and scroll borders painted in black. To the base of the bowl is a black rooster mark. A similar bowl can be seen in the Cantagalli catalogue of 1895, no. 830.
4 S A Z L E AV E S A N D C O M P O S I T E S P R AY S Italy (Florence), circa 1890 By Ulisse Cantagalli Height: 44 cm Diameter: 20.5 cm
A rare and unusual large underglazepainted polychrome bottle vase in shades of cobalt blue, aubergine, white and emerald green, with a design of stylised composite flowers, saz leaves and rosettes above a lappet and banded border. The teardrop-shaped body has a dark cobalt blue ground, upon which are repeated designs of finely painted stylised composite and rosette sprays. A pale aubergine colour is used, the white slip showing through slightly; and combines with
two shades of emerald green and a lighter hue of cobalt to create an almost â€œDamascus styleâ€? palette, used in the Iznik period from about 15401550. Large, delicately drawn green bifurcated saz leaves appear from a cobalt calyx and crescent cartouche. From this large spray appear smaller rosettes with serrated leaves and further composite sprays with cusped aubergine petals and green trefoil leaves surrounding a central smaller blue bud. Further large saz leaves dissect some of the sprays adding movement and a sense of naturalism to the design. The pattern covers the tapering neck, and to the mouth is a thin green border below alternating cartouches and sprays. To the base,
a repeated lappet border sits above a thick green band with blue stars decorating the raised foot rim. Underneath the vase is the rooster mark of the Cantagalli factory. This unusual vase is almost certainly influenced by or an example of the collaboration between William De Morgan and Ulisse Cantagalli. The drawing is particularly fine and stylistically different from that of usual Cantagalli Iznik revival pieces. The palette with the different green hues, particularly dark cobalt and faded aubergine also is less indicative of Cantagalli and much more so of De Morganâ€™s work. William De Morgan and his wife had an apartment in Florence, and he was involved with the Cantagalli factory when he spent some time there recovering from tuberculosis.
5 T U L I P S A N D H YA C I N T H S P R AY S Italy (Florence), circa 1890 By Ulisse Cantagalli Diameter: 40 cm
An underglaze-painted polychrome dish in a palette of cobalt blue, sage green, black, turquoise, aubergine and white slip, with an asymmetrical design of stylised hyacinths and tulips within a border of further floral sprays. The main field has an Iznik-style design of large tulip sprays
emanating from a leafy mound to the bottom of the cavetto painted against a vibrant cobalt blue ground. A sage green hue has been used for the petals, and turquoise for the calyxes and stems. Large white hyacinths compete for our attention, painted with small individual turquoise leaves and green calyxes. Smaller stylised white hyacinths fill the remaining rich dark cobalt ground, with two small composite rosette sprays either side. Aubergine buds emerge from the leafy mound adding further decoration. A thin white border separates the main
field from the rim, where a pattern of rosettes, saz leaves and composite sprays painted in turquoise, aubergine, a light cobalt blue and white fill the ground. To the reverse, lined borders feature alternating cartouches in green and blue surrounding a central black cockerel mark. This dish loosely copies earlier sixteenth century designs from Iznik in Turkey, where patterns and colours greatly influenced certain European artists in the latter part of the nineteenth century, such as EdmĂŠ Samson, William De Morgan, Theodore Deck and Ulisse Cantagalli.
6 C O M P O S I T E L O T U S S P R AY S Italy (Florence), circa 1890 By Ulisse Cantagalli Diameter: 39 cm
An underglaze-painted polychrome dish in shades of cobalt blue, sealing wax red, black, and turquoise against a white slip ground and with an unusual pattern of stylised composite sprays within a border of angled lappets and rosettes. The main design is painted on a vibrant greenish turquoise ground and features three large centrally
placed composite lotus sprays, each with cusped cobalt and white outer petals surrounding inner white petals with bold raised red centres. Ornamental calyxes of three differing designs decorate the base of each spray. The flowers, supported by bending stalks below, emerge from cobalt blue rocks and thin bifurcated leaves. Further small composite stylised sprays fill the remaining turquoise ground, creating a sumptuous display of flora as the focal point to the dish. A white border of black-lined lappets separates the main field from the rim, where a border of six-petalled cobalt
rosettes with green buds sit upon white angled lappets with raised red central lines, against a black ground with white scrolls. To the reverse of the dish is a repeated border of cobalt blue leaf sprays surrounding a central black rooster mark and stylised â€œSâ€? motif. This dish loosely copies earlier sixteenth century designs from Iznik in Turkey, where patterns and colours greatly influenced certain European artists in the latter part of the nineteenth century, such as EdmĂŠ Samson, William De Morgan, Theodore Deck and Ulisse Cantagalli.
7 S W I R L I N G F LOW E R - H E A D S Turkey (Iznik), 1560-1575 Height: 24.5 cm Width: 24.5 cm
A square polychrome underglazepainted tile in bright cobalt blue, sealing wax red or Armenian bole, and apple green on a crisp white ground, with an elegant design of swirling flower-heads on leafy sprigs that turn in clockwise direction within a cusped redbordered medallion. The spandrels each contain a trefoil palmette flanked by an arabesque of composite flowers against a green ground. This beautiful tile shows the Iznik potters at the peak of their technical skills, firing the finest tomatohued sealing wax red offset by a brilliant apple or emerald green. These complementary colours are combined with the more traditional cobalt blue and fired to dazzling effect against a pure white ground. A tile with an almost identical pattern is recorded in the Barlow Collection. This is illustrated in Geza Fehérvári, Islamic Pottery: A Comprehensive Study based on the Barlow Collection, 1973, pp. 153-154, no. 205, pl. 90a. This tile has the same twelve-lobed
medallion enclosing a central flower surrounded by six other flowers. Surrounding the medallion are scrolls and palmettes on a green ground. The colour palette does not include red and Fehérvári dates the tile to circa 1535-1555. The design of the Barlow tile may be seen as a prototype of the present tile, where a favourite pattern developed at an earlier date is revived but greatly enriched by the addition of a lustrous red. A group of tiles with related red medallions enclosing kaleidoscopic split-leaf palmettes on a white ground can be seen in the Rüstem Pasha Mosque of 1561 in Istanbul. These tiles are illustrated in Walter Denny, Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics, 2004, pp. 28-29. The Rüstem Pasha Mosque, built by the celebrated architect Sinan for the immensely wealthy vizier of Sultan Suleyman the magnificent, is the first Ottoman building to utilise tiles in the newly developed polychrome technique, with the colour red finally reaching maturity. The perfection of the polychrome palette on the present tile suggests a date of manufacture between 1560 and 1575. Provenance: Oliver Hoare
8 O G I VA L C A R T O U C H E Turkey (Iznik), circa 1570 Height: 18.5 cm Width: 21.5 cm
A polychrome underglaze-painted tile in colours of cobalt blue, emerald green and sealing wax red against a white slip ground, with a symmetrical design of an ogival cartouche framed by further examples to each corner.
The large centrally placed medallion has a border of repeated cusped trefoil palmette motifs, painted in blue with emerald green centres. A thin sealing wax red cusped border frames a central design of addorsed cobalt tulips painted with raised red calyxes interspersed with red carnations and smaller pairs of stylised rosettes all growing from a small red crescent cartouche below. The design is painted against a crisp white ground strengthening the hues and outlines. Parts of further identical cartouches can be seen in each corner, suggesting this tile was part of a larger group displaying a continuous repeated pattern. For a similar example, see Hülya Bilgi, Iznik: The Ömer Koç Collection, 2015, p. 134. Tiles of this design can also be seen in situ in the Tomb of Selim II at Hagia Sophia. Provenance: The Howard Hodgkin Collection
9 ADDORSED TULIPS Turkey (Iznik), circa 1580 Height: 15.5 cm Width: 22.2 cm
A polychrome underglaze-painted rectangular tile in colours of cobalt blue, emerald green, sealing wax red and black against a white slip ground, with an unusual asymmetrical pattern of floral sprays within deep vertical borders. The main field displays a group of addorsed floral sprays with emerald green stems emerging from the base of the tile where a small group of serrated saz leaves in cobalt and green with raised red centres can be seen. The sprays are framed by pairs of smaller leaves which fill the remaining white ground. The larger tulips are painted in vibrant cobalt blue and are decorated with splashes of red. The smaller daisy-like sprays are painted in sealing wax red with emerald calyxes. Framing the main field to either side is a vertical border decorated with meandering repeated six-petalled rosette and saz leaf sprays in white with raised red detail against a cobalt blue ground. The borders are both edged in sealing wax red. Provenance: The Howard Hodgkin Collection
10 CUSPED C ARTOUCHE AND GEOMETRIC BORDER Turkey (Iznik), circa 1580 Height: 15.7 cm Width: 24.6 cm
A polychrome underglaze-painted border tile in colours of cobalt blue, emerald green, turquoise, sealing wax red and black against a white slip ground, with an asymmetrical design of floral sprays and arabesques surrounding a central cartouche below a geometric border. The focal point is the large raised red composite flower-head style cusped cartouche, painted with a black outline and containing a symmetrical pattern of eight cusped white motifs with central green hearts surrounding a white rosette spray with a red bud. The designs are set against a sealing wax ground within a white
border. Framing the cartouche to all sides are white cusped split-leaf arabesques containing small emerald leaves and red rosettes. Large green saz leaves, white tendrils and cusped white rosette sprays fill the remaining cobalt blue ground. A thin horizontal band of turquoise separates the main field from the geometric border above. This Greek key fret style design is painted in vibrant sealing wax red against a white slip ground. This asymmetrical rectangular tile would originally have formed part of the border of a much larger panel. An identical tile can be seen in Katerina Korre-Zographou, The Iznik Ceramics of the Monastery of the Panaghia Panakhrantou, 2012, p. 72, fig. 1.1. Provenance: The Collection of the late Reg Humphris, UK The Howard Hodgkin Collection
11 TWO BIRDS IN A TREE Iran (Safavid), 17th century Height: 24 cm Width: 48 cm
A pair of tiles in the cuerda seca technique, painted in colours of turquoise, yellow, ochre, cobalt blue, apple green, black and white, with a design of birds amongst trees and floral sprays.
The scene unfurls from left to right with all the elegance of an oriental scroll or folding screen. To the left of the panel, the viewerâ€™s eye is led inwards by a pair of birds nestling together beak to beak, probably balancing on a branch out of shot. One is painted in cobalt blue and the other in yellow, both with multi-coloured wings. The birds look at each other as if they are a courting couple, and indeed they represent a pair of love birds. To the centre of the panel is a young tree branch painted in apple green, bearing large composite floral rosettes with yellow, blue and white petals around central green buds; and further single leaves in green, ochre, yellow and blue. Multi-coloured composite floral sprays from the same plant can be seen to the bottom edge of the panel, framed to the right by a large ochre tree. Unusually, the bark patterns of the tree are depicted as two lobed quatrefoil turquoise cartouches. Yellow and cobalt trefoil leaves with white and black centres sprout from the continuously bifurcating branches above. Chinoiserie-style rock formations surround its
base, conveying the impression of gnarled roots. The knobbly texture of the trunk and the tellingly broken branch with the yellow cross-section tell us the tree is old and wizened, in comparison to the lush green branches of the youthful sapling. The scene before us is set against a particularly vibrant turquoise blue which further enhances its elements. Though the composition reads initially from left to right and rises on a gentle diagonal, the way the broken branch of the ancient tree stretches out and curves down to the left, echoed by the lithe green branches of the sapling that lean with their laden blossoms towards the birds, as if in yearning, means that the composition looks back on itself. A rippling visual effect is created that rocks the eye to and fro across its surface. A philosophical meditation of time emerges from the discreet symbolism of the motifs. If the birds represent love and procreation, the green sapling youth, and the old tree age, wisdom and fragility, then we have an essay on how carefree love and joy is undercut yet heightened by the beautiful, bittersweet melancholy of transience. This pair of tiles would have formed part of a much larger panel decorating a wall within a palace or grand house, where scenes of entertainment and the natural world would be depicted.
12 MAN HOLDING THE ROPE OF A SAIL Iran (Safavid), 17th century Height: 24 cm Width: 24 cm
A tile in the cuerda seca technique painted in hues of green, cobalt blue, yellow, turquoise, ochre, white and black, depicting a male figure looking upwards to the right, holding a piece of string or cord in both hands. This tile would have been part of a larger tile panel depicting a sailing ship with sailors manning the sails. The smartly dressed man appears from the bottom of the tile, his upper torso clothed in a cobalt blue tunic with a green collar above a yellow undershirt. His turban is decorated in turquoise, black and white stripes above a green band. His finely painted white face has thick black eyebrows, large lips, the ridge of the nose and nostrils suavely drawn with a continuous calligraphic line, and curling locks of hair in front of his ear. Part of a curved white form with a black outline can be seen to the right. Based on extensive research conducted by Lisa Golombek and Robert Mason on the Safavid tiled arches and the large group of related individual tiles in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum, we believe that the adjacent tile to the right of ours would have depicted the rest of the white crescentshaped sail with a black border. In their efforts to reconstruct how the tiled arches in Ontario once looked like when intact and installed, Golombek and Mason have used dispersed tiles found in other museum collections and on the art market in catalogues such as our own Simon Ray catalogues.
It is Golombek’s and Mason’s hypothesis that the Ontario arches and many tiles of related design in collections world-wide originally came from the refurbishment by Shah Suleiman (reigned 1666-1694) of the now no longer extant Talar-i Tavileh or Pavilion of the Stables in Isfahan. They date the making of the tiles and their installation to 16701680 and link the style of the faces and features, as well as the virtuoso twisting of animals in combat, in particular writhing dragons, to the manner of the great Safavid master, Mu’in Musavvir, who died in 1693. We note in addition that the face of the man in our tile as well as others in the group show the unmistakable hand of what Sophie Makariou calls the Master of the Faces. Whether this celebrated Master of the Faces is the leading artist of the tile-maker’s workshop (and one of the greatest exponents of the art of tile-making) who received designs on sheets of paper from Mu’in Musavvir, or indeed is Mu’in Musavvir himself, is a fascinating conundrum that for now must continue to tease us. The results of the Ontario Safavid Tile Project are published in the article by Lisa Golombek and Robert B. Mason, “The Garden of the Pavilion of the Stables, Isfahan” in Orientations, vol. 50, no. 2, March-April 2019, pp. 124133. Details of the ongoing research project are also to be found on the Royal Ontario Museum website rom. on.ca in four articles by the authors entitled “Safavid Tile Project I-IV”, where they present their full panel reconstructions via graphics software. According to Golombek and Mason, the design of each tile
within a spandrel has a mirror on the opposite spandrel forming the arch, as well as duplicates of itself and its mirror on another arch elsewhere in the palace installation. Therefore each design appears four times, with variant details on the faces, which were finished last in the final firing, and not always with the same colours to the costumes or the backgrounds for the sake of variety. For their reconstructions, the authors have found it useful to complete missing parts of the design by flipping over tiles in mirror image to suit the orientation of the arch they are rebuilding. The design of the tile adjacent to ours was discovered by Mason at the Brooklyn Museum. The Ontario museum has a single tile with sails that adjoins the Brooklyn tile design on one side as does our present tile on the other side. The Brooklyn tile shows decorative square cloth sections being strung from tall blue masts by a sailor who has climbed high up the mast. Similar tile panels depicting this subject all show large sails being hoisted up the masts of the ships. Therefore, it seems apparent that the man in our tile is holding the rope to secure one of the sails of the ship. In order to make the design work, we have had to flip the Brooklyn tile over, but we are secure in the knowledge that a tile in the right orientation to match ours did once exist.
The scene depicted on this tile is further highlighted by the vibrant yellow ground surrounding the figure and foliage. In addition to the Brooklyn tile, Golombek discovered the design of the tile below the Ontario sail tile in our Simon Ray November 2015 Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, pp. 24-25, cat. no. 10, which depicts sailors on the deck of the warship with protruding cannons. The design perfectly matches the Ontario and Brooklyn tiles, and now our present tile can be added to the layout. However, as it is a mirror image from the corresponding arch and is on a white rather than a yellow ground, Golombek and Mason have also flipped this for their reconstruction as we have done with the Brooklyn tile. Two of the sailors in the tile we published in 2015 have Indian features and wear striped turbans similar to that of the present sailor, while a third has a European style hat similar to that worn by the Brooklyn sailor high up on the mast, demonstrating the cosmopolitan nature of the men at sea on the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Golombek and Mason suggest that the ship scene they have reconstructed depicts a ship docking in the main port of Bandar Abbas. Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Lisa Golombek and Robert Mason from the Royal Ontario Museum for their expert advice and for
Black and white chinoiserie-style rocks with green and blue leaves decorate the corner of the tile. The sailor is framed to his left by a large ochre coloured tree complete with serrated leaves in sage green and cobalt blue, with white trefoil central cartouches.
sharing with us their current research on the Safavid Tile Project.
It is likely that the flames accompany a prophet or saint as seen in Persian miniatures and are an attribute of his visionary qualities. “Tent and Flames” and the present tile may therefore be part of a panel that tells the story of Yusuf and Zulaykha with the flames emanating from the prophet Yusuf, or Joseph in the Old Testament. Yusuf and Zulaykha was a very popular story from Jami, illustrated in several copies during the Safavid period and a good subject for narrative tile panels on palace walls.
13 T E N T A N D L E A F Y S P R AY S Iran (Safavid), 17th century Height: 24 cm Width: 24 cm
A tile in the cuerda seca technique in colours of cobalt blue, apple green, turquoise, black, white and ochre against a vibrant yellow ground, depicting a large tree with leafy sprays that cascade over part of a tent on the right, with glimpses of a fire with dancing ochre flames burning brightly in the lower right corner. The tree has sinuous turquoise branches from which sprout large bifurcated, serrated leaves in apple green and cobalt blue, with white teardrop centres. The tent is constructed of white fabric with a straight wall and an angled roof boldly outlined in black. It is entered through an arched doorway framed by a stitched border of green fabric, through which the light blue interior can be seen. Part of a blue diagonal tent wall forming another element of the tent enclosure complex can be seen just below the door. The elaborate construction of the tent and its large scale suggest that it is a much grander affair than the simple tent discussed in cat. no. 14 of the present catalogue. There, the tent is entered through flaps that simply pull apart to
afford entry, whereas here the tent seems palatial. It seems to indicate the itinerant abode of a prince or high official, perhaps a desert ruler’s travelling court of tents. In our efforts to further reconstruct and interpret the scene, we are fortunate in having knowledge of the tile which would have been placed adjacent to the present on the right, which shows not only the rest of the tent but also most of the large flames painted in yellow and ochre. This matching tile was published in our Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue of 2008, pp. 48-49, cat. no. 19, from which it was acquired for the collection of the late Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani and then subsequently sold at auction. In the 2008 catalogue, we entitled the tile “Tent and Flames”, due to the prominence of the magnificent flames which blaze furiously and leap high up the side of the tent. The dramatic manner in which the flames are depicted, and the fact that they rise above a person standing below as indicated by the striped turban from which they emanate, tell us that the flames are no ordinary flames from a campfire, nor are they the result of a siege or attack on the encampment as the tent itself seems in no danger of burning.
The adjacent tile also confirms the magnificence of the tent as it depicts two further arched doors within a broad sweep of white tent walls, beneath a high pointed green roof decorated with blue and white lappets at the apex. In front of the main tent is an enclosure formed of tent panels (qanats), in which the mystical figure stands with flames ablaze. Our present tile, with only the barest hint of a flame and a glorious abundance of leaves, presents an idyllic picture in contrast to the unfolding drama near by. It demonstrates, as so many other tiles have done, that the composition of individual Safavid tiles is as carefully thought out as complete panels. Though they are not made to stand alone, when they do so they have the visual strength and panache to present a self-contained world within the frame of a small square, yet allow us to dream around them. The tile we have may be part of a story of high drama, but in itself presents an essay of harmonious balance between man, as represented by the tent, and nature as symbolised by the flourishing tree. And as colour has the ability to generate emotion, the sunny yellow ground creates a mood of optimism and happiness that adds immeasurably to the picturesque charm of the tile.
14 T E N T A N D F L O R A L S P R AY S Iran (Safavid), 17th century Height: 24 cm Width: 24 cm
A tile in the cuerda seca technique with a charming and unusual design of a multi-coloured tent framed by floral sprays, painted in vibrant hues of sage green, cobalt blue, yellow, white and black against a rich ochre ground. The focal point of the tile is the large tent, which expansively fills most of the composition. Two light blue vertical cloth panels act as doors, drawn back to reveal an entrance and the mysterious yellow interior space lit as if from within. The green façade is surmounted by a horizontal yellow strip from which rises the pointed blue roof. The apex of the roof is festively decorated with alternating white and light blue vertical lappets. The bold colours of the tent are further enhanced by the ochre brown that fills the remaining ground to create an earthy backdrop to the pastoral scene. A chinoiserie rock formation in black and white floats above the tent to the top right, from which issue forth cobalt, yellow and white stylised floral sprays. To the upper left is a further exotic floral spray, painted in white with part of a central cobalt leaf. The flowers and leaves indicate a verdant setting amongst the rocks that hint of a rougher terrain.
that the compositions of single tiles within Safavid panels are as clearly thought out as the panels in their entireties, the present tile is clearly part of a much larger composition set outdoors in a countryside encampment. What this composition could be is suggested by the useful clue of the little hand holding a delicate silk or wool thread in its fingers at the bottom right corner of the tile, which we can demonstrate belongs to a lady spinning on her spinning wheel while seated outside the tent. We are fortunate to benefit from the findings of the extensive research conducted by Lisa Golombek and Robert Mason on the Safavid tiled arches and related individual tiles in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum. In their efforts to reconstruct how the tiled arches in Ontario once looked like when intact, Golombek and Mason have used dispersed tiles found in other museum collections and on the art market. The results of the Ontario Safavid Tile Project are published in the article by Lisa
Golombek and Robert B. Mason, “The Garden of the Pavilion of the Stables, Isfahan” in Orientations, vol. 50, no. 2, March-April 2019, pp. 124133. Details of the ongoing research project are also to be found on the Royal Ontario Museum website rom.on.ca in four articles by the authors entitled “Safavid Tile Project I-IV”, where they present their full panel reconstructions via graphics software. In the second of the two online articles, “Safavid Tile Project II: Rebuilding the Friezes”, Mason explains that in addition to working out the composition of the Ontario arches and spandrels, the authors have also been reconstructing compositions based on related tiles in other museums and filling in the gaps with tiles found at auction and in art market catalogues such as our own. Golombek and Mason have reconstructed a frieze first proposed by the art historian Ingeborg Luschey-Schmeisser that is pertinent to our scene identification. It helps us to unlock the meaning of our tile and locate its place within a composition that might otherwise prove elusive from the evidence we have from a single tile.
Luschey-Schmeisser’s concept for a frieze is based on the existence of a later arch of two spandrels at the British Museum (inv. no. 1937,1217.1) consisting of a mixture of seventeenth century Safavid and nineteenth century Qajar tiles, plus a Safavid tile in the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin (Ident. Nr.: 1.3925), which both depict a woman seated spinning outside a tent in a camp. Golombek and Mason have combined a set of four adjoining Safavid tiles from the Art Institute of Chicago by the same hand with the Berlin tile to reveal the original composition where there were in fact two tents erected side by side. The lady sits at her rapidly spinning wheel with kaleidoscopic multi-coloured spokes, lifting the thread high above her head with her left hand, as glimpsed in our tile, while rotating the wheel with a lever worked by her right. Outside the second tent sits a male musician playing on a flute. The Art Institute website artic. edu informs us that their tiles are from a panel depicting the adventures of Bahram Gur. The British Museum arch has the same elements of the composition, with a woman spinner and a male flautist outside tents in one spandrel facing their mirror counterparts on the spandrel opposite. The British Museum arch is currently on display in the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World and published in Venetia Porter, Islamic Tiles, 1995, p. 77, fig. 72. Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Lisa Golombek and Robert Mason from the Royal Ontario
Though the tent makes a stunning composition by itself on the single tile we have here, demonstrating
Museum for their expert advice and for sharing with us their current research on the Safavid Tile Project.
blue plant with chinoiserie-style fronds frames the peacock to the right and our snake or monkey’s tail is in fact the top tendril of another such plant growing up from the tile below. Much comment has been made on the extraordinary colours of animals in these tile panels, such as turquoise monkeys or blue bulls, but the intense blue body and the iridescent plumage of the eyes are colours drawn direct from reality. The artists had no need to invent this fantastic bird or its jewel colours, because it already exists in nature.
15 P E A C O C K A N D F L O R A L S P R AY S Iran (Safavid), 17th century Height: 24 cm Width: 24 cm
A tile in the cuerda seca technique depicting part of a large peacock framed by floral sprays, painted in hues of apple green, turquoise, cobalt blue, ochre, white and black against a brilliant yellow ground. This tile was once part of a much larger panel from the spandrel of an arch, depicting a forest or paradisiacal garden of pleasure and princely refinement, filled with a pride of peacocks with small, busy waterfowl in attendance. Though no human beings are present in the complete peacock tile panel design, Lisa Golombek and Robert Mason have suggested that such non-figural panels, which include designs of nesting simurghs and flying dragons, serve to represent the power and glory of the monarch through symbols.1 Based on this interpretation, we may read the peacocks as the kings of the glen and the attendant waterfowl as the loyal subjects of the kingdom, which the setting depicts as a magical garden where all is well and looking remarkably beautiful as a consequence of their just and able rule. Indeed, the stance of the peacock standing so confidently in our tile is princely and full of authority. The peacock towers over the leaves and flowers of the landscape, its body colour an intense regal blue
that seems to affirm its divine right to rule. The tile originally above would have shown us the top half of the magnificent peacock, with its train feathers fanned in glorious display. Set against the unctuous yellow ground with a thick gleaming glaze, the cobalt coloured bird is painted with lithe and slender green legs which stand firmly wide apart, providing balance and strength. Three taloned green toes and the fourth back spur curve inwards as if gripping the yellow ground below. Just the spur of the right foot can be seen on the left edge of the tile. A cobalt coloured, centrally placed cusped tail falls between his legs, decorated above with a pair of small turquoise crescents. To his chest, further decoration in the form of a rounded green cartouche can be seen. Framing his chest to the right are traces of his varied stupendous plumage, including slender alternating black and white wing feathers and further multi-coloured designs including part of the famous eye motif (ocelli), the tell-tale sign of the peacock.
We are fortunate to benefit from the research conducted by Lisa Golombek and Robert Mason on the Safavid tiled arches and related individual tiles in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum. The authors have also reconstructed panel compositions based on related tiles in other museums and filling in the gaps with tiles found at auction and art market catalogues. Golombek and Mason have reconstructed a wonderful peacock spandrel on an ochre ground that they have not yet published, but have kindly shared with us as most of the component peacock tiles have been sold at Simon Ray and Spink. Our present yellow peacock tile has an ochre twin within the design of the full ochre spandrel, but flipped over in mirror image.
Below the bird are hints of foliage appearing from the tile beneath as well as what appears on the evidence of this tile alone to be a curling snake, the great enemy of peacocks, or even the scrolling cobalt tail of a monkey, which we have seen in other Safavid tile panels. However, these are fanciful though imaginative interpretations that we must reluctantly discard with the knowledge gained from the examination of further tiles from this peacock panel design. A large cobalt
An ochre panel of three tiles in the Spink catalogue, Gopis, Goddesses & Demons, 2000, pp. 24-25, cat. no. 13, depicts most of the peacock with crested head, fanned tail and birds flying in the sky above amongst chinoiserie clouds. The bottom tile of this panel is the twin of our tile with the design reversed. A pair of tiles depicting a similar peacock with its train closed and languidly trailing amidst foliage and its beak turned
back to preen, is also published on pp. 26-27, cat. no. 14. Both panels are now in a private American collection. A panel of three tiles depicting a strutting peacock, haughtily but barely acknowledging the presence of two cheerful waterfowl at its feet, is published in the Spink catalogue, The Eye of the Courtier, 1999, pp. 34-35, cat. no. 23. This is now in the collection of the Kuwait National Museum, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah. These tiles are positioned on the right edge of Golombek’s and Mason’s spandrel reconstruction. A panel of two tiles showing part of the big fanned peacock tail and the three toes of the foot that we do not see in our tile, accompanied by the resplendent tail of another walking peacock, is illustrated in our Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue 2007, pp. 20-21, cat. no. 8. A pair of tiles showing exquisite iris sprays without peacocks, placed towards the narrowing arch of the spandrel to compete the design of the garden paradise, is published in the 2006 Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art, pp. 62-63, cat. no. 28. The iris tiles are now in the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, and have been exhibited at the Ismaili Centre in London and the Musée du Louvre, Paris. Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Lisa Golombek and Robert Mason from the Royal Ontario Museum for their expert advice and for sharing with us their current research on the Safavid Tile Project. Reference: 1. Lisa Golombek and Robert B. Mason, “The Garden of the Pavilion of the Stables, Isfahan” in Orientations, vol. 50, no. 2, March-April 2019, pp. 124-133.
16 A MAN BY A BULL Iran (Safavid), 17th century Height: 23 cm Width: 23.7 cm
A tile in the cuerda seca technique with an unusual design of a bearded man crouched beneath the hind quarters of a large enraged animal with vigorously thrusting hooves and waving tail, painted in colours of cobalt blue, lavender, lemon yellow, black, turquoise and white against a piquant apple green ground. This tile fragment would have been part of a much bigger panel depicting a landscape with scenes of both human beings and animals partaking in the many pleasures of earthly pursuits, designed to decorate the walls of a palace or grand residence. In this scene, the man gestures with great excitement towards the beast in the direction of the animal’s face, with his right arm stretched out towards the left and his left arm recoiled towards his body. Comparison with the almost identical mirroring design of a complete tile in the Royal Ontario Museum, with different colours and details but the exact pattern in reverse, reveals that the man is watching
a fight between two butting zebu bulls. In the Ontario tile, which is a single tile from an arch spandrel, the two humped bulls have locked horns with their heads fearsomely pressed against each other, their eyes wide with anger, pupils dilated and their nostrils snorting and flaring. They are urged on not only by the counterpart of our man seated below, but by two other spectators of the sport who stand behind, presumably yelling loudly; we see only the legs of one man in trousers and the skirt of another but no doubt they form part of a large crowd watching the animal fight. The hand of the seated man in the Ontario tile reaches up towards the snouts of the beasts, perhaps inadvisedly trying to feed or pet the bulls, but more likely to whip them into greater frenzy by his gesturing. We can therefore, by means of this comparison, confirm the identification of the blue torso of our beast as that of a raging bull. The Ontario bullfight tile is published in the article by Lisa Golombek and Robert Mason, “The Garden of the Pavilion of the Stables, Isfahan” in Orientations, vol. 50, no. 2, March-April 2019, pp. 124-133, where the authors present their research on the Safavid tiled arches and related
individual tiles in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum. Details of the ongoing research project are also to be found on the Royal Ontario Museum website rom. on.ca in four articles by the authors entitled “Safavid Tile Project I-IV”, where they present their full panel reconstructions via graphics software. In the first of the online articles, “Safavid Tile Project I: The Technology”, Mason uses the bull fight tile to scientifically analyse the cuerda seca technique, while in the Orientations article on p. 127, the authors discuss the stylistic manner of the tiles where the extraordinary brilliant primary colours applied in blocks on the animals and plants do not reflect nature, yet are combined with meticulously detailed human features rendered in black on the matte white opaque glaze for individualised expressions of great variety, humour and poignancy. The great attention to the eyes, mouths, wisps of hair and particularly the moustaches and beards, have led Golombek to suggest that the tiles reflect the work of the master painter Mu’in Mussavir (died 1693). Golombek further explores this proposal on rom.on.ca in her article “Safavid Tile Project IV: The Artist behind the Arches”. In terms of the tile-maker’s art, we can see in the exquisitely drawn features of both the men in our tile and the Ontario tile the hand of what Sophie Makariou calls the Master of the Faces, the greatest Safavid tile-maker. The contrast of the boldly coloured costume of our man with his exquisitely rendered and expressive face is precisely the combination detailed by Golombek and Mason, and observed by Makariou and other tile aficionados. The man in the present tile has a long and flowing pointed black beard,
dense and inky in its mass but with individual hairs where it grows from his cheeks. He wears a rich cobalt blue tunic, pulled back slightly in the middle to reveal a white undergarment. His blue tunic is edged in black and turquoise with bright yellow cords to secure it. He wears a black and white striped turban with a blue band and a yellow aigrette, also worn by the Ontario man, whose face though with the same general outlines is seen in three-quarter rather than full profile as in our tile. The Ontario man’s tunic has not popped open but the line of the buttons bulges to reveal a paunch under the tight clothing. These little changes bring variety to designs essentially pounced from the same cartoon flipped over. To the left of our man is a small flower in cobalt blue and white. A thick vertical pole or border can be seen framing the design to the right against the apple green ground. The bull propels itself into the picture by thrusting against this border and kicking back. The corresponding border in Ontario is yellow. Unusually seen in a Safavid tile, the ground of our tile changes colour behind the bull but lacks the manganese dry cord (cuerda seca) line, which would normally separate two colours to stop any colour run. It is possible that as the border between the two hues is so small, the cord was not needed. It succeeds admirably in suggesting a gentle horizon, or the line of the green field below the sunshine of a bright yellow sky. Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Lisa Golombek and Robert Mason from the Royal Ontario Museum for their expert advice and for sharing with us their current research on the Safavid Tile Project.
17 THREE FIGURES Iran (Safavid), 17th century Height: 23.5 cm Width: 47.8 cm
A pair of fragmentary tiles in the cuerda seca technique painted in hues of green, cobalt blue, turquoise, ochre, white and black against a vibrant yellow ground, depicting a group of three figures standing on the right, framed to the left by floral sprays, under chinoiserie cloud bands that waft across the sky. The two tiles fit together to form part of what would have once been a large tile panel, placed on the wall of a palace or grand home. These panels would have displayed images of animals and people within landscapes, immersing themselves in earthly pursuits such as dancing, music and other entertainments. Here, we can only see a glimpse of the bigger picture; three smartly dressed female figures, probably ladies of the court, standing alongside a large bush of decorative floral rosettes. The figures all wear flattened conical hats with decorative criss-cross bands. Horizontal bands of cloth wound round their foreheads are tied in knots at the back, from which veils are suspended to cover the hair. Long shawls draped around the shoulders trail down their backs. Their headgear frame exquisitely painted faces in the manner of the great Safavid tile-maker named the “Master of the Faces” by Sophie Makariou.
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 Faces with a woman carrying two vases: “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 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 Makariou’s analysis of the Master’s style fits the ladies in our fragments to perfection; every detail is as she describes and we can have no doubt that these tiles come from the hand of the Master or his superb workshop. The only figure we can see clearly is the woman on the left who wears a blue tunic with a green shawl thrown over
her shoulders trailing into the tile on the left. From our fragmentary panel alone we are unable to see what the figures are doing, but it is likely they are courtiers, carrying fruits or beverages to their masters at a great outdoor feast. That this is indeed the case is confirmed by information kindly provided by Lisa Golombek and Robert Mason, who have been conducting extensive research on the Safavid tiled arches and related individual tiles in the Royal Ontario Museum. In their efforts to reconstruct how the tiled arches in Ontario once looked like when intact and installed, Golombek and Mason have used dispersed tiles found in other museum collections and on the art market. They have also attempted the reconstruction of panels or at least subject and figure groups from stray tiles in their own collection in combination with others they have discovered worldwide and added to their database. In the course of their Safavid Tile Project, Golombek and Mason have reminded us of two small tile fragments that fit precisely below the busts and heads of our ladies, filling in details of costume, hand placements and what they are carrying to great satisfaction. These two tile fragments were sold by Simon Ray while still working at Spink. The woman on the left is revealed to have yellow buttons on her blue tunic. She respectfully clasps her hands as she stands in attendance. The woman on the right, also standing with clasped hands, has a pale blue tunic beneath a cobalt shawl and similar yellow buttons. Only the central lady is in fact carrying a large yellow platter with a black rim, filled with multicoloured exotic fruits. Her costume is olive green.
bifurcated leaves in cobalt blue and green with white centres on a turquoise branch. The left tile is mainly decorated with stylised composite floral sprays with cobalt blue, turquoise and white petals, overlapped by inner apple green petals with white central buds. The flowers all emerge from blue stalks and have green and ochre leaves. A further cloud floats in the sky above. If we were to attempt a partial reconstruction of a tile panel using the methodology developed by Golombek and Mason, it is with excitement that we note that the style and colours in the present pair of tiles are exactly the same as those seen on the tile with the “Tent and Leafy Sprays” illustrated as cat. no. 13, as well as the rest of the tent illustrated in the matching tile published in our Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue of 2008, pp. 48-49, cat. no. 19. Most tellingly, the bicoloured leaves with white centres on turquoise branches above the ladies on the right are precisely the same as those cascading over the tent and the sunny yellow ground is identical. Though the tent tile and the lady fragments do not join up, we believe that they must come from the same panel but were once separated by tiles in between that have now been lost. Hopefully, further tiles may yet await rediscovery to complete our knowledge of the overall composition. Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Lisa Golombek and Robert Mason from the Royal Ontario Museum for their expert advice and for sharing with us their current research on the Safavid Tile Project. Reference: 1. Istanbul, Isfahan, Delhi: 3 Capitals of Islamic
They are framed above by a chinoiserie cloud band and three
Art, Masterpieces from the Louvre Collection, 2008, p. 248, cat. no. 119.
18 C O N C E N T R I C S TA R S A N D A C C O R D I O N B O R D E R Iran (Safavid), 17th century Height: 23 cm Width: 23 cm
A tile in the cuerda seca technique decorated in cobalt blue, white, light blue, turquoise and black, with a highly unusual double geometric design consisting of two horizontal sections of equal area, the lower section forming an integral outer border framing the main internal stellar design, which by repetition would have filled the main field of a tile panel. Piquant horizontal bands of turquoise frame the accordion border and inject a jolt of bright colour while demarcating the edge of the panel. The inner band of turquoise separates the border motif from the star design. The outer turquoise band is underlined by a strip of black that brings the complex design to a determined, emphatic climax and formal resolution. In the upper portion of the tile we see half a concentric eight-pointed star motif. A tile with the complete stellar motif is illustrated in our 2019 Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, pp. 70-71, cat. no. 27. The ever-expanding design radiates outwards, as the eye is simultaneously led inwards to the white eight-pointed star at the centre of the design. The white star seems set deep within by the illusion of depth and multiple stepped levels created by the pattern. The centripetal and centrifugal movements generate opposing forces that animate the geometric precision with a radiant kaleidoscopic energy. Surrounding the central white star are cobalt and light blue four-sided rhomboid forms that create a surrounding bi-coloured frame, also in the form of a star.
From our vantage point, as if from above, the rhomboids seem set perpendicular to the horizontal white star as if they are squares seen from angles that alter the perspective. The blue and light blue star is in turn framed by another white star, like the central white star seemingly laid flat on the horizontal.
recede, dipping away from the eye. As the eye travels over the design from top to bottom or from left to right, sections that appear to rise from one angle collapse inwards from another so the roofs dip in and out depending on our viewpoint, thus causing a continuous ripple effect to the accordion strip.
As the design approaches the viewer in the perspectival illusion, the next set of cobalt and light blue rhomboids forming the largest outer star simultaneously form the sides of three-dimensional cubes with white tops. As the white tops of the cubes seem to be angled backwards on an incline, the whole design not only radiates out but also bends back in a curved trajectory.
We pause to remember in astonishment that the tile is not moving at all but it is our mind making continuous adjustments to the way we see what is before us, animating the static, flat twodimensional surface into moving three dimensions through visual illusions of ever-changing perception. It is our mind that dances, not the pattern. The unresolved tension between the contrasting patterns in the two halves of the tile further enliven the surface. Though most star panel designs end with half-stars on the edges of the central panel, in this design, animated by threedimensionality, heights and levels, the most extraordinary illusion is that of the star slipping beneath the accordion band that we perceive as floating slightly above and covering up half the star.
The design then expands into the corners, pushing at each corner of the tile with sections of partially glimpsed bi-coloured rhomboids, the beginnings of further patterns, which combine with parts of the larger star to play with the viewerâ€™s sense of space and depth. It is astonishing that the design uses only three colours framed by straight lines on the flat surface of the tile, yet the eye is lead in dancing movements outwards and inwards, and light seems to bend as the design expands yet folds back while at the same time collapsing within. The accordion pattern in the bottom half of the present tile manipulates the eye in similar ingenious ways. The light greyish blue and dark cobalt rhomboid shapes work in tandem with the white triangular forms to convince the eye that triangular roof forms project towards the viewer or
Such intriguing geometric designs are extremely rare in Safavid tiles. Two very unusual geometric tiles from the Collection of Theodor Sehmer (1885-1979) were sold at Christieâ€™s London in the auction, Islamic Art and Manuscripts including Property from the Theodor Sehmer and Heidi Vollmoeller Collections and including the Clive of Indian Treasure, 27th April 2004, p. 172, lots 207 and 208. Lot 207 is a hexagonal tile depicting a three-dimensional polychrome cube made of square struts framing a hollow centre. Lot 208 does not play with the illusion of depth at all but electrifies its flat surface with serrated chevrons in blue and green.
19 F L O W E R S A N D L E AV E S O N A S C R O L L I N G V I N E Northern India (Mughal, probably Lahore or Kashmir), 17th century Height: 17.4 cm Width: 19 cm
A tile in the cuerda seca technique painted in warm, mellow shades of green, orange, aubergine and purplish blue against a buttery yellow ground, highlighted by white and outlined by the dark manganese brown of the glaze technique. The lyrical design consists of gently scrolling vines that wind languidly into the centre of the tile, bearing composite flowers and variegated leaves. Placed slightly left of centre is a pendant flower with a green trefoil calyx and flanking leaves, and orange petals opening to reveal a purple cluster of just-emerging inner petals. The leaves and petals have central veins drawn in manganese brown, and the petals have a distinctive white margin, which is the white slip with which the earthenware body is covered before the application of other colours. The technique is to apply the coloured glazes just short of the edges of the petals outlined by the cuerda seca, so that a soft marginal halo effect is achieved by the still visible white slip. The robust solidity of the petals evaporates, and in its place lingers the fragile fragrance of soft, gossamer blossoms. From the central flower emerge bifurcating vines bearing serrated
green leaves with strong central orange veins. The leaf on the right with its tip pointing towards the lower right corner crosses over a vine sweeping from the lower left corner to the upper right corner, bearing a long green leaf that turns to reveal an orange underside. The diagonal vine connects an overblown lotus on the lower left, with purple and orange petals outlined in white, to a dense cluster of overlapping serrated leaves and petals in the upper right corner, some with white margins, and some without for variety.
to Rosemary Crill, the tomb dates from the mid fifteenth century, but it was refurbished by a Mughal nobleman during the reign of Shah Jahan, when tiles in the cuerda seca technique were installed.1 Thirteen tiles from Shah Madani in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum were exhibited and published in Robert Skelton et al, The Indian Heritage: Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, 1982, pp. 26-27, no. 5.
This tile relates closely in design, colours, technique and stylistic treatment of the flowers and leaves, including the distinctive white outline of the petals, to a group of tiles in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London said to come from the tomb of the saint Shah Madani at But Kadal, Zabidal, near Srinagar in Kashmir. The tiles were acquired from Mr Frederick H. Andrews in 1923. He had been living in Srinagar, where he was the Director of the Technical Institute of Kashmir, and wrote to the museum in 1922 offering to sell his collection before he left that year to return to the United Kingdom. He said that the tiles were part of the decoration of the Madani mosque and tomb but the Victoria and Albert Museum believe that though the tiles were installed in a Kashmiri monument, they were probably made in Lahore.
A group of thirteen closely related Mughal tiles, also from Shah Madani, forming part of the donation of Jean et Krishnâ Riboud in the Musée Guimet, Paris, is published in Amina Okada, L’Inde des Princes: La donation et Jean et Krishnâ Riboud, 2000, pp. 128-133. The Riboud tiles at the Guimet have designs closely related to the present tile as well as to the group at the Victoria and Albert Museum, with white margins to the flowers and bi-coloured treatment of leaves.
tiles from both the other museum collections. Like our tile, it has a yellow ground and floral motifs with white edges emerging from a spiralling vine (1856,1216.1). This tile was given to the British Museum in 1856 by the artist William Carpenter, who travelled to and lived in India for six or seven years in the 1850s. The British Museum website informs us that this is one of three tiles found in Kashmir by Carpenter and acquired from him as a gift by the museum in 1856. This information corroborates the Kashmiri information provided to the Victoria and Albert Museum by Frederick Andrews and confirms the site of Shah Madani proposed by all the museums. Provenance: The Howard Hodgkin Collection Reference: 1. See Robert Skelton et al, The Indian Heritage:
A cuerda seca tile at the British Museum in London is also clearly from the same group as it exemplifies characteristics of the Shah Madani
The tiles at the tomb of Shah Madani show similarities of design and colour to the present example. According
Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, 1982, pp. 26-27, nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, for a discussion of Mughal tiles in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
20 P E A C O C K F E AT H E R FA N India (probably Deccan), second half of the 17th century Overall length: 121 cm Length of silver handle: 17.5 cm Diameter: 5.5 cm
A magnificent silver, silver-gilt and enamelled peacock feather fan (morchal), composed of a cylindrical silver core encased in very fine silver mesh held in place by silver-gilt mounts that are at once both functional, being part of the construction, and ornamental, being elaborately cut, chased and pierced for decoration. Each silver-gilt mount encircling the haft is composed of three horizontal registers: a central row of protruding circular pellets, flanked on one side by a row of lappets that bend upwards to accommodate the rise of the three equally spaced rounded ridges placed at the opposite ends and centre of the handle, and a ridge of continuous trefoil crenellations on the other side, decorated with chased motifs resembling flaming orbs that alternate with punched circles, through which the underlying mesh may be glimpsed. The end of the haft is marked with a flourish by a lotus bud finial emerging from a collar of much larger beads sitting on a flattened dome with swirling lobes. Similar decorations appear on the cup of the plume holder, which also has a raised ridge at the base, around which the silver-gilt mounts wrap themselves. A frieze of large beads encircles the mouth of the cup. The convex curve at the bottom of the
cup is champlevĂŠ-enamelled in blue and green on silver. The design is a garland of stylised green trefoil lotus blossoms and leaves connected by silver vines against a dark blue sky. Through the translucent green enamel may be the seen the parallel striations incised onto the hollows of the excavated silver so that the enamel may adhere better to the metal surface. Yet again, as with the silvergilt mounts, construction revealed is decoration attained, as the striations that we see through the enamelling may be read as the veins of the petals and leaves, adding visual interest and texture to the already rich and intoxicating mix. The choice of the colour palette is an artistic decision of great success, as the shimmering greens and blues perfectly and deliciously complement the iridescent colours of the peacock feather plume, produced by the optical process of structural colouration, where microscopically structured surfaces are fine enough to interfere with visible light to reflect blue, turquoise and green light. With the virtuoso display of different metalwork techniques, colourations and finishes (matt, shiny, reflective, translucent, opaque and veiled), this exquisite treasury object demonstrates diverse and exceptional skills on the part of the gifted metalworkers to produce an object combining both opulence and refinement. Though the enamelled collar displays the palette of green and blue on silver most associated with enamelwork from the city of Lucknow in the later
eighteenth century, on stylistic grounds this attribution must be ruled out on account of the overall decorative style being unidiomatic of both Lucknow and the eighteenth century. The closest stylistic match for the lush richness of the flowers and leaves, so different from the restrained naturalism and careful spacing of Mughal art, as well as the combination of green and blue with both silver and silver-gilt, comes from the metalwork and enamelling of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the Deccan. A useful comparison may be drawn with the colours and floral motifs of five silver-gilt and champlevĂŠenamelled Deccani archery rings in the al-Sabah Collection at the Kuwait National Museum, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, published in Manuel Keene with Salam Kauokji, Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals, 2001, pp. 64-65, cat. nos. 6.6-6.10. Keene dates these rings to the seventeenth century and assigns them to Hyderabad, which we consider a likely candidate for the origin of our morchal. The contiguous trefoil lappets of the silver-gilt mounts also point to a dating of circa 1650-1700 as closely related designs appear on two late seventeenth century enamelled pandans published in Mark Zebrowski, Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, 1997, p. 91, pls. 81 and 82. The pandan in pl. 81, now in the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art, is also from Hyderabad. A northern Indian silver pandan of slightly later early eighteenth century
date on p. 44. pls. 19a and b, has the similar three-lobed lappets holding a loose wire mesh fitted around the silver core, not identical to our morchal, but reminiscent. According to Zebrowski, this is an extremely rare technique, possibly of Chinese origin, exploiting the decorative potential of twisted silver wire placed like a net over a silver core. The silver mesh on our morchal is constructed of thin silver wire woven tightly together using a technique akin to textile weaving with beaten silver thread as thin and pliable as metal-wrapped silk. It is a highly unusual technique providing a softer finish as an effective contrast to the high polish of the silver-gilt mounts. It also imparts to the morchal a greater textural complexity both visual and tactile, the latter of great relevance to an object to be held in the hand. The extraordinary tightness of the mesh also anticipates the famous eighteenth century silver wire filigree work of Karimnagar, also in the Deccan, thus providing another link with the Deccan as our proposed site of manufacture. A container, a casket and a tray made from this exacting technique are published in Zebrowski, p. 45, pls. 20, 21 and 22. Pictorial evidence based on the study of miniature paintings of the period provide the final clue. A quick search through any book on Mughal painting such as Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book 15601660, 2002, reveals the paucity of morchals at the Mughal court; the
emperors overwhelmingly preferred the use of chowries (horse or yak hair flywhisks) by their attendants. Perhaps they considered the peacock to have too many associations with the Hindu gods Shiva and Krishna, and associated morchals with their Rajput neighbours. Such associations with Hinduism and Rajput court practice did not seem to bother the Islamic courts of the Deccan and morchals figure prominently in their paintings, which also demonstrate another interesting phenomenon: the lack of chowries, the rulers being most frequently fanned by sashes, scarves and white handkerchiefs. The morchal performs the function of formal regalia on occasions where a white cloth would provide insufficient grandeur or luxury.
A famous Hyderabad painting from the early eighteenth century showing Alivardi Khan with attendants in a garden exemplifies this. The ruler is fanned by two attendants bearing morchals with the same proportions, ridged handles with knops, and non-flaring cups, as seen in our morchal. This painting is illustrated in Stuart Cary Welch, India: Art and Culture 1300-1900, 1985, p. 326, no. 221. Two Golconda paintings of circa 1687 in the David Collection, Copenhagen, show the durbar and procession of the self-important Dutchman, Cornelis van den Bogaerde portraying himself in the style of a local ruler fanned by morchals. These fascinating paintings are illustrated in Navina Najat Haidar and Marika Sardar, Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy, 2015, pp. 322-323, cat. nos. 194 and 195. In the same volume, the authors illustrate two early eighteenth century Hyderabad procession paintings, p. 248, figs. 77 and 78, where the palanquins are attended by morchal bearers on the march. Provenance: The Stuart Cary Welch Collection HH Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani Exhibited: Glory and Prosperity: Metalwork of the Islamic World, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard Art Museums, 2nd February-21st July, 2002. Published: In the exhibition brochure prepared by Melanie Michailidis (author) and Marsha Pomerantz (ed.), Glory and Prosperity: Metalwork of the Islamic World, Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
21 R A M ’ S H E A D R O C K C R Y S TA L D A G G E R India (Mughal), 1750-1800 Length of dagger: 39.5 cm Length of hilt: 11.7 cm Width of hilt: 5 cm
A carved rock crystal dagger (khanjar) with a single-edged straight blade of wootz or jawhar (watered steel), the immaculately clear rock crystal finely carved in the form of a ram’s head and the steel blade exquisitely damascened with the “ladder of the Prophet” pattern (kirk narduban). This celebrated and highly-prized watered steel pattern is difficult to execute and requires immense expertise on the part of the swordsmith. Also known as Muhammad’s ladder and sometimes as Jacob’s ladder, based on the Old Testament story, the pattern of straight rungs running perpendicular to the length of the blade can clearly be seen on the blade of the present dagger. The ferrule is overlaid in gold in the koftgari technique with scrolling foliate decoration of serrated leaves and variegated exotic flowers on intertwining vines that continue onto the beginning of the flat, thickened non-cutting edge of the blade with the flourish of a floral trefoil. The blade has a recessed concave area that affords a small inward curve performing the function of a ricasso. The rock crystal has been selected for its clarity and carved in the form of a gently smiling ram’s head, with slightly open mouth, indented nostrils, cabochon ruby eyes set in the kundan technique, alert ears and powerful horns with fluted ridges spiraling back towards the ram’s cheek against the dense curls of fur. Around the neck is a collar with parallel bands of gold bearing a square emerald locket under the chin. Gadrooned ropes emerge from a circle of gold to trail sinuously onto
the sides of the grip, terminating with a flourish of emerald-set tassels on either side. The straight, un-grooved grip of circular cross-section gently narrows towards the blade. In contrast to the ornate precision of the ram’s head pommel, the flawless rock crystal is here to be enjoyed for its exceptional transparency and clarity, free from fissures or inclusions and brought out by a smooth polish. The ornament is deliberately restrained and so beautifully does it transmit and reflect light off its surface and internally that it gleams like limpid water. When held in the hand, the veins of the palm can be seen through the rock crystal, magnified by the curved surfaces and lit by reflections. Similarly, each gold tassel can be seen through the rock crystal on the other side, slightly magnified by the curve. A northern Indian dagger hilt in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts dating to the eighteenth or nineteenth century is published in Joseph M. Dye III, The Arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2001, p. 422, cat. no. 197. Dye’s comments on the hilt may well apply to our dagger: “This dagger hilt is carved with remarkably restrained … ornament by an artisan conversant with the Mughal decorative style. No doubt his moderation was also inspired by a desire to allow the miraculous transparency and clear purity of this hard stone to speak for itself without the help of fussy decoration.”
and other animal-hilted daggers; the geological and gemmological enjoyment of the pure natural quartz; and the connoisseur’s appreciation of the virtuoso blade-work. Rock crystal is a colourless and transparent form of quartz. It is very much harder and clearer than glass, making it a popular medium for the
carving of luxury objects, boxes, vessels and jewellery. Amongst the most celebrated rock crystal objects from the Islamic medieval courts are the exquisite products of the Fatimid workshops. These have survived in relatively large numbers, mainly in European church treasuries. While rock crystal objects continued to be produced after the fall of the Fatimids in 1171, these works of art from other periods and regions have not generated the same level of interest amongst scholars and collectors.1 In Mughal India there was a great revival in the art of rock crystal carving. According to Pedro Moura Carvalho, Mughal interest in rock crystal is evident not only from the number of surviving pieces but also in the numerous references to the hard stone in contemporary sources such as Abu’l Fazl.2 Jahangir owned an unusual collection of rock crystal objects from different origins including Europe, where during the late Renaissance hard stone carving reached new heights.3 His treasures included boxes from Europe, a crystal cup supposedly from Iraq which he gave to Shah Abbas I, and a crystal figure, possibly Chinese, that he received from the king of Bijapur.4 These varied objects stimulated the Mughal craftsmen to new heights of technical virtuosity during the reign of Shah Jahan. These skills continued to flourish in the eighteenth century. C
Provenance: HH Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani References: 1. Pedro Moura Carvalho, Gems and Jewels of Mughal India: Jewelled and enamelled objects from the 16th to 20th centuries, 2010,
This superb dagger therefore affords three-fold visual pleasures: the carving of the zoomorphic hilt, the equal of many fine Mughal jade horse
pp. 54-56. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid.
22 SPINEL into large jewelled ensembles, but admired singly as prized collectors’ gems or simply strung on a gold chain, whereas uninscribed spinels could be set variously in wide-ranging combinations. A great example of a single inscribed spinel suspended from a gold chain is the celebrated “Carew Spinel” at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (IM. 243-1922).
India (Mughal), 17th century Length: 2.8 cm Width: 2.2 cm Weight: 62 ct
A large spinel of elegant ovoid shape and deep rose-red hue, uncut as with other precious spinels prized by the Mughals as well as their Timurid ancestors and Safavid cousins, for their impressive size, rich colour and abundant variety of beautiful, naturally occurring forms. The spinel has been finely polished and drilled longitudinally through the centre, ready for suspension, and fitted with gold petal finials with loops to the top and bottom. According to Pedro Moura Carvalho, the Mughals made widespread use of both rubies and spinels, either for their intrinsic qualities, where the finest examples were often inscribed with the names of rulers as tangible symbols of wealth and power, or for the impact of their red colour when set in gold or in combination with other gems of contrasting colours.1 Carvalho notes however, that rubies and spinels have very little in common apart from their colour; their composition, crystalline structure and specific gravity are quite distinct.2 Rubies are a darker deep blood-red, whereas for spinels a more translucent rose-red, as in the present exquisite example, is more typical: subtler and sweeter, and somehow more poetic in their low-burn intensity.3 Spinels also have one significant advantage which led to their being highly prized: their large size which allows for maximum impact when worn. Large goodquality rubies are rare, whereas large spinels are not uncommon and
therein lies their dramatic potential, as well as affording ample room on the gemstone for inscriptions to be engraved with a diamond-tip stylus.4
ruler Shah Abbas I, the Mughal emperors Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Alamgir (Aurangzeb), and the Afghan Durrani king, Ahmad Shah (LNS 1660 J). The al-Sabah spinels are published in Manuel Keene with Salam Kauokji, Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals, 2001, pp. 134-140, cat. nos. 12.1-12.22.
Inscribed royal spinels are an important part of fine jewellery collections, both historically and in the present, and these are well documented by scholars. Carvalho discusses a spinel bead inscribed with the name of Jahangir and one of the royal titles of Shah Jahan in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London, in Pedro Moura Carvalho, Gems and Jewels of Mughal India: Jewelled and enamelled objects from the 16th to 20th centuries, 2010, p. 66, cat. no. 8.
Of particular interest to our discussion is a magnificent spinel, diamond and pearl necklace now in the collection of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, consisting of eleven seventeenth century Mughal spinel beads suspended from an opulent strand of nineteenth century pearls and diamonds set in enamelled gold collets in the kundan technique. The necklace combines three spinel beads engraved with the names of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, with eight uninscribed beads of the same size and approximate shape, demonstrating how spinels without inscriptions were also highly valued for their place in spectacular jewellery settings. Inscribed spinels were not necessarily mounted
The largest and finest collection of inscribed spinels in the world, apart from the National Jewels Treasury (the former Crown Jewels) of Iran, is the al-Sabah Collection at the Kuwait National Museum, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah. This includes, amongst other rarefied gems, the incomparable inscribed royal spinel bearing the names of the Timurid ruler Ulugh Beg, the Safavid
The Qatar necklace was first exhibited at the First Annual Doha Cultural Festival in March 2002, before the museum was designed and built by I. M. Pei, and published in the catalogue by Leng Tan with William Edwards, Gregory Minissale and Gauri Parimoo Krishnan, Jewelled Treasures from the Mughal Courts, 2002, pp. 26-31, cat. no. 9. Minissale observes that historically spinels have come from Badakhshan, a district of Afghanistan known as Balascia in the upper reaches of the Amu Darya (Oxus River). Mistakenly thought of as a type of ruby and hence given the name of “Balas Ruby”, spinels were often the favourite stones of the Mughal emperors and large examples were generally left uncut, but just polished and drilled as with the present example. In the past, there was no clear distinction between rubies and spinels, as they appeared identical and were largely found in the same localities: Burma, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, though it is generally acknowledged that the finest rubies come from Burma, while the best spinels are from Afghanistan.5 So great was the reputation of Badakhshani spinels that they were observed and written about by Marco Polo in the thirteenth century, and Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo in the early fifteenth century, when he
visited Samarkand as the Castilian ambassador to the court of Timur.6 Though the present spinel is not inscribed by a Timurid ruler or a Mughal emperor, it has its own quite wonderful, and rather more recent, story of intoxicating glamour to tell. Our jewel was once part of a collection made for the most discerning clients in the golden age of travel between the two world wars in the heady days of the 1930s. Our spinel was mounted as a brooch in a gold cockatoo setting in the Art Deco style in around 1934, for the Cairo branch of the celebrated jewellers from Agra, Ganeshi Lall & Son, by their regular Armenian jeweller in Cairo. Ganeshi Lall & Son was established in 1845 and had glittering emporiums in Agra, Calcutta and the fashionable hill resort of Shimla, where the upper echelons of British society went to escape the heat of the plains and to indulge in unrestrained, unabashed flirting with members of the opposite sex, unmarried or otherwise. Ganeshi Lall & Son was located on the Mall in Shimla, where one of the main meeting points is called Scandal Point, named for the elopement of a British lady with an Indian Maharaja. The opening of the Cairo shop in 1934 was a massive coup for a company that had held a royal warrant from Queen Alexandra, Empress of India, and an appointment to Lord Curzon, Viceroy and Governor-General of
Ibrahim Pasha Street, Cairo, 1930
as Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Allegedly, even the Nazi General Erwin Rommel said he wanted to stay in the master suite of Shepheard’s and drink champagne, when WWII was going well for the Germans.9 At other times, Allied troops gathered at the bar for their famous hangover cocktail, the Suffering Bastard, invented by hotel bartender Joe Scialom.
India. The choice of location of the new Cairo boutique for these eminent suppliers of court jewels and coronation robes to royalty was equally inspired. It was situated directly opposite the entrance to the leading hotel in Cairo, and one of the most celebrated hotels in the world from the middle of the nineteenth century until it was burned down in 1952 in the Cairo fire, the spectacular, world renowned Shepheard’s Hotel.7
The opening of Ganeshi Lall & Son opposite Shepheard’s meant that the famous, the powerful, the stars of the silver screen and the fabulously wealthy could simply cross the road to shop there. Old photographs from the 1930s show a wide facade with three tall arched glass display windows full of treasures to buy, surmounted by the proud proclamation, “By Appointment to Queen Mary”. Ganeshi Lall & Son was the finest store in a row of shops catering to the characteristic needs and tastes of the deluxe Anglophile world traveller, including the Anglo-American Bookshop and Sinclair’s English Pharmacy. Our spinel therefore evokes, and thrillingly encapsulates, all the glory of travel across time and space in the grandest style to the most exotic of locations, from Mughal India to bustling international Cairo three centuries later. Provenance: Ganeshi Lall & Son, Cairo, 1934
The bar was called the “long bar”, not for its length, but because it took so long to get a drink that even Erwin Rommel would have been held up if he tried to get a drink there.10
Shepheard’s Hotel was famed for its grandeur, its opulence with stained glass, Persian carpets, gardens, terraces and great granite pillars resembling those of the ancient Egyptian temple.8 Its unrivalled roster of illustrious guests included the Aga Khan, the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Winston Churchill, Hollywood royalty such
At the early stages, food at the hotel was said to leave much to be desired, but by the middle of the twentieth century the cuisine had attained the exalted standards of the kitchens of the Ritz in Paris, the Adlon in Berlin, and the Grand in Rome.
Pedro Moura Carvalho, Gems and Jewels
of Mughal India: Jewelled and enamelled objects from the 16th to 20th centuries, 2010, pp. 43-45. 2.
23 C A R V E D F L O R A L M A R B L E PA N E L India (Mughal, Aurangzeb period, Agra area), 1650-1700 Height: 71.5 cm Width: 91.3 cm Depth: 9.5 cm
A magnificent white marble panel, deeply carved in relief with a vigorous design of scrolling iris plants issuing from baluster shaped urns. Conceived on a monumental scale, yet carved with finesse and delicacy to the floral elements, the panel succeeds in being imposing from afar, yet intimate upon approach and viewed up close to its undulating surface. Two floral vases anchor the design at the bottom, each with a trumpet mouth composed of just-opening flower petals, a fluted globular body and a tiered, splayed foot standing on a square base. From the urns sprout a plethora of acanthus leaves with raised edges, recessed interiors, protruding inner veins and curling tips. The acanthus leaves form stylised vegetal crenellations and split-leaf palmettes made from bifurcating pairs of leaves. Rising from the leaf cluster is a thrusting upright stem from which sinuous tendrils bear pairs of iris flowers in glorious bloom, some curving down on drooping vines as if under the weight of their ripe fecundity. The floriated displays touch the mirroring elements of plants emerging from the adjacent urn to form a lattice of linked ogivals filled with arabesques. At the interstices between the bouquets, leaves press their tips together with a lingering touch, while vines intertwine into knotted junctions. Between the feet of the vases lies the most languid pair of splayed leaves,
nonchalantly unrelated to the other floral elements, indolent with sap, and seemingly having a lazy nap in the drowsy afternoon heat. The symmetry of the design is tempered and relaxed by the subtly inexact dimensions and features of matching pairs of flowers or leaves, so that a soft, natural fluidity is imparted to the structured formality of the layout. In addition, small unpaired single leaves within the matrix as well as the uppermost iris flower tilt towards the upper left corner of the design, echoing the diagonal incline of the sloping top right edge of the panel. It is as if the whole composition leans left with a perceptible yearning movement, while still remaining obedient to the rules of symmetry. This gentle caressing of the boundaries of order continues in the way the leaves and petals encroach on the borders of the panel, pressing their invading tips sensually against the straight edges of the design. The panel has a plain border to the left and another running along its base, with the added refinement of stepped and chamfered inner margins as if in a picture frame. The broader plain border to the vertical and its much narrower horizontal counterpart at the bottom, once again anchor the design with an elegant shift of gravity to the left. This panel is an architectural element, and judging from its shape it is probably part of an over-door lunette or a spandrel. A semi-circular architectural panel from the same building as our panel is in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (inv. 1999.4.a-c). This lunette panel is also finely carved in white marble on a similarly bold and impressive scale, with closely related decoration of
plants and urns that press against the plain stepped borders to create a sense of ebullient growth. The San Francisco lunette shares the same provenance as our panel as it was also acquired from the New York dealer and collector, Peter Marks. The lunette was exhibited in the seminal 1989 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum and published in the exhibition catalogue by Pratapaditya Pal, Janice Leoshko, Joseph M. Dye, III and Stephen Markel, Romance of the Taj Mahal, 1989, p. 85, cat. no. 78, where the authors assign a late seventeenth century dating and list Peter Marks as the owner and lender to the exhibition. Marks thus owned both the lunette as well as our panel in 1989 and probably several years prior to this date, perhaps even going back as far as the 1970s. The lunette is composed of three pieces of carved marble. The neat joins, straight lines and divisions into finely judged equal thirds tell us that it was originally constructed in three adjoining sections to be assembled on site. The San Francisco lunette demonstrates stylistic consistency with our piece, suggesting a coherent and carefully planned decorative programme for the entire building. According to the San Francisco museum website and their display panel in the gallery, because prevailing imperial tastes were widely adopted throughout the Mughal empire, it is difficult to determine whether this panel was commissioned by a Hindu or Muslim patron. A series of companion panels are in the collection of the Kuwait National Museum, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah (refs LNS 56 S to LNS 61 S inclusive).
The design of our panel and its related companions is a later progression of the imperial Mughal flower vase that appears on the eight corners of the tomb chamber of the Taj Mahal at Agra. This is illustrated in Ebba Koch, The Complete Taj Mahal: And the Riverfront Gardens of Agra, 2006, fig. 339. Elegant floral decorations carved in white marble became favoured architectural features under the Mughal emperors Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-1658) and his successor, Aurangzeb (reigned 1658-1707). The style of floral decoration executed in marble during the second half of the seventeenth century is more sinuous and the forms more exaggerated than they appeared during the reign of Shah Jahan (see Koch 2006, figs. 225, 226 and 230). The stylised vases and encroaching vines and flowers in our panel have begun to depart from the highly naturalistic yet formally ordered and amply spaced plants of the classic Shah Jahan flower style, yet they have not attained the superabundant floriation seen in the eighteenth century, nor acquired the stiff symmetry of later works. Thus our panel can be convincingly dated to the second half of the seventeenth century during the reign of Aurangzeb. Provenance: The Peter Marks Collection, New York Literature: Bianca Maria Alfieri, Islamic Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent, 2000. Ebba Koch, The Complete Taj Mahal: And the Riverfront Gardens of Agra, 2006. Ebba Koch, Mughal Architecture: An Outline of its History and Development (1526-1858), 1991.
24 I N L A I D M A R B L E TA B L E India (Mughal), circa 1700 Height: 7.8 cm Width: 39.2 cm Depth: 39 cm
A square white marble table or footrest standing on four small round feet, the crisp white marble delicately inlaid with a pattern of radiating floral designs in the pietra dura technique. The panoply of different coloured hard stones and semi-precious stones includes lapis lazuli or lajward (blue), carnelian or aqiq (orange and shades of red), chalcedony (yellow) and a subtle, ever-changing mixture of emerald, jade, chlorite and chrysoprase for the green. C
The design is a kaleidoscopic fusion of naturalistic, composite and imagined flowers of the Mughal repertoire. At the centre is a composite flower-head with a small rosette of blue and green petals from which radiate sixteen overlapping petals in alternating orangey red and green. From the tips of the red petals sprout quatrefoil floral sprays with yellow and blue petals and green leaves and stems. Serrated green leaves arranged in bifurcated pairs, with yellow and blue tulips at the interstices, frame the floral sprays to form the outlines of a
large eight-petalled flower. From this flower unfurl scrolling and interlacing arabesque vines bearing stylised flowers of variegated form and profile, shown in different sizes and stages of bud and bloom. The four large flowers with drooping red and orange petals and protruding clusters of blue, yellow and green stamens are columbines, from which vines sprout into the corners bearing lilies, tulips and composite blooms of the imagination. The flowers are accompanied by a chorus of unfurling buds, twisting and turning leaves, and trembling stamens and pistils. The interlacing vines that loop, coil, hinge and hook around each other have a supple spring that alternates between taut tension and free flow, achieved by the finesse of the pietra dura inlays. We may here appropriate the words used by the architectural historian Percy Smith to describe the celebrated pietra dura designs of the Taj Mahal, â€œSo sensitive and yet so firm is the drawing that it resembles the spirited sweep of a brush rather than the slow laborious cutting of a chiselâ€?.1 The central design is surrounded by a large border of scrolling poppies framed by narrower margins of quatrefoil flowers. The edges of
the table are decorated with friezes of pendant flowers and buds. The base of the table is carved with a lotus rosette in low relief with two overlapping layers of radiating petals.
demurely towelling themselves while musing on the perennial subject of love. The advantage of standing on a bathing platform would be so that bathing water would flow away from the feet.
A similar marble footrest with pietra dura floral decoration in the Musée du Louvre, Paris is illustrated in Sophie Makariou (ed.), Islamic Art at the Musée du Louvre, 2012, pp. 385-387. Dating to the early eighteenth century and enhanced by sculptural feet and inlays of dazzling polychromy, the decoration of the Louvre footrest is as bold as ours is delicate and refined.
For related gemstone inlay in marble see Pratapaditya Pal, Janice Leoshko, Joseph M. Dye, III and Stephen Markel, Romance of the Taj Mahal, 1989, pp. 132, 133, 157 and 240, nos. 133, 134, 168 and 261. Provenance: Spink and Son, London Private Japanese Collection HH Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani
Though described as a footrest, both the Louvre table and the present may have been used for the display of small precious objects such as vases, flagons, rosewater sprinklers, pandans, and small cups and dishes for delectable courtly pleasures.2 These small tables would also have functioned as bathing platforms for princesses and noblewomen, who are often depicted seated or standing on such tables in miniature paintings, combing their wet tresses or
Exhibited and Published: Spink and Son, Visions of the Orient: Indian & Islamic Works of Art, London, Tuesday, 17th October to Friday 3rd November 1995, pp. 54 and 55, cat. no. 32. References: 1. Pratapaditya Pal, Janice Leoshko, Joseph M. Dye, III and Stephen Markel, Romance of the Taj Mahal, 1989, p. 131. 2. Sophie Makariou (ed.), Islamic Art at the Musée du Louvre, 2012, p. 387.
25 R E D S A N D S T O N E PA R R O T P O S T India (Mughal), 17th century Height: 69 cm Width: 8.8 cm Depth: 8.8 cm
A carved red sandstone post, the speckled sandstone exquisitely carved in the form of an elegant post marking the end of a row of low jalis or screens that would have made up a balustrade securing the boundaries of a terrace used for the courtly pleasures of music, courtship, lovemaking and other sublime entertainments. Most posts that take this form have a groove on either side for the insertion of corresponding tangs of adjoining jalis or screens to form the balustrade. This post has only one groove on the right, suggesting that it is the terminus of the row of jalis. Most posts are also plain, providing contrast and visual relief to the ornately carved screens or pierced jalis in between. This post is unusual in that it is beautifully carved, to mark the cadence of the row of screens with a flourish; for once, the post is not the supporting actor in the architectural drama, but takes centre stage and the final bow in the visual feast. The flowers and leaves, carved in relief, are shaped to fit the elongated vertical form of the post and placed within a deep recess marked by incised lines. The foot of a once attached lotus bulb finial can be seen at the top of the post. Emerging from the splayed foot at the bottom are sprays of bifurcated leaves that rise up to bear a stylised iris with curving petals, deep central veins, curling tips and folding edges. Continuing the inexorable upward thrust is a trumpet flower, from which sprout three pairs of ever-opening acanthus leaves that in turn bear another five-petalled iris supporting a further trumpet form, from which emerges a spray of fern leaves. The tip of the fern branch leans to the left, softening the symmetry of the
carving. The flowers and leaves are precisely judged in scale and density, with enough foliage to suggest abundance yet not so much as to detract from a perfectly balanced essay in lyrical restraint. Perched on the top of the leafy spray is a single parrot pecking at the leaves, its characteristic long tail providing balance by trailing down the right side of the plant that it lightly grips with the claws of one foot, using the claws of the other raised foot to explore and rummage through the leaves for food. Its stillflapping wings show that the bird has only just landed, enlivening the pictorial splendour with fresh vitality. The parrot seems to wear a ring collar, suggesting that it is a favourite pet bird rather than a wild parakeet. Its wide open eye is a simple incised circle, yet the stonemason has with this single masterly stroke imbued the bird with character and brought out its curious, questing nature. In a similar vein, the mouth is incised with a line to indicate where the beak opens, yet this is enough to suggest the bird eating, squawking, maybe even talking. We can thus hear the bird as well as see it move. The parrot is an ancient symbol of love in Indian art and is frequently portrayed in literature (for example, the great Tutinama or â€œTales of a Parrotâ€?), poetry, paintings, sculpture and all the accomplished decorative arts of jewellery, metalwork, textile production and, as here, virtuoso stone carving. The parrot is the vehicle of Kama, the god of love and the impeller of creation, whose name derives from kam, meaning longing or desire. Creation is always preceded by desire and so the parrot represents the feminine creative principal in nature. Provenance: Spink and Son, London
26 R E D S A N D S T O N E F L O R A L PA N E L India (Mughal), circa 1700 Height: 69.3 cm Width: 82.5 cm Depth: 8.5 cm
A carved red sandstone panel, the delicately speckled sandstone carved in relief with a profusion of flowers and leaves on scrolling vines. The abundant vegetal scrolls rise from a base composed of vigorously curling acanthus leaves that support further leaves forming the shape of a waisted vase from which sprout a fan of bold acanthus leaves, surmounted by scrolling vines on which stylised iris and poppy flowers and buds bend and nod. The floral designs are set within a square frame with broad borders on either side. The combination of various levels of relief with vegetal growth that seems at once vigorous yet languid imparts a sense of life sprouting before our very eyes. Though the design is formal and essentially symmetrical, the excellence of carving avoids even the slightest hint of rigidity seen in later carvings of the eighteenth century, suggesting that our panel comes from the late Aurangzeb period. While the flowers and leaves are bolder and more sinuous, and by the exaggeration of forms have begun to move away from the ordered simplicity and naturalism of the Shan Jahan era, the panel has not yet achieved the excessive floriation of the eighteenth century, nor acquired any later stiffness or sense of routine. Look at the way the flowers and leaves rise up just a touch more on the left side and linger just a little on a lower level on the right. The size of the flowers and leaves also do not exactly mirror each other, some are bigger, others smaller, as in nature. Bursting with sap and vitality, in the spontaneous imperfection of the carving lies its perfection.
27 P E A C O C K PA N E L Northern India (Mughal), 18th Century Height: 70 cm Width: 93 cm Depth: 6 cm
A carved red sandstone panel in high relief depicting a peacock within a cusped mihrab arch. The focal point of the panel is its magnificent peacock, presented in side profile, facing left and 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. The bird has a large teardrop 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. The 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. The 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 was believed to chase away evil spirits. The god, Krishna wore peacock feathers in his hair and legend tells of the sons of Shiva riding on the back of the peacock. Originally this panel would have formed part of a faรงade of a grand Mughal pavilion. Provenance: Spink and Son, London
28 A K B A R A N D H I S E N T O U R A G E J O U R N E Y B Y B O AT F R O M D E L H I T O A G R A ON THE RIVER JUMNA India (Mughal), 1590-1595 Height: 32.5 cm Width: 19.5 cm
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. An illustration to an imperial Akbarnama manuscript. As our thesis below will hopefully demonstrate, it is most likely that this is a dispersed folio from the famous “First” Akbarnama illustrated manuscript, the bulk of which has been at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London since 1895. It was left on approval for purchase consideration by Mrs Frances Clarke, the widow of Major-General John Clarke, who had bought the manuscript in Oudh while serving there as commissioner between 1858 and 1862.1 Just a few stray pages are scattered internationally, in the museums of Cleveland and Philadelphia, and in private collections, such as the present folio that came from a French collection in Brittany. These loose pages seem to be illustrations of Akbarnama events that precede the years covered by the incomplete V & A manuscript, 1560-1577, and therefore not included in the section acquired by the V & A through Clarke.
This painting depicts a boat journey taken by Akbar and his courtiers in 1558, two years before the beginning of the V & A illustrations in 1560, and it relates closely in style to the First Akbarnama. In addition to stylistic similarities, an indisputable fact that points towards our painting being from that manuscript is the image size, which is precisely that of the average 32 x 19 cm dimensions of all the V & A paintings, with the exception of a few anomalies that may be easily explained; for example, the reuse of an earlier painting by Farrukh Beg from another manuscript with a smaller picture size (27 x 17 cm) to expediently fill a narrative gap.2 When we consider questions of style and dimensions: the ways in which the paintings are mounted onto the folios; how the texts are written and incorporated within panels on the back and boxes on the front; and the choice of calligraphic script; the present painting does not fit into either the Second Akbarnama, divided between the British Museum and the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, or the recently discovered Third Akbarnama, a page of which is published in the current catalogue, cat. no. 29, providing useful comparison. Apart from the fact that the Third Akbarnama folios have all been remounted onto pages from an eighteenth century album, with no text on the reverse,
the critical difference is that the text on the painting recto is written in the distinctive naskh calligraphy that sets the Third Akbarnama apart from both the First and Second Akbarnamas. The Second Akbarnama is also very different in style from the first manuscript, more refined and less dynamic, with many of the pages lightly tinted rather than highly coloured like that of Akbar’s own copy. It was produced at a later date between 1602 and 1603, probably to commemorate the tragic assassination of Abul’l Fazl in 1602. The present painting conforms to First Akbarnama characteristics with its rich colouration on the recto. The composition is structured along a series of diagonals and zigzags, repeatedly seen in the First Akbarnama manuscript and characteristic of its vigorous style. Here the device is applied more gently, though still visibly, to a scene that does not require the impetus of a hunt or a battle, which are structured by powerful diagonals that cause the paintings to vibrate with surging movements across the page. The verso is inscribed in nasta liq with seventeen lines of text from Abu’l Fazl’s Akbarnama that identify, date and describe the boat scene that takes place in 1558, the third year of Akbar’s reign (1556-1605) when the young emperor was only sixteen years old. C
of inclusion, are not.”4 In addition, a fact of crucial importance is Abu’l Fazl’s revelation of “His Majesty himself having indicated the scenes to be painted.”5 In other words, the choice of scenes is Akbar’s, and so for him, and according to Abu’l Fazl’s principles, this pleasant boat trip is as significant as that of the titanic sieges of Ranthambor and Chitor, because the stability it depicts is equally as hard won as a great battle, and is only achieved as the result of good governance.
in reality he misses nothing and sees all.
The well-written Akbarnama text is very useful in that it identifies the scene, and confirms without a doubt that this painting comes from an Akbarnama manuscript; but it also complicates our investigation as its broad layout of seventeen lines to the page does not conform with the strict and very consistent twenty-five lines to a page seen on the versos of the V & A Akbarnama folios, and neither does it have the margins that frame the V & A texts. These are issues that we address below, and hopefully resolve, as all other factors point convincingly to a First Akbarnama provenance for our folio. The brief description of the boat trip is preceded by the end of the chapter before, which describes in detail Akbar’s love and mastery of elephants, used as both metaphor and physical demonstration to his courtiers and political rivals of his capabilities, and hence his divine right to rule over the vast Mughal empire. Akbar’s ability to control the large and extraordinary beast, which Abu’l Fazl pretends he is unable to adequately describe in prose, let alone do justice to its magnificence, is used in the same way as a king’s skills in hunting: to celebrate and legitimise kingship. In particular, Akbar’s ability to master mast or musth enraged bull elephants is a symbol of his ability to preside over an unruly populace and ride above the storms of political dissent. Furthermore, his passion for elephants gives him an air of insouciance, leaving the machinations of politics to plotters and lovers of stratagem who assume, wrongly, that the ruler is not keeping an eye on court intrigue, whereas
Specifically the text names two mad elephants that the emperor is able to ride and tame at a time when they are raging with hormonal levels of testosterone sixty times above the norm and prone to anger and rampage. The first mast elephant that Akbar rode as a boy was named Damudar, which was given by Humayun to Bairam Khan. The second mast elephant that Akbar rode and first used in combat against another enraged beast during the siege of Mankot was called Jhalpar. The passage comes from the end of Akbarnama chapter XVIII, which is entitled “The Shahinshah’s Inclination for Elephants and the Fighting of Raging Elephants”.
The story is given in chapter XIX, pp. 117-118 of H. Beveridge’s translation of the Akbarnama, entitled “H.M. the Shahinshah’s Progress to Agra”: “When the pleasant region of Delhi had been for six months an abode of justice and peace owing to the stay there of H. M. the Shahinshah, and its affairs had been arranged according to the instructions of inspiration, the world-adorning mind … resolved that the sublime standards should proceed to Agra, which for air and water makes Baghdad ashamed of the Tigris, and Egypt of the Nile, and his oceanscattering mind decided on travelling by boat and on the river Jumna. The fluviatile officers prepared vessels and boats, and outside and inside of the planks were beautified by silks. On the day of Ishtad 26 Mihr, Divine month, corresponding to Sunday 26 Zi-hajja, (9th October 1558) that ocean-hearted Shahinshah and that ocean without a bound embarked, and imparted the dignity of the circumambient ocean to a petty piece of water. The great officers, the courtiers and others who had made preparations for the journey also embarked. It was as if the river was in fête … With all kinds of joy and pleasure they set out towards Agra. On that pleasant journey they engaged in fishing and in waterfowling. And the sublime reunion, which was another river brimful of
The charming and pleasant boat trip from Delhi to Agra that follows on in the text, and which our painting so beautifully illustrates, is thus the result of the governance of an emperor that can bring order, peace and stability to his kingdom. As Sue Stronge observes, Abu’l Fazl indicates in his concluding remarks to the Akbarnama that: “This history is intended to serve as a lesson-book of political science for the instruction of mankind and as a moral treatise for the practical teaching of subjects in the right conduct of life.”3 According to Stronge, “The explanation of Akbar’s ability to move metaphorically between the two dominions, the material and the spiritual, is the guiding principle behind the historian’s approach. Events are often seen as illuminating particular principles, and the pictures reinforce this. To a great extent, his approach explains why certain incidents are selected whereas others, seemingly worthy
grand jewels, became by the effect of the movement of the boatshaped flagous [flagon or container] billowy with gifts and munificence, till at length on 17 Aban, Divine month, corresponding to Sunday 17 Muharrum 966 - 30th October 1558, the crescent-moon standards of the Shahinshah emerged from the ascension point of the horizon of the city of Agra, and made that fortunate and auspicious city the centre of the circle of the throne and the ascension point of the light of fortune. H. M. the Shahinshah gave celest rank to the citadel … by his alighting there.” The journey from the 9th to the 30th of October 1558 thus took twenty-one days or three weeks to complete. The painter has captured with verve, invention and many delightful anecdotal details the festive splendour of the trip. The youthful-looking Akbar, with barely the hint of a moustache, is seated under a four-pillared canopy surmounted by gilded finials and crenels, leaning against a large red throne cushion, listening to music and conversing with his courtiers as he is fanned by an attendant brandishing a chowrie (flywhisk). He is dressed in a plain but delicately pleated robe, almost diaphanous in its gossamer texture, with a katar (thrust-dagger) tucked into his patka (sash), securely fastened for the journey by the addition of a goldstudded belt. In his turban he wears a feathered aigrette. The boat is constructed from curved planks of wood. Mounted dramatically on the majestic rising prow is a carved figurehead of a ferocious green dragon. The dragon is so realistically depicted with hairy spotted hide, piercing eye, open mouth bristling with teeth and a tongue of smoke and fire, that it seems an actual beast riding on the tumultuous, surging waves. Just near the royal barge is a boat carrying
richly caparisoned, plumed and saddled horses, with a figurehead taking the form of a duck or other waterfowl. The boat below has a ram’s head finial and carries, amongst others, a falconer with his bird on a glove for water-fowling as described by the text. To the upper left corner, sailing close to the verdant, wooded shore of the Jumna, are two boats full of musicians, who provide raucous entertainment for the trip with penetrating wind instruments (trumpets, sringa and shennai) and a large ensemble of kettledrums (naqqara) vigorously pounded with percussion sticks. The boat closest to the shore also has a dragon figurehead, not one that surges forward like Akbar’s, but turning back as if to conduct and bark menace at the floating orchestra. These abrasive sounds can penetrate and carry across the waves, but seated close to the emperor is a sitar player who provides more intimate and refined musical accompaniment. The whole musical flotilla prefigures and brings to mind the orchestra of barges that accompanied King George I down the Thames to Hampton Court on 17th July 1717, while playing Handel’s celebrated Water Music, with woodwind and brass on the boats and delicate strings, flutes and lutes at dinner upon arrival. No doubt Cleopatra enjoyed similar royal music on her barge on the Nile, the river referenced by Abu’l Fazl that the Jumna eclipses in splendour. Akbar’s boat surges forth by means of the large red and green sail hoisted onto a tall mast and billowing in the wind. A charming detail is the rope ladder going up the mast, which falls down to the deck right next to the emperor, as if he himself could climb up to the top with athletic ease if needed. On the stern, standing on the quarterdeck, is an oarsman steering the rudder by a long pole.
Akbar’s royal guard carry his rifle and his talwar sword wrapped in a ceremonial cloth.
prior chapter concerning enraged elephants. The next stage of our investigation took us to visit Sue Stronge at the Victoria and Albert Museum, to show her the painting in reality and to compare it with the First Akbarnama paintings at the museum. As with all the other scholars involved in our research process, Stronge remarked on the quality of the picture and commented on the idiomatic depiction of the faces and hands that relate closely to other passages in the V & A paintings. Stronge also drew useful comparison with the way boat scenes are depicted in the First Akbarnama paintings: for example that showing another royal journey to Agra by boat in 1562 (IS.2.3-1896), and its companion (IS.2.4-1896) depicting another part of the same imperial boat procession in which Akbar’s mother Mariam Makani accompanies her son on a separate vessel.7 In particular the treatment of the waves in these pictures, though varied, employs the same stylistic device of immaculately described small inner waves with careful parallels and scrolls when observed close up, but when seen from a slight distance coalesce in the eye to seething turbulence, crowned by clusters of white froth at the tips of the surging waves.
Two other smaller vessels without animal prows carry supplies. To the upper right, sailing close to the large fortress in the background which may represent Agra as it is depicted uninhabited as if waiting for the arrival of the royal party, is a boat carrying what may be supplies of food. Two attendants carry dishes, and one leans over to collect water or wash his plate in the water. At the bottom of the picture in the foreground is another boat carrying chefs and huge cooking vessels; one carries a covered platter while another stirs a massive cauldron. The cooking boat is steered by a shirtless sailor wearing only a white dhoti tied casually around his waist. Indeed, all the figures in the painting are maximally differentiated from each other by their facial features, postures, dress and the astonishing variety of graded skin tones, no two exactly alike. It was Marcus Fraser who first suggested that our painting belonged to the First Akbarnama manuscript and cited as reasons for his proposal the clear similarities in style and size to the V & A pages and the lack of similarity to either the Second or Third Akbarnama manuscripts, which ruled them out as parent manuscripts.6 At the time of the acquisition of our painting, we did not know the scene it depicted but the situation changed when the painting was restored by Helen Loveday, who took off the decayed backing sheet to reveal the nasta liq inscription hidden beneath. The inscription was then read by Will Kwiatkowski who found that it included the precise 1558 date of the boat trip showing the location of the story within the Akbarnama text, including a bit of the
While recognising the imperial quality of our picture, and the abundant similarities with the First Akbarnama, which propel us towards embracing that manuscript as our parent text, Stronge and Kwiatkowski both felt, and we are in agreement, that the issue of the widely spaced text still needed to be addressed. At their suggestion, we consulted the opinion of Jerry Losty, who has long been the custodian of the Second Akbarnama at the British
Library, London. Just prior to our discussion with Losty, we were fortunate to receive, in addition, the considered opinion of Terence McInerney, who saw the painting in reality and did not hesitate to accept that it comes from the First Akbarnama on account of its closely matching style and size, despite the seventeen lines of text on the reverse. After a period of considering all the opposing factors, Losty has reached a similar conclusion and accepts that our page is indeed from the First Akbarnama, illustrating the event Kwiatkowski identifies as from 1558 when Akbar was only sixteen. Despite his fresh face and lack of a moustache, Akbar still looks a trifle mature in our painting for a boy of sixteen, but Losty observes that Akbar’s artists did not portray him as in any way childlike after he came to the throne; even the young Akbar must have the requisite gravitas to exude divine and royal authority. Losty draws our attention to comparable First Akbarnama images of the emperor at the age of 18, illustrated in Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal Emperor: The Art of the Book 1560-1669, 2002, p. 59, pl. 39; and aged 19, illustrated on p. 64, pl. 43. As with Stronge and Kwiatkowski however, for Losty the key points are the number of lines and the unfinished state of the verso. To this end, Losty has checked some pre-V & A pages and notes that these have mostly the standard twenty-five lines, with the exception of the First Akbarnama painting in the Cleveland Museum of Art, which has a looser arrangement of lines and two panels of lines set at an angle and written on a space-stretching diagonal.
According to Losty, this is standard Mughal scriptorium practice for slowing the text down when it is getting ahead of the sequence of illustrations and Losty suggests that something similar may be happening on the verso of our page. As with our 1558 boat scene, the painting in Cleveland depicts a pre-1560 (i.e. pre-V & A section) event from the life of Akbar’s father, Humayun, as he was moving down from central Asia to retake India with Safavid assistance, “Humayun Defeating the Afghans before Reconquering India”. This painting is published in Linda York Leach, Indian Miniature Paintings and Drawings: The Cleveland Museum of Art Catalogue of Oriental Art, Part One, 1986, pp. 47-50, cat. no. 13. The reverse with the stretched out text can be examined on the museum website www.clevelandart. org. On p. 49, fig. 13, Leach illustrates another dispersed First Akbarnama page, “Humayun Receiving the Head of Quracha Khan”, now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This also shows a pre-1560 event, but the reverse conforms to the twenty-five lines of text that are standard in the V & A pages. This demonstrates that while inconsistencies do occur, as in our page and that in Cleveland, they are rare. Losty further observes that looking at the V & A pages where the painting encloses panels of text with more than one line of calligraphy in each of the panels, the lines are more widely spaced than on the purely text sides. Stronge’s pl. 39 on p. 59, illustrating the first occasion on which Akbar captured a cheetah in 1560, is an excellent case in point with five lines of text: a single line in a panel on top and four lines in a panel below, spaced in such a way that a complete page would have about seventeen lines, certainly not twenty-five. Early pages that we have found on line and several others illustrated in Stronge’s book have similar more spaciously
arranged lines. In other words, the calligraphy within text boxes on the paintings at the V & A have the same spacing as our page on the reverse, so while our calligraphy does not conform to the spacing on the V & A versos, it does indeed conform to that of the rectos. This may be the result of the complex process by which the illustrated manuscript was put together. Stronge has pointed out the many inconsistencies within the V & A manuscript that show it was not completely finished and that it is something of a composite in places with newer panels of text laid down over older ones. Losty suspects that this may be true of our whole page, containing an early version of the text that had no need to be changed and for some reason, probably a librarian’s forgetfulness, was left as it was rather than have the finishing lines ruled round it. It is also possible that a new twenty-five line text panel was intended to be laid over the older text on the back, and only when this was done would be the margins be added. As new text panels were laid over older ones on the front of the paintings as images and texts were constantly juggled and adjusted during the production of the manuscript, it is not inconceivable that a similar method of assembling the manuscript might have happened, or may have intended to happen but never did, on the reverse of the present painting. We therefore conclude as the result of these thorough investigations that this spectacular boat scene is indeed a page from the First Akbarnama manuscript.
collection, giving a total of at least 50 years
uncovering the inscription on the verso that
ownership since the 1970s. The family have
lead to the identification of the scene.
grown up with the painting for as long as they can remember since childhood, which
is how we can confirm that they have been
1. Susan Stronge, Painting for the Mughal
in the family home for this entire length of
Emperor: The Art of the Book 1560-1669, 2002,
time in Brittany. While the painting has not
been restored or cleaned during that time
2. Ibid., p. 44, pl. 28.
and was hanging on the wall without glass,
3. Ibid., p. 58.
it was protected by a layer of varnish which
4. Ibid., p. 60.
was probably done in the nineteenth century.
5. Ibid., p. 45.
We can confirm that the painting has received
6. Personal communication with Marcus
its French passport, which provides further
proof of provenance.
7. As Linda Leach has demonstrated, it was Mariam Makani or Hamida Banu Begam
who commissioned the Third Akbarnama
We would like to thank Sue Stronge and
manuscript with its naskh calligraphy and
Jerry Losty for their expert advice and for
affectionate portrayals of Humayun.
discussing this fascinating painting with us, and Will Kwiatkowski for his kind reading
of the inscription, the identification of the
H. Beveridge (trans.), The Akbar Nama of
scene and its location within the Akbarnama
Abu-l-Fazl, 1897, vol. I.
narrative. We would also very grateful to Helen Loveday for
Provenance: French Private Collection in Brittany The painting was inherited by the most recent owners 20 years ago and before that it has been in the same family
29 B A B U R D I S P AT C H E S H U M AY U N T O B A D A K H S H A N India (Mughal), 1595-1600 Folio: Height: 36 cm Width: 24 cm Miniature: Height: 32.2 cm Width: 17.7 cm
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. A folio from the “Third” Akbarnama manuscript. Inscribed in naskh within the text panel: “[The Emperor Babur] dispatched the brow of splendour, the frontispiece of glories and eminences, the peerless imperial signature, the pupil of the eye of the sultanate and the caliphate, Abu’l-Nasr Nasir al-Din Muhammad Humayun at a distance of 3 kurohs from Alwar on the 9th Rajab of the auspicious year to those lands (i.e. Kabul and Badakhshan). And at the same moment he turned his exalted attention to the removal of Biban Afghan who at that time [during the Rana’s disturbance had besieged Lachknaw and taken possession of it]...” 1 The painting shows the Mughal emperor Babur (reigned 1526-1530) sending Prince Humayun to administer the region of Kabul and Badakhshan on 9th Rajab 933 (11th April 1527) following the conquest of Mewat. Badakhshan had been committed to Humayun since 1511 with the death of the Timurid ruler of Badakhshan, Mirza Khan. In 1520, Humayun had been appointed by Babur as the regent to Mirza Sulaiman, the infant son of the deceased Timurid monarch. The Akbarnama of Abu’l Fazl is the biography of the Mughal emperor
Akbar and an imperial chronicle of his reign (1556-1605) and that of his father Humayun (1530-1540; 15551556). As a prelude to their histories, details of Babur’s reign and his life with the young prince Humayun are also given, such as in the episode illustrated. As part of his conquest of India and the establishment of the Mughal empire, Babur defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi in the Battle of Panipat on 21st April 1526. Though his army was vastly outnumbered, Babur’s use of cannons and the introduction of gunpowder to the subcontinent ensured his victory. Babur had guns while the sultan relied on elephants. Just prior to Humayun being dispatched to Badakhshan on 11th April 1527, Babur achieved another decisive victory over the coalition of Rajputs from Rajasthani kingdoms led by his formidable foe, the famous Rana Sanga, Maharana Sangram Singh of Mewar (reigned 1508-1528), at the Battle of Khanwa on 16th March 1527. The Hindu Rajputs were joined by Muslim Rajputs from Mewat and Afghans under Mahmud Lodhi, the son of Sikandar Lodhi of Delhi. The aim of the Rajput-Indian Muslim alliance was to restore the Lodhi Dynasty and to expel the central Asian Babur, direct descendant of Timur, from India. After this great victory Babur decided to postpone the pursuit of Rana Sanga back to Chitor, capital of Mewar, and to focus instead on the conquest of Mewat and its capital at Alwar. Muhammad Ali Jang Jang and other Mughal officers led a huge force against the seditious Illyas Khan who was unable to resist the imperial forces. The defeated Illyas Khan was taken back to the royal court at Agra where he was flayed alive. After the conquest of Mewat, Babur himself proceeded to Alwar, arriving on 7th April 1527, C
when he bestowed the treasures of Alwar on His Highness Jahanbani (Humayun). After the annexation of Mewat, Babur turned his attention to the administration of Kabul and Badakhshan and on 11th April 1527 dispatched Humayun from his position three kurohs just outside Alwar. A kurohs in Persian, or kos in Sanskrit, is an ancient Indian unit of distance in use since at least the 4th century BC, about 3.07 kilometres or 1.91 miles in modern terms. We can see from the text panel that immediately after sending Humayun to Badakhshan, Babur had to quell yet another rebel, the Afghan Biban, who had taken Lucknow when he spotted an advantage during the great disturbance wrought by Rana Sanga. The life of a Mughal emperor was one of continuous military campaigns and administrative postings of Mughal princes and itinerant officers as governors in far flung regions of the ever-expanding empire, in particular for the first Mughal emperor Babur as he strove to establish the empire. In this painting Babur is seated on his throne within a canopied pavilion as he discusses Badakhshan with Humayun. As he is still a prince, Humayun has yet to adopt his characteristic form of headgear, the distinctive turban with a tall pointed cap that he designed himself when he ascended the throne. He listens attentively to his father with his arm raised and placed in a gesture of respect on his simple turban. The direct eye contact between the two main protagonists is telling as this is absent from the gaze of surrounding courtiers.
It establishes a feeling of intimacy between ruler and heir, a bond between father and son and a clear dynastic link from which the courtiers are excluded. Babur’s throne is hexagonal and placed on a tiered dais of hexagonal form standing on splayed metal feet. The carpeted sandstone pavilion enclosing the throne is also hexagonal in form as is the kiosk which crowns the structure and the platform on which it sits. In front of the emperor are covered trays of delectable snacks and long-necked flasks (surahis) full of liquid refreshment. Only the prince has been allowed to step onto the podium, but while he is raised above the courtiers, he is still several steps below the ruler. On the left, attendants fan Babur with a redhaired chowrie (flywhisk) and carry his bow, arrows and quiver. Musicians play in the foreground while falconers carry birds of prey on gloved arms. There is no artist attribution to this scene, which conforms to the usual circular arrangement of courtiers in front of the enthroned monarch as seen in this and other historical manuscripts of the period. Jerry Losty has observed slight artistic idiosyncrasies including the slightly squat appearance of the standing figures, the archaic further projecting eye of the falconer on the right, and the attempt at a three-quarter view from the rear for two of the courtiers at the front.
Akbarnama was painted around 1590-1595 and presented to the emperor as his close friend Abu’l Fazl was still working on the text. The Victoria and Albert Museum paintings deal with the middle years of Akbar’s reign (1560-1577). Though dateable to 1590-1595, the paintings are still in the style of the 1580s, full of vigour and excitement. The second copy of the Akbarnama, commissioned early in the next century with the text brought up to date, is divided between the British Library, which owns 39 illustrations, and the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, which has 66 paintings. This second Akbarnama is quite different in style from the first manuscript, more refined and less dynamic, with many of the pages lightly tinted rather than highly coloured like that of Akbar’s own copy. It was produced between 1602 and 1603, probably to commemorate the tragic assassination of Abu’l Fazl in 1602. Amongst the paintings are two dated miniatures containing the Ilahi date of the 47th year of Akbar’s reign, corresponding to 1602-1603. The dating of the second Akbarnama is discussed in J. P. Losty and Malini Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, 2012, p. 58. According to Leach in her study, “Pages from an Akbarnama”, in Rosemary Crill, Susan Stronge and Andrew Topsfield (eds.), Arts of Mughal India: Studies in Honour of Robert Skelton, 2004, pp. 42-55, the newly
discovered third Akbarnama pages are related to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s highly coloured, dynamic illustrations and were probably painted after Akbar’s own series, between 1595 and 1600. Stylistically, this manuscript is closer to the first Akbarnama than the later one. Leach convincingly suggests several reasons for identifying the royal family member for whom this Akbarnama was commissioned as Hamida Banu Begam. Firstly, the text is written in the conservative naskh script as opposed to the nasta liq used on the other two copies. Naskh is a script that Hamida is thought to have preferred. From her personal library is a naskh manuscript with her ownership seal, penned for her just before her death. Secondly, a number of scenes centre on women and their activities, depicting them with unusual animation and intimacy, and showing scenes from the zenana that would have appealed to Hamida. These include “Humayun surprising his parents”, illustrated by Leach on p. 42, fig. 1, and discussed on p. 47. C
Finally, several paintings depict her husband Humayun in the context of much greater warmth, tenderness and drama than his portrayals in the other Akbarnamas. One of the finest, combining all these aspects, is “Festivities at the Wedding of the Emperor Humayun and Hamida Banu Begam” now in the Cynthia Hazen Polsky Collection in New York.
With radiant faces painted by Daulat, this is illustrated by Leach on pp. 4445, figs. 2, 3 and 4; and also by Jerry Losty in Andrew Topsfield (ed.), In the Realm of Gods and Kings: Arts of India, 2004, pp. 372-373, cat. no. 165. Humayun is also depicted majestically in “The Arrival of Humayun in the City of Lahore”, illustrated in the 2009 Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, pp. 56-59, cat. no. 16. A painting in the Khalili Collection of “Bayram Khan doing obeisance before Humayun” is published in Linda York Leach, Paintings from India: The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, vol. VIII, 1998, pp. 50-52, no. 10. A painting depicting “The game of wolf-running in Tabriz”, a spectacle put on for the entertainment of Humayun, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art, is illustrated by Leach on p. 46. As she observes, such a subject certainly adds a note of spectacular excitement to the depiction of Humayun’s life. Similarly a painting of Humayun watching a dynamic game of polo on the same visit to Tabriz is illustrated in our Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, November 2008, pp. 114-115, cat. no. 49. Provenance: From a private collection that has been in England since the 1940s. Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Jerry Losty for his expert advice and Will
This page is one of more than twenty miniatures that have recently come to light from an important royal manuscript thought to have belonged to Akbar’s mother, Hamida Banu Begam. Scholars who have studied these paintings, in particular Linda York Leach, have identified the manuscript as a third royal Akbarnama.
Kwiatkowski for his kind reading of the inscription and the identification of the subject. Reference: 1. For Beveridge’s translation of this section of the Akbarnama, see H. Beveridge
The earliest Akbarnama manuscript is primarily in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has 116 miniatures. This first
(trans.), The Akbar Nama of Abu-lFazl, 1897, vol. III, pp. 266-267.
30 T I M U R ’ S C O M M A N D E R P U L A D D E C A P I TAT E S T H E C O N S P I R AT O R T U R K H A N E R L AT India (Mughal), 1595-1600 By Madhav Folio: Height: 28 cm Width: 20 cm Miniature: Height: 12.6 cm Width: 9.5 cm
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. A folio from the Zafarnama manuscript. Inscribed with the story in nasta liq in the text panels above and below the painting and on the verso. C
This event took place in the early part of the year AH 777/1375 AD during Timur’s campaign in Khwarazm. In the region of the town of Sipaya on the Oxus river, Timur encountered the army of a certain Turkhan Erlat, who had been among the conspirators involved in a failed assassination attempt on the life of Timur the previous year. After a fierce engagement, the army of Timur emerged victorious and the general Pulad was despatched after the fugitive Turkhan. Pulad succeeded in dismounting Turkhan and decapitated him. At the same time, another commander was sent after Turkhan’s brother and the heads of the two rebels were later presented before Timur.1 This painting is a virtuoso presentation of an act of supreme violence, set against an exquisite backdrop of an army not in battle as with other Zafarnama paintings in the manuscript, but calmly and
methodically tying up the loose ends after their successful rout of the enemy. After the charge of cavalry we have encountered in other battle scenes, the cavalcade of magnificently caparisoned horses and weary soldiers moves in slow stately fashion from right to left across the bottom of the picture. In the upper right are musicians playing trumpets and kettle drums, and as with the musicians storming the castle of Fushanj, they ride on camels. High in the sky above are birds seen in the far distance against the fading light of the atmospheric recession, giving the upper portion of the painting depth and opening up the vista after the close placement of the mid and foregrounds that theatrically situate the action right up against the viewer’s gaze. Not only has Turkhan fallen to the ground, but his horse has also collapsed with a twisted head, broken neck and legs waving lifelessly in the air. Pulad must have brought down the horse to bring down the man, and now stands triumphantly with a slight smile above Turkhan, whose dead body is literally at his feet as if in a last plaintive cry for mercy. Pulad holds the severed head that bleeds profusely from the neck. A History of Timur and Khalil Sultan was originally prepared by Timur’s grandson, Ibrahim Sultan ibn Shahrukh, the governor of Shiraz. Under his patronage, the text was rewritten as the Zafarnama (Book of Triumph or
Book of Victory) by Sharaf al-Din Ali Yazdi in ornate prose and completed in AH 828/1424-1425 AD. The Zafarnama relates the history of Timur (born 1336, reigned 1370-1405) the Mughals’ most illustrious ancestor of whom its founder, Babur, was a direct descendant as Timur’s greatgreat-grandson. According to John Seyller, the Zafarnama text was much acclaimed in Iran, where it was copied and illustrated frequently.2 C
By 1595, during the reign of Akbar, the Mughals had acquired a Timurid copy dated 1467-1468, famed for its twelve paintings by the celebrated Persian master Bihzad, which were added to the text around 1480. This manuscript is now in the John Hopkins University, Milton S. Eisenhower Library, John Work Garret Collection. Two out of the six double-page illustrations from this manuscript are illustrated in Thomas W. Lentz and Glenn D. Lowry, Timur and the Princely Vision: Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century, 1989, pp. 266-269, cat. no. 147. According to Jerry Losty, the present leaf is part of the now dispersed Zafarnama manuscript commissioned for the library of the emperor Akbar between 1595 and 1600. This illustration is executed in the imperial Mughal atelier in the refined style characteristic of Akbar’s later years. The manuscript originally had over ninety illustrations, a total Seyller has discerned from evidence of the painting numbers preserved in the lower margins, the position of the last known illustrations in the text,
and the projected rate of illustration.3 Five paintings from this newly rediscovered manuscript emerged at auction between 1991 and 2002, when they were identified by Robert Skelton as part of a Zafarnama. More than a dozen have since appeared and a recent count shows that there are at least twenty-four known pages.4 The major Mughal manuscript of the Akbar period dealing with the history of Akbar’s ancestor, the renowned conqueror Timur, is the Timurnama in the Khoda Bakhsh Library in Patna. This is an immense manuscript with 132 paintings of great vigour completed in 1584. Until its re-emergence there seemed to have survived no imperial copy of the Zafarnama, the most important fifteenth century history of Timur, although there exists one sub-imperial Mughal copy with seven miniatures from the Deccan, precisely dated 21st July 1600 in the colophon, and now at the British Library, London. This is published in Jeremiah P. Losty, The Art of the Book in India, 1982, pp. 102 and 122, no. 85. This was most likely made for Mirza Aziz Koka, Akbar’s foster brother and governor of Ahmadabad in 1600. C
Losty has observed that the paintings of this imperial Zafarnama are of the highest quality, a view shared by its discoverer Skelton for whom it remains one of his favourite Mughal manuscripts. The Zafarnama is the work of some of the master artists of the late Akbar period, and is attributable to the period 1595-1600. The 1590s was a period of immense activity in the Mughal studio, the earlier part of the decade being dominated by the production of three vast historical manuscripts: the widely dispersed circa 1594 Tarikh-i-Alfi (The History of a Thousand Years, marking the millennium of the Islamic era in 1592); and the Chingiznama, the
history of the Mughals’ ancestor Genghis Khan, now in Tehran. Both manuscripts have paintings that are often the work of several hands normally between and surrounding panels of text. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Akbarnama of 1590-1595, continues the practice of multi-authorship and tends to reduce the incidences of text panels within the body of the paintings, sometimes eliminating them entirely. The middle years of the decade saw the production of the brilliantly illuminated poetical works of Nizami, Jami and Amir Khusrau on which major artists were clearly encouraged to lavish time and effort to produce their most masterful work and in which the text panels are reduced to the minimum. Where the stories were so familiar, there was little need for the intrusive text panels. According to Losty, the Zafarnama marks the next stage in the development of the Mughal illustrated historical manuscripts in which the paintings, each the work of a master artist, are sandwiched between upper and lower panels of text, thereby unleashing the artist’s full creativity in filling the rectangular space without any text panels to form crutches to hide an artist’s difficulties in handling space and recession. Madhav or Madhu is one of the major artists of the later Akbari period. Madhu Kalan or Madhu the Elder seems to disappear from the scene in the early 1590s, after which the name Madhu tout court presumably is the same as the earlier Madhu Khurd or Madhu the Younger, the soubriquet no longer being needed. He sometimes worked as a portraitist and we can see here his excellence in this type of work, in his varied and expressive rendering of faces expressing wonder or disbelief even as they watch the beardless young Pulad decapitate the enemy commander. Losty observes that Madhu’s figures arranged in a circle
command the available space effortlessly. They are centred on the twisted and headless body of Turkhan Erlat, a pose echoed by his contorted horse lying upside down with its throat slashed. The format of no text panels was also adopted early in the next century in 1602-1603 for the second imperial Akbarnama, whose surviving volumes are divided between the British Library, London, and the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. The framed text pages of this Zafarnama manuscript were cut out of their original folios and mounted on a lighter colour paper in the seventeenth century. The foliation, running numbers of the miniatures and the identity of the artists were added to the new pages in the imperial library, as happened with the first volume of the second Akbarnama now at the British Library. It may have been intended to add marginal paintings in gold to the larger surface surrounding the text panels and paintings, as was the case with the British Library Akbarnama, discussed in Losty, 1982, p. 93, nos. 70-71, and J. P. Losty and Malini Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, 2012, pp. 92-93. However, this seems not to have been done. Based on Losty’s analysis of the stylistic development of Akbari paintings in the last decade of the sixteenth century, we have assigned a date of 1595-1600 to the Zafarnama page in the current catalogue. Seyller attempts to refine these dates even further, narrowing the range to the last three years of the decade, from 15981600. He publishes a page depicting “Timur outside the Fortress of Qashi”, in John Seyller with introductions and interpretations by Konrad Seitz, Mughal and Deccani
Paintings: Eva and Konrad Seitz Collection of Indian Miniatures, 2010, pp. 42-44, cat. no. 6. Although the manuscript’s colophon has not yet surfaced, the style of the paintings and the roster of artists leave no doubt for Seyller that the manuscript was produced within a year or two of 1600. He notes that several artists, notably Mahesh, Khem Karan, and Tulsi Kalan, had worked on manuscripts of the 1570s (i.e. Hamzanama and Darabnama) but others, such as Hiranand and Laksman (Lachman), are known primarily from their work in the first two decades of the seventeenth century. And if the artist Payag, named in a leaf now in a private collection, is indeed the same painter as the one who gained renown during the reign of Shah Jahan, as seems likely, these detached pages afford a glimpse of the early work of some artists who had very distinguished careers.
This specialised function underscores the attention given to the depiction of certain historical figures while it narrows the scope of the second artist’s work. Note that Madhu the portraitist in the Seitz page works as the solo artist of the present page, both designing the composition as well as painting the faces. Provenance: From a private collection that has been in England since the 1940s. Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Will Kwiatkowski for his reading of the inscriptions and the identification of the scene, and Jerry Losty and John Seyller for their expert advice and kind preparation of the material we have used in this catalogue description. References: 1. For a translation of Sharaf al-Din Yazdi’s account, see the link: https://archive.org/details/ TheHistoryOfTimurBec_201409 The Zafarnama story we have recounted in
Seyller observes that as we refine our understanding of the styles of individual Mughal painters, the fact that only one artist is named in most ascriptions makes the Zafarnama paintings particularly useful diagnostic works. In the few cases in which a second artist is indicated, as in the Seitz painting where Dhanu is the lead painter, the second artist Madhu is the portraitist.
this catalogue come from the online copy of Sharaf al-Din Ali Yazdi, The History of C
Timur-Bec: Known by the Name of Tamerlain the Great, Emperor of the Moguls and Tartars: Being an Historical Journal of His Conquests in Asia and Europe, 1723, vol. I, p. 169. 2. John Seyller, Mughal and Deccani Paintings: Eva and Konrad Seitz Collection of Indian Miniatures, 2010, pp. 42. 3. Ibid., p. 44, fn. 1. 4. Ibid.
31 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. 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 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
32 M A H A R A N A S A N G R A M S I N G H C E L E B R AT I N G T H E S P R I N G F E S T I VA L W I T H H I S N O B L E S I N T H E R O S E G A R D E N AT U D A I P U R India (Udaipur), 1715-1720 Height: 51 cm Width: 89 cm
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper within a black margin and red border. Inscribed on the verso in devanagari. The long Rajasthani inscription describes the event in detail and gives the names of all the many sardars (nobles) in attendance on this great occasion, as well as the names of the three leading musicians and the royal elephant waiting tethered in its own pen. This large and magnificent painting depicts Maharana Sangram Singh (reigned 1710-1734) and his nobles celebrating the Flower Festival on New Year’s Day in the spring month of Chaitra in the Gulab Bari (Rose Garden), situated on the road to the Chaugan (polo-ground or arena) at Udaipur. Its rose-petals were used not only for rose-water but in the making of a fiery liqueur called gulabi.1 Situated to the south-east of the City Palace, the Gulab Bari was remodelled by Maharana Sajjan Singh (reigned 1874-1884)
as the Sajjan Niwas recreation park, laid out on European lines, with a public zoo and cricket and football grounds.2 According to Jerry Losty, it is today popularly known as the Gulab Bagh and roses still grow there in profusion. Captain (later Lieutenant-Colonel) James Tod, the first British Political agent and future historian of Rajasthan, who resided in Udaipur from 1818 to 1822, describes the Flower Festival in his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, vol. II, p. 665, as a day on which “all the fair of the capital, as well as the other sex, repair to the gardens and groves, where parties assemble, regale, and swing, adorned with chaplets of roses, jessamine, or oleander, when the Naulakha gardens may vie with Tivoli of Paris.” This painting is one of the earliest examples of the tamasha (spectacle) genre, which dates from the beginning of Sangram Singh’s reign and continues the vogue for large topographical subjects on cloth initiated under his father, Amar Singh. According to Andrew Topsfield, the major achievement of Sangram
Singh’s studio was the elaboration of court portraiture and its fusion within the larger public spectacle, depicted with unprecedented depth of incidental and topographical detail, and recorded with extraordinary documentary zeal in a style that Topsfield describes as unimpeachably Mewari.3 The modest scale and subtle understatement of the Amar Singh’s atelier was transformed, from the small intimate portraits of his reign, into expansive pictures in which Sangram Singh is now only a small, though still the central, figure in elaborate compositions involving hundreds of figures.4 The expansionist tendencies first seen on cloth during the Amar Singh era were now transferred to paper. The paper-makers supplied the artists with strong thick sheets of ever larger sizes, so that neither the imagination of the painters nor their patron’s grandiose vision could be constrained.5 Topsfield observes that it was Sangram Singh’s intention to build up a comprehensive documentary record of state occasions and seasonal festivals, as well as to pictorially depict the daily activities and pastimes
of the Rana in his ancestral domains in and around Udaipur.6 Topsfield’s analysis of the artistic developments of this period demonstrates the fundamental compositional method of recasting familiar palatial structures and architectural forms of the City Palace and its environs, as well as broader topographical and landscape views of the surrounding countryside, into pictorial frames and settings for narrative scenes of court life.7 The grand manner instigated by Sangram Singh would be maintained at Udaipur in varying forms for more than two centuries as the style continues to resonate, and is thus his great achievement and legacy as an artistic patron.8 As each Maharana successively added buildings to the palace and pleasure complexes, these new buildings were also added to the paintings and incorporated as part of the structural framework. During his reign, Sangram Singh built the Tripolia gateway of the City Palace, hunting lodges at Nahar Magra and the Udai Sagar, and the western pavilions and garden at the Jagmandir lake palace.9 He also commissioned the exotic decoration of the new Bari Chitrasali or Chini ri Chitrasali apartments in the palace decorated with blue-and-white Delft and Chinese export tiles, to be so memorably celebrated in many large Mewar paintings as the impressive backdrop to the activities, but also automatically given a starring role by providing interest, framework and focus to the pictorial content.10 Something similar is happening in the present remarkable picture. Though ostensibly a record of Sangram Singh and his courtiers during the Flower Festival, it is the dramatic setting rather than what the participants are doing that first catches the eye and then lingers on in the visual memory. It is the
rose garden that is the true subject of the picture and it is stunningly portrayed in all its glory. Though the fact that every figure in attendance is named by inscription emphasises the documentary importance of this picture, it is the abundant profusion of lilac roses in full bloom, bursting out of the rectangular confines of the neat flower beds in a garden laid out in the quadrilateral manner of a Mughal chahar bagh, that is the primary focus of the painting. With trees in variegated, shimmering shades of green surrounding and dotted amidst the rose garden, the painting is an impressionist symphony of colour. In abstract terms, it could be read as a study in lilac and green, as modern and conceptually innovative as Monetâ€™s paintings of his garden at Giverny. However, once the viewer is drawn in and absorbed by the fields of colour, the charm of the anecdotal detail begins to assert itself and cast its narrative spell as the picture tells us its story. Maharana Sangram Singh with nimbus is seen three times. First he is seated under a canopy supported by gold posts, smoking a hookah and leaning against a red cushion on the white marble platform at the centre. He is surrounded by his chief
courtiers seated formally in durbar, wearing ceremonial dress with black shields angled against their knees. All his attendants wear garlands as befitting the occasion but the Ranaâ€™s garland is placed at his feet alongside delicacies on a mat and his golden mace beside him. Seated immediately outside the throne area is his young son and heir, Jagat Singh. Born in 1709, at the time of this picture Jagat Singh would have been only three or four years old but he is given a miniature military shield to carry. He rests his palms on the top of the shield just like the older courtiers as he sits obediently in front of a platter overflowing with rose garlands, one dangling down from the side. As all the courtiers are already wearing garlands, Jerry Losty has suggested that the garlands are probably for honouring the dancers and musicians who provide the entertainment for the day, a performance of a story based on Radha and Krishna. The dancers are first seen entering from the left, approaching the centre via a garden path accompanied by a drummer and two clapping singers. The blue skin and peacock feather fan
(morchal) of the male dancer identify him as Krishna and hence his beautiful companion as his consort Radha. A young boy, probably a gardening apprentice or the son of a workman, runs alongside excitedly. At a discreet distance, hidden within the rose bushes below the central marble platform, are three court musicians that provide antiphonal accompaniment, no doubt coordinated harmonically and rhythmically, leading yet syncopating, with the incoming singers and their drummer. The inscription on the verso identifies the famous musicians as Kan playing the rebab, the singer Chand, and Piro performing on the dholak drum. The inscription also names the seated nobles and standing attendants. These are listed by Andrew Topsfield in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition in which the painting was shown, at CESMEO in Turin, by Rosa Maria Cimino, Life at Court in Rajasthan: Indian Miniatures from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century, 1985, cat. no. 70. The sardars seated facing Sangram Singh are Rao Bakhat Singh, Rathor Pratap Singh, Maharaja Takhat Singh, Jhala Daulat Singh, Rathor Kishan Das and Tuvar Kishan Singh. The two standing attendants holding flywhisks (chowries) are Tulsi Das and Madhya Chand. Seated adjacent to the Maharana and facing the group of courtiers before him are Ravat Deva Bhanji, Maharaja Pratap Singh, Thakur Indra Singh, Chauhan Zoravar Singh and Saktavat Shyam Singh. In the row behind them are Pancholi Raya Chand and others. Framing the upper half of the rose garden to the top and upper right and left are red tent panels (qanats) mounted on poles secured with ropes. Lining the top of the qanats is a decorative border of white trefoil palmettes. Not only do the red tent panels screen the Rana and provide an element of privacy within a very public event, they also work as an internal frame within a frame, echoing the broad outer red border
that surrounds the whole picture as a structuring device. The buff brick walls of the garden seen on the left and along the bottom of the picture also act as structuring devices but, like the qanats erected in only the top half of the rose pens, add a touch of elegant asymmetry to the proceedings. With the movement of the figures from left to right in the narrative, the composition is animated to avoid any hint of rigidity while still maintaining a well-crafted structure. Sangram Singh then leaves the central platform, walking along the path to the right preceded by the two chowrie bearers and followed by four courtiers and an attendant carrying his hookah. This small select group proceeds to an informal area to the right, where Sangram Singh is seen for the third time in the continuous narrative. The dancers with their drummer and one of their singers have moved to perform in front of the Rana, while the court musicians Kan, Chand and Piro continue to provide music from a cotton dhurrie below the royal group. Pratap Singh, Takhat Singh, Kishan Singh and Zoravar Singh are the four courtiers invited to join this intimate group. Behind Sangram Singh is a domed pavilion and further to the right, on the edge of the composition, is a smaller hexagonal pavilion. To the lower right corner of the rose garden can be seen the royal elephant Pitabar tethered and waiting in his enclosure. His resting mahout (driver) is the only other figure apart from Sangram Singh to enjoy the pleasures of the hookah, though his is a simple and modest example compared to the Ranaâ€™s opulent gold and jewelled hookah. A tier of stacked lotas (water vessels) and three pecking chickens indicate that this is not the royal stable but a makeshift resting place in a yard. Nevertheless the mahout carefully guards the valuable elephant with a rack of spears behind him. Just outside the pen is a well where water can be drawn for the elephant.
Losty notes further anecdotal charm to the lower left corner of the garden. He notes that just inside the entrance wall is a well with a Persian wheel apparatus for raising the water, but the means for distributing it round the garden is not indicated, unless it is the two women with water pots on their head in an adjacent courtyard. In Losty’s view, it is more likely that they are getting the water for domestic purposes and bringing it to the houses of the gardeners around the little courtyard. The little outhouses and domestic shrines dotted around the garden are also for domestic use and remind us that such an opulent garden needs constant attention and maintenance in order to appear at its most magical.
the centre and Sangram Singh’s own rifle wrapped in a gold brocade. The insignia bearers are accompanied by guardsmen with bows and arrows in exquisite quivers and gold katars (thrust- or push-daggers) tucked into their patkas (sashes). No doubt when it is time to leave, Pitabar, now well rested, would be brought round to the entrance of the garden and fitted with blankets and a magnificent howdah in which to carry Sangram Singh home to his palace after a day of great festivity.
the Nineteenth Century, 1985, cat. no. 70.
Joachim K. Bautze, “Die Welt der höfischen
Life at Court in Rajasthan: Indian Miniatures
Malerei”, in Gerd Kreisel (ed.), Rajasthan: Land
from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century,
der Könige, 1995, pp. 123-180.
International Institute for Advanced Asian
Ludvig V. Habighorst, Blumen – Bäume –
Studies (CESMEO), Palazzo Reale, Turin,
Göttergärten in indischen Miniature, 2011,
Rajasthan: Land der Könige, Linden Museum,
Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at Udaipur:
Stuttgart, 3rd June - 8th October 1995.
Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of
Höfische Malerei in Udaipur / Rajasthan: Bilder
Mewar, 2002, p. 162, fig. 141.
für die Fürsten von Mewar, Museum Rietberg,
Andrew Topsfield (ed), In the Realm of Gods
Zürich, 8th March - 12th May 2002.
and Kings: Arts of India, 2004, fig. 9 detail.
Blumen – Bäume – Göttergärten – Indische Malerei aus sechs Jahrhunderten, Museum für Völkerkunde, Hamburg, 17th March - 27th October 2013.
Indische Gärten / Gärten der Welt, Museum
Mewar Royal Collection
Rietberg, Zürich, 13th May - 31st October 2016.
British Rail Pension Fund, before 1978 Sotheby’s London, 26 April 1994, lot 23
Dr Ludwig V. Habighorst
We would like to thank Jerry Losty for his expert advice.
Waiting outside the left wall through which the royal party entered through a small door are five richly caparisoned horses, two elephants decked out in saddlecloths tied by ropes with bells and ridden by mahouts carrying ankuses (elephant goads). Four foot soldiers carry rifles wrapped in cloths. Just inside the door, having stepped into the garden but not venturing further in, are Sangram Singh’s immediate retinue bearing the Rana’s ceremonial insignia: the royal chhatri (honorific parasol), the changi, a standard with a disc of black felt or ostrich feathers with a gold solar symbol at
Published: Rosa Maria Cimino, Life
at Court in Rajasthan:
Life at Court in Rajasthan: Indian Miniatures
from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century,
1985, cat. no. 70. 2.
Andrew Topsfield in Rosa Maria Cimino,
Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at
Udaipur: Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar, 2002, p. 262. 3.
Ibid., pp. 142, 153, 156 and 159.
Ibid., p. 158.
Ibid., pp. 158-159.
Ibid., p. 141.
33 M A H A R A N A A R I S I N G H S E AT E D AT N I G H T O N T H E T E R R A C E O F T H E C H I N I R I C H I T R A S A L I India (Udaipur), dated 1764 By Shiva Height: 62 cm Width: 48 cm
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. In this wonderfully atmospheric painting, Maharana Ari Singh (reigned 1761-1773) is seated at night with attendant courtiers on a carpeted terrace with gathering monsoon storm clouds and flashes of sinuous gold lightning in the dark sky above. The palace is decorated with blue-and-white Chinese export and Delft tiles. The lower apartment in the foreground of the miniature is the Surya Mahal with its coloured sun relief, the emblem of the Sisodiya Rajputs’ solar ancestry. The courtiers are identified by a devanagari inscription on the reverse: sri/ramji/pano 1 sri maharajadhiraja maharanaji sri arasihaji ri surat sriji citrasali upali me birajya thaka itra sardar hajur betha thaka dhaabjo? nagaji dhaabhai rupaji caran? manji ra so keto thako sama bhai beta be..? thaka kako bagji kako durjan sighji babo sagat sighji surat sighji kubar jalo ude sighji (in another hand:) citra siva ro ki do so ori jama samat 1820 ra phagan vid 2 mhe jma.
(peacock feather fan). The scene is lit by candles placed on the floor or held by attendants. Seated in front of Ari Singh is a youth who may be his son, though this is unclear from the list of names given by the inscription. An elaborate portable wooden screen, in front of which a small dog with a collar of bells and an enthusiastically wagging tale runs about in excitement, has been brought onto the terrace to form the sumptuous backdrop to the occasion. The theatrical setting for an evening of serene relaxation is the palace architecture itself, with the chinoiserie tiles in the background and the surrounding jalis of myriad designs. According to Andrew Topsfield, the Chini ri Chitrasali or “Chinese Picture Hall” 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”. We can just make out the abundant variety of subjects on the tiles by their different configurations. With the blind above the doorway leading to the inner chamber of the pavilion rolled up, we can see the figures of two ladies in animated conversation, though at first glance the impression is that they are painted on the door itself. Below the exotically decorated Chini ri Chitrasali is the Surya Mahal or “Sun Apartments”, where the medallion orb in basso-relievo 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. According
to Topsfield, the Surya Mahal was already known as such in the time of Captain (later Lieutenant-Colonel) James Tod, the first British Political Agent and future historian of Rajasthan, who resided in Udaipur from 1818 to 1822.1 Tod describes the Surya Mahal in his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, vol. I, p. 551 and describes in vol. II, p. 659 the solar symbol as “a huge painted sun of gypsum in high relief, with gilded rays”.2 Compare Andrew Topsfield, Paintings from Rajasthan in the National Gallery of Victoria, 1980, p. 118, no.167, colour pl. 14 for a slightly later, similar subject by the artist Bhakta dated 1765. A 1762 painting by Sahaji depicting “Maharana Ari Singh at Leisure with his Nobles in the Palace” has the same setting of the Chini ri Chitrasali above the Surya Mahal. This is illustrated in the Simon Ray Indian & Islamic Works of Art catalogue, 2015, pp. 110-115, cat. no. 48. Here Ari Singh is seen twice, once playing chaupar on the terrace and once in the hall below listening to music. These various examples show that these apartments were a favourite place for Ari Singh to relax in the evening. Provenance: Mewar Royal Collection, inventory number 18 Spink and Son, London, 1987 Private English Collection 1994-2018 Exhibited and published:
The courtiers present are the Dhabhais (royal foster brothers) Nagaji and Rupji, Charan[?] Manji, also Baghji (a royal uncle), Durjan Singh, Sagat Singh, Surat Singh and Jhala Udai Singh. The inscription also tells us the name of the artist, Shiva, and gives the date of the painting as samvat 1820/1764 AD. The original Mewar registration number is obscured but another library number “18” remains.
Spink and Son, London, Indian & Islamic Works of Art, Monday, 27th April to Friday 22nd May 1992, pp. 74-75, cat. no. 58. Acknowledgement: We would like thank Andrew Topsfield for his expert advice and kind reading of the inscriptions. References: 1. Andrew Topsfield, Paintings from Rajasthan in the National Gallery of Victoria, 1980, p. 118.
The nimbated Ari Singh leans against a large cushion and smokes a hookah held by a standing attendant while another fans him with a morchal
2. Ibid. Tod’s observations quoted by Topsfield are from James Tod (ed. W. Crooke), Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, vols. I and II, 1920, reprinted, 1971.
34 T H E A C H A R YA J A I J A I R A M J I A N D D E V O T E E S L I S T E N I N G T O D E V O T I O N A L C H A N T S India (Udaipur), 1740 -1750 Height: 50.5 cm Width: 34.5 cm
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper. Inscribed to the top of the red border in Hindi in devanagari: pano bhagat jaijairama ji ro “portrait of the devotee Jaijairam ji” On the verso are Mewar royal inventory inscriptions, written in three stages at the top of the page. The number 52 has been crossed out in red and another inventory number 21/49 added in red. Written in another hand to the right is nam. [for number] and ki. [for kimat or value] Rs 120, followed by the number 843 below. The abbreviation of nam. seems divorced from all the usual Mewar numbering systems. The portly and impressive figure of Jaijairam, dressed only with a wrap around his middle, is seated leaning against a cushion on a white mat placed on a floral floor spread, in front of a large tripoliya (triple gate) arch leading to the garden behind. White blossoms wafting on the breeze sparkle like stars above Jaijairam. Placed on the mat in front of him are adjuncts to meditation: a bowl of cut flowers; a pandan open to reveal fresh betel quids; a chowrie (flywhisk); a backscratcher; water vessels (lotas) and shorter strings of beads. A standing attendant holds a morchal (peacock feather fan) over the acharya as he tells a long string
of prayer beads (rudrakshamala). The figures seated around Jaijairam, including the two priests in front of him, one of whom also holds a long string of beads, are similarly dressed in just wraps or loincloths. They are all intent on listening to the bhajans or devotional chants that the drummers (dholakwalas) and cymbal players (manjirawalas) are chanting in the foreground. The name of the acharya Jaijairam and the tilak marks on all their foreheads, consisting of a vertical yellow U with a red stripe, suggest that the devotees are Ramanandis or worshippers of Rama, one of the largest and most egalitarian sects in India.1 It was founded in the fourteenth or fifteenth century by the saint Ramananda, who preached in simple Hindi and believed that all were equal before God.2 He opposed the caste system, admitting women and people of humble origin into his sect. Although not criticising the Hindu pantheon, he made Rama the centre of his devotional movement as he taught that Rama alone could liberate mankind from the cycle of rebirths.3 Ramanandi ascetics rely upon meditation and strict ascetic practices but also believe that the grace of God is required for them to achieve liberation.4 Distinguished members of the sect include the mystic poetess Mirabai and Tulsidas, the Awadhi poet regarded as an incarnation of Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, and celebrated for his Hindi dialect version of the Ramayana, the Ramacharitamanas.5 According to Jerry Losty, while artistic activity in the reign of Maharana Jagat
Singh (1734–1751) is characterised by large scale paintings of hunts and festivities, there is also a strain of introspective works involving more intimate portrait studies in the last decade of his reign, for example the double portrait of Baba Bharath Singh clothed and half-clothed in the Alvin O. Bellak Collection in Philadelphia. This is published in Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at Udaipur: Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar, 2002, p. 144, figs. 165-166. The intention may have been to mock this vastly overweight and rebellious thakur, but the artist manages to imbue him with a certain dignity. As in our portrait of Jaijairam, Baba Bharath Singh is painted with more careful attention to the modelling of flesh than was normally the case in Udaipur at this period.
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. While these famous named musicians sit decorously in the presence of the Rana, our anonymous priestly musicians vigorously sing and play with an unbridled energy that matches the intense meditation of the devotees. Provenance: Sotheby’s London, 8th April 1975, lot 116 Private English Collection Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Jerry Losty for his expert advice. References: 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramanandi _Sampradaya
Andrew Topsfield has charted the careers of various Mewar court musicians, through their representations on inscribed paintings, in his article “The Kalavants on their Durrie: Portraits of Udaipur Court Musicians,
2. Anna L. Dallapiccola, Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend, 2002, p. 162. 3. Ibid. 4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramanandi _Sampradaya 5. Dallapiccola, 2002, p. 162.
35 M A H A R A N A A R I S I N G H I N P R O C E S S I O N W I T H AT T E N D A N T S India (Udaipur), dated 1761 Height: 42.3 cm Width: 36.5 cm
Black ink on buff paper with areas of opaque watercolour heightened with gold and silver. Inscribed in devanagari on the reverse with the date and subject of the painting, beginning at the top with the Mewar royal inventory numbers written in black and red ink: 75 n(ambar) 316? 3/?0 Followed by three lines describing the scene: maharaja dhiraja maharana-ji shri ar shihi-ji ri surat ro pano ghore kumet? asawar aswari ri sibi ro babat aswari mhethi aamomo? auri jami sanban (i.e. sawan badi?) 3 suttrai samat 1819 ravughe? mhejma? “A leaf (i.e. painted page) of Maharana Ari Singh mounted on (his)
horse Kumet on the 3rd of the dark half of Sawan in the year of the (?) year 1819 (?)”. As noted by Andrew Topsfield in his article “The royal paintings inventory at Udaipur” in John Guy (ed.), Indian art and connoisseurship: Essays in honour of Douglas Barret, 1995, p. 192, the inventory head number 3 refers to paintings done during the reign of Ari Singh (1761-1773). The Samvat date of the dark half of the month of Sravana in the year VS 1819 allows us to calculate that the painting was done in August 1761, the first year of Ari Singh’s reign. Maharana Ari Singh is resplendently dressed in a long saffron jama (robe) tied with a gold patka (sash) into which is tucked his ram’s head dagger. He is seated on a green saddlecloth holding the reins of his richly caparisoned horse Kumet in one hand and waving imperiously with his other. His regal side profile, facing right and warmed by a hint of a smile, is framed by a radiant gold nimbus and adorned by a saffron turban, a black aigrette and a jewelled sarpech (turban ornament). The horse Kumet almost eclipses Ari Singh in splendour, his inky black
hide offset by a lavishly braided gold mane and his legs painted saffron above the hooves to match the Rana’s robe. His jewelled bridle is surmounted by a white feather aigrette and a quivering gold chamfron of petal form projects from his forehead. A white plume hanging pendant along the neck echoes the white yak-tail chowries (flywhisks) brandished by two attendants running alongside the horse. Attendants following behind Ari Singh carry his royal insignia on golden poles: a silver honorific parasol and the changi or solar standard, a disc of black felt or ostrich feathers radiating from a gold solar face at the centre symbolising the sun god, Surya, from whom the Maharanas of Mewar are descended. Attendants marching in front of Ari Singh bear guns wrapped in ceremonial textiles and spears embellished with tiered tassels. Several of the attendants have katars (thrust-daggers) tucked into their patkas. The selective flashes of colour and metallic gold and silver sparkle against the contrasting buff ground. The grassy scrub through which they progress is defined by a light greyish green wash and the high horizon of the sky by pale blue scrolling clouds. Despite his unpopularity and ruthlessness, Ari Singh presided over a period of abundant painting.
When depicted in his public persona, Ari Singh appears most often on horseback. During the first two years of his reign, 1761-1762, his artists produced a spate of equestrian procession scenes, showing him mounted on his favourite stallions with an entourage of up to twenty attendants on foot, in the wellworn convention developed under Sangram Singh.1 No doubt Ari Singh was a splendid horseman and wanted his painters to celebrate his riding skills while providing him with a glittering, heroic context in which to be depicted, rather different from the reality of his wilful and illtempered character and the meagre achievements of his turbulent rule. Provenance: Arthur Tooth and Sons Ltd, 31 Bruton Street, London W1, 1974 Exhibited and Published: Arthur Tooth and Sons Ltd, Indian Paintings from the 17th to 19th centuries, including examples from Rajasthan, the Punjab Hills, Deccan and other areas, 20th November 14th December 1974, catalogue no. 39. Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Robert Skelton for his expert advice and kind reading of the inscriptions. Reference: 1. Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at Udaipur: Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar, 2002, p. 199.
36 M A H A R A N A J A G AT S I N G H H U N T I N G L E O PA R D , D E E R A N D B E A R India (Udaipur), circa 1890 Height: 32.8 cm Width: 43.2 cm
Opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper within a blue border. Inscribed in devanagari on the reverse with the subject of the painting. The inscription tells us that this painting is a copy commissioned during the reign of Maharana Fateh Singh (1884-1930) though based on a painting dated 1749 (V.S. 1806) done during the reign of Maharana Jagat Singh (1734-1751). The original inscription from the 1749 painting is also copied; it names Jagat Singh’s four principal companions on the hunt: Maharaja Nathji, Kanji, Thakur Sardar Singh and Baba Bharat Singh. These are the figures seen with Jagat Singh within the safety of the shooting platform (odi). Like Jagat Singh three of the courtiers use long rifles with clouds of smoke billowing from the ends of the barrels. This dramatic painting depicts Jagat Singh with a nimbus, shooting leopard, deer and bear from the
enclosure. Outside the enclosure are hunters driving animals towards the Rana by beating the bush with sticks, letting off flares and sounding musical instruments. The animals are contained by stone walls to the centre and to the lower left, joined by a net held in place by posts and ropes. A wounded leopard attacks a hunter in a tree while another mauls a hunter on the ground below, the hunter’s red turban loose beside him. A wounded bear with a bloodied forehead runs ferociously towards the Rana’s enclosure on the left, while beyond the wall above the enclosure on the right writhe two injured gazelle. The surrounding vegetation is painted in great detail with the meticulous depiction of even single leaves.
and early twentieth century. For a discussion of painting under Fateh Singh, see Andrew Topsfield, Court Painting at Udaipur: Art under the patronage of the Maharanas of Mewar, 2002, pp. 275-293. Provenance: Spink and Son, London, 1998 Private Swiss Collection, 1998-2017 Published: Spink, Octagon, Issue 3, Summer 1998, pp. 8–9. Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Andrew Topsfield and Jerry Losty for their expert advice. Literature:
Painting continued to flourish at the Mewar court in the late nineteenth
Andrew Topsfield, The City Palace Museum Udaipur: Paintings of Mewar Court Life, 1990.
37 T H E B U L A N D D A R WA Z A ( L O F T Y G AT E ) AT FAT E H P U R S I K R I India (Agra), circa 1820 Folio: Height: 53 cm Width: 70 cm Image: Height: 47.5 cm Width: 62 cm
Pencil and watercolour on English paper watermarked “Ruse and Turners 1813”, the watercolour heightened with white and framed by a black lined border.
by the vast iwan surrounded by lobed cartouches of calligraphic pantheistic inscriptions which frame the grand entrance.2 It is here that the visitor understands the true meaning of the monument, for it was built primarily to commemorate Akbar’s subjugation of Gujarat. As Tadgell argues, it was to be seen rather than used.3 The composition of the gateway incorporates stepped tiers bearing elegant chattris and powerful trefoil crenels. Provenance: The Marquis of Bute Paul F. Walter, New York, Christie’s London,
Inscribed to the lower border in the small identification cartouche:
25 May 1995, lot 18. Private New York Collection, Sotheby’s New York, 22 September 2000, lot 178.
“The Gateway at Futtypore, Sicri.” This painting was originally bound
Fatehpur Sikri, the chief architectural monument of Akbar, was the capital city of the Mughals before Agra and was built around 1571 but eventually abandoned. Primarily of red sandstone, it displays the syncretistic style of early Mughal, that is Akbari, architecture which synthesizes features from earlier Timurid, Persian and Indian indigenous styles.1 The Buland Darwaza, or Lofty Gate, is considered the greatest of all Mughal gateways, particularly because of its immense size. The triumphal gateway marks the entrance to Akbar’s great Badshahi Masjid (Imperial Mosque). This imposing gateway was constructed by Akbar in 1601 to mark his conquest of the Gujarat Sultanate.
together with fifteen other architectural paintings in a red morocco leather album which came down by descent in the family of the Marquis of Bute. The album could have entered the Bute collection through Lady Sophia Hastings, daughter of the Governor General of Bengal, Sir Francis, Marquis of Hastings. Lady Hastings married the 2nd Marquis of Bute in 1845. Alternatively, it could have entered the Bute family collection through the 4th Marquis of Bute, who travelled to India in 1911 with King George V and acquired a number of Mughal manuscripts during his visit. These watercolors were executed on large sheets of watermarked paper imported from England. Clearly influenced by British taste, they reflect the steady increase in demand for views of Mughal monuments after Delhi and Agra were captured by the British in 1803.
The gateway is approached by a magnificent, steeply ascending and most dramatic flight of stairs as depicted in this watercolour. The stairs which fan outwards in a bold heightening of the drama, draw the spectator powerfully towards the lofty portal. On approaching the top of the steps, the visitor is met
References: 1. Ebba Koch, Mughal Architecture: An Outline of its History and Development (1526-1858), 1991, p. 43. 2. Christopher Tadgell, The History of Architecture in India: From the Dawn of Civilization to the End of the Taj, 1990, p. 246. 3. Ibid.
38 I N D I A N R I N G - N E C K E D PA R A K E E T India (Calcutta), circa 1785
display a variety of sizes, shapes, densities and textures.
Attributed to Sheikh Zayn al-Din Height: 53.5 cm Width: 36 cm
Pencil, pen and ink, and watercolour with gum Arabic heightened with bodycolour on English paper, watermarked with the stylised etters “JW” under a fleur-del-lis within a shield surmounted by a crown. The initials “JW” stand for James Whatman. Inscribed “No. 21” to the upper centre and “Chunnunna Toota” to the lower centre. This elegant painting depicts an Indian ring-necked or rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri) perched on a lightly sketched branch set on a diagonal that is barely perceptible to the eye so as not to detract from the subject of the picture. The parakeet has brilliant green body feathers of various shades from pale lemon to dark olive, with touches of grey to the underside of the wings and blue to the central feathers of the long pointed tail, which accounts for more than half of the body length. Ring-necked parakeets range in size from an average of 38-40 to 42 cm for the largest examples, and the tail encompasses around 25 cm of this total length.1 The finely observed and exquisitely detailed feathers
The characteristic red beak so vividly depicted here consists of a bright red upper mandible with a black tip, curving over a dark reddish grey lower mandible. The piercing eye with gleaming retina captures the bird’s excellent vision with which it perceives its environment. It is the distinctive black or dark purple neck ring continuing under the chin, with a rose-pink collar on the hind neck and hints of blue on the nape, that give the bird its distinctive name and tell us that this is an adult male. Females of the species do not have the neck ring and immature males do not acquire the neck ring until they reach sexual maturity around the age of three.2 The ring-necked parakeet is native to central Africa and the Indian subcontinent from Afghanistan, Bhutan and Nepal down to southern India and Sri Lanka, and perhaps its popularity as an attractive caged pet bird that can be admirably trained to talk has resulted in large feral populations throughout the world, including many northern European cities such as London. Their northern range stretching into the Himalayas allows them to adapt easily to the winter cold of European cities, yet their experience of southern Indian temperatures means that they can also flourish in the heat of the Caribbean islands.
Walking on Hampstead Heath on a dull grey drizzly day, the last thing you might expect to see is a parrot. Even if you know nothing about birds, the high-pitched chirruping cry and cruciform flight silhouette of ring-necked parakeets are instantly recognisable as something that does not quite belong, adding a touch of the exotic to our northern cities. No one really knows how a population of parrots came to be in London, though it is natural to assume they originated from escaped pet birds or from the premises of birdsellers. There are even a few equally exotic tales from popular culture to explain their existence. One of these stories is that the London population descended from a pair of birds released by rock legend Jimi Hendrix in Carnaby Street in the 1960s. Another is that the founding fathers and mothers were released from a film studio in West London where they had been used on the set of the 1951 film, The African Queen. Worton Hall film studios in Isleworth was considered a much safer, not to mention cheaper, location for filming the jungle scenes than to ship Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, and an entire film crew, off to Africa, and a few parakeets were recruited instead to give the required ambience. After filming the birds were simply, and rather irresponsibly, set free. It is likely that both these stories are true and that the parakeets living in London today do have a sprinkling of stardust in their genes; yet the released birds probably just augmented the already growing population. There is nevertheless a great deal of mystery surrounding
the presence of urban parakeets that cannot be explained by any of these theories. All sorts of birds of the parrot family are kept as pets, and presumably all are equally likely to escape, but the wild parrots that inhabit our cities are virtually all of the same species Indian ring-necked parakeets - which are far from being the most widelykept cage bird. The birds in our cities are also green, the natural colour of wild parakeets, and not the plethora of yellow, blue, white, and mixed colour mutations popular in the pet trade. What is equally puzzling is that there are populations of parakeets in at least sixty-five large cities all over Europe, all of which sprang up at roughly the same time.
of Europe’s cities simply give them the best of both worlds. Many people have a hostile attitude to introduced species because of their negative impact on local ecosystems, and the ring-necked parakeet – dominant at the bird table and destructive to the fruit trees – has certainly earned a few enemies. Love them or hate them, they appear to be here to stay. And, after all, there is a lot to be said for a touch of the exotic to brighten up a dreary day in London. Provenance: Warren Hastings, Governor General of India (1774-1785), by repute Sold Bonhams, London, 23 January 1985, lot 38 With Eyre and Greig Ltd., London in 1985,
It is possible that this species, with a native range extending into the Himalayan foothills, is simply hardy enough to survive the cooler climates of northern Europe, while other escapees may have perished. Perhaps the relatively warmer environment of the city centre compared with rural habitats, coupled with the birds’ natural adaptability, has allowed them to exploit this niche and move to town. Certainly parakeets are regular visitors to garden bird tables and feeders where they often out-compete native species. But if warmth is the reason for their city-dwelling life, why do we not see a more widespread distribution in rural areas in the balmy climate of southern Europe, where food and nesting holes may be more plentiful? In their native range in India and Africa, ring-necked parakeets are common in parks, gardens and in the vicinity of human habitation, so maybe the gardens and green areas
where purchased in January 1986 by Teddy Millington-Drake, thence by descent Donna Diana di Carcaci, the niece of Teddy Millington-Drake and sister to Alexander di Carcaci Giles Eyre and Charles Greig took an advertisement illustrating this parakeet in the October 1985 issue of Apollo magazine. The painting was described as by Shaykh Zayn al-Din of Patna, Calcutta, gouache on Whatman paper, and given a date of circa 1785. Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Katrina van Grouw for her expert advice and her brilliantly enjoyable and informative essay on the Indian ring-necked parakeet. References: 1. The descriptive notes on the parakeet in this section of the description are compiled on-line from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Rose-ringed_parakeet; https://animaldiversity. org/accounts/Psittacula_krameri/: and https:// www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/45158 2. Ibid.
39 I N D I A N V U LT U R E India (Calcutta or Barrackpore), circa 1803
farther from the truth. It takes real specialism to be a vulture.
Height: 47 cm Width: 29.5 cm
To start with, they never know where the next meal is coming from, or when. This means that they need to be able to remain airborne for hours at a time, which they achieve by soaring on warm currents of rising air to save energy used in flapping flight. They also need to keep a close eye on all the other vultures in the vicinity; when one spots food, everyone else piles in without delay. Their association with the macabre is understandable: vultures feed entirely on carrion, so the sight of them circling above is, quite literally, a sign of impending death. Because they do not need to physically catch their own food, they are able to feed on carcasses of animals much larger than themselves. Dining can therefore be a very grizzly business as birds will reach right into the body cavity, which may explain the benefit of having a bald head and neck. Their mealtimes are, by necessity communal, but competition is minimised by subtly different feeding habits in different species: the large-billed tearers of flesh, and the fine-billed pickers of bones.
Opaque watercolour on paper. Inscribed in ink to the top of the sheet in Persian: vibyati kwik “Foreign vulture or provincial vulture” Inscribed in pencil to the lower left: “This Vulture does not conform/ to any one yet described/ [unclear] of what size” Every schoolchild knows a vulture. With their bald head, morosely hunched demeanour and renown for feasting on things already dead, they score double points in the coolness stakes for those who relish the gothic and the macabre. It is easy to think of scavengers, like vultures, as all-rounders, opportunists that just swoop in and enjoy whatever is available. Actually this could not be
As is often the case, what vultures do, and how vultures look, are directly linked. For birds that habitually feed by thrusting their head into carcasses, it helps if the head does not have feathers which can be messed up with all that blood and gore. Compare these bald-headed vultures that eat fresh carcasses with those species that prefer the bones from old, dried-out ones - the Lammergeyer for example - and you will notice that Lammergeyers have a feathered head. The big wings that give most vultures their hunched look play their part too. When spread, a typical vulture’s wings have the shape and dimensions of the sort of dining table that could accommodate both families at a wedding banquet. Such wings can just lie passively on rising currents of warm air and require little or no flapping to afford their owner an excellent all-round view, not just to look for carcasses, but to look out for other vultures which might have spotted a carcass first. In forested habitats, where carcasses on the ground are hidden from the gaze of soaring birds, some vultures have developed a keen sense of smell to detect the aroma of rotting flesh beneath the tree canopy. But there is no need to re-invent the wheel: other vulture species occupying the same airspace have no need for such heightened olfactory powers when they can merely keep a sharp eye on those that do and follow them to the food. There are the large-billed heavyweight vultures that descend on a carcass first (after the dangerous mammalian predators have had their fill) and there are their smaller counterparts, whose bills are precision instruments that
can pick scraps of meat from those hard to reach places, or have even specialised to feed on eggs. The birds whose features have led us to classify them as vultures, inhabit Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America. New World and Old World vultures have slight differences including wing length, the length of the hind claw and the structure of the nostrils but were nevertheless assumed to be related. That was until pilot studies in DNA sequencing in the 1990s suggested a relationship with storks. This is not quite as farfetched as it sounds: Marabou storks, for example, are quite vulture-like in their soaring abilities, their bald head and unsavoury habits, and can often be seen feeding alongside vultures from carcasses on the African plains. As it turned out, the DNA studies were incorrect. New World vultures are not closely related to storks after all, and are currently considered to be a sister-group to the large family which includes hawks, eagles and Old World vultures. It is nevertheless an important reminder to us that, just because different animal groups are adapted to the same ecological niche and therefore look the same, it does not mean that they are necessarily related; it might just be the result of what is called convergent evolution. The vulture pictured here is something of an enigma. The large wings with relatively short primary flight feathers which do not extend beyond the tip of the tail, and its relatively long hind toe suggest that it should be an Old World vulture. Indeed, from the fact that it is the subject of an Indian painting one would expect it to be an Asian species. But it is not. The closest Old World species is the African Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus but their “hood” consists of pale-brown down and not black feathers. The black colouration and red head are
reminiscent of an American Turkey Vulture or another of the genus Cathartes, but the nostril shape and wing markings do not fit these either. The bill is unhooked, the fleshy cere on the bill is behind, and not surrounding the nostril, and, although the head is coloured red, it gives every indication of being covered in feathers which surround the bill and eye and completely mask the ear opening. Neither are there any slender-billed vulture species with anything resembling a wing bar, though it is possible that this marking is intended to represent a line of shiny iridescence.
a keen amateur natural historian and visited many botanists and zoologists during his trip, chronicling his travels in three volumes published in 1809 entitled Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon and the Red Sea, Abyssinia and Egypt in 1802-06.
This is a bird which does not exist, possibly painted from a recollection of a vulture once seen but pieced together from other birds and inspired by famous paintings of vultures, such as those of the Mughal artist Mansur in the celebrated Kevorkian Album. It was not drawn from direct observation of a vulture but is, nevertheless, a beautiful and interesting painting.
Annesley gifted two paintings to Lord Wellesley when he stayed with him in 1803 and saw the menagerie in Barrackpore. These are now in the British Library in London and published in Mildred Archer, Natural History Drawings in the India Office Library, 1962, p. 96. There is another painting in the Chester Beatty Library published by Linda York Leach, Mughal and other Indian Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library, 1995, vol. ii, pp. 761-762.
In India, where religion prohibits the removal of dead cattle, vultures have always played an indispensable role in disposing of carcasses. In such a hot climate, dead animals left to rot in the streets will soon pose a significant risk to human health. But during the last two decades the pain-killing drug, diclofenac, administered to the cattle to prolong their working life, has had a devastating effect on the birds. Both the Indian and White-rumped Vultures, once present in Indian cities in immense numbers, have declined by over 97% and both have now been declared critically endangered.
In Calcutta there were a number of English residents who shared his passion in natural history, and Annesley’s visits to local aviaries and menageries inspired him to commission many natural history drawings, mostly of birds, several of which have subsequently found their way into other collections.
Provenance: George Annesley, 9th Viscount Valentia (1769-1844) Collection of Stuart Cary Welch, New England, 1994 Niall Hobhouse, who purchased this vulture painting together with other bird pictures from Cary Welch in the late 1980s/early 1990s. However, the group of bird paintings was already in Cary’s family since the 1950s as he had helped a cousin to purchase and assemble this group in that decade. After many years the cousin, who did not continue to collect in this field, returned the paintings to Cary and when the collection became his, he was able to sell the paintings to
This painting comes from an important series of natural history studies made for George Annesley, 2nd Earl of Mountnorris and Viscount Valentia, when he made a private tour of India from 1802-1806. He was
Hobhouse. Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Katrina von Grouw for her illuminating essay on vultures, and Sam Dalrymple for his reading of the inscription.
40 L A DY N U G E N T IN HER TONJON WITH A RETINUE O F T W E N T Y- F O U R AT T E N D A N T S India (Calcutta), April 1812 Height: 55.5 cm Width: 96.5 cm
Opaque watercolour on English paper watermarked, “J Whatman 1801”. This large, impressive and exceedingly handsome painting records an evening outing in Calcutta on 24th April, 1812 as described in the East India Journal of Maria, Lady Nugent (1771-1834), wife of General Sir George Nugent, 1st Baronet (1757-1849), who was Commander-in-Chief of India from 1811 to 1813. Formerly the Governor of Jamaica from 1801-1805, this was General Nugent’s second long and difficult overseas colonial posting, in which he was accompanied by his intrepid wife, Maria. The rank of Commander-in-Chief was exalted, being second only to that of the Governor-General of India, as well as financially commensurate, bringing a yearly income of £20,000 a year (£1,431,752 per year in today’s terms). According to Ashley L. Cohen in her Critical Edition of Lady Nugent’s East India Journal, 2014, p. xx, the post of Commander-in-Chief of India was the second most profitable office in the entire empire and thus a valuable line of patronage to be leveraged by those in the upper echelons of power. These lucrative gains, candidly declared by the Nugents in their correspondence as necessary for the upbringing of their four young children (later five) to the proper class-aspirational genteel life-style these vast earnings would facilitate, were the primary and perhaps only reason persuasive enough, after their challenging Jamaica experience,
for the Nugents’ decision to embark on such an arduous and extended absence from home, away from their children, with the potential and very real risk of their never returning to Britain alive. Having just given birth to her fourth baby, a son, on 15th June 1811, Lady Nugent and her husband embarked for India from Plymouth, on board the Baring East Indiaman, on 27th July 1811, leaving the children in the excellent and loving care of their closest friends and relatives, the appointed guardians of their children, as well as their staunchest financial supporters and most powerful political patrons: George Nugent’s uncle and aunt, Lord and Lady Buckingham (George Temple-Grenville and Mary Elizabeth
Nugent), and their son Lord Temple (Richard Temple-Nugent-BrydgesChandos-Grenville) and his wife, Lady Anne Elizabeth Temple (Anna Eliza Brydges), Maria’s best friend, with whom she maintained a continuous correspondence in heart-felt letters that reveal far more of her innermost thoughts and feelings, hopes and despairs, than her charming and picturesque Journal. It is Ashley Cohen’s thesis in the “Introduction” to her Critical Edition of Lady Nugent’s East India Journal, 2014, pp. xiii-l, that a reading of Lady Nugent’s correspondence in tandem with her Journal would fill in the gaps of the Journal, written specifically for her children, and give a fuller picture of Lady Nugent and the colonial mind, with all its imperious and imperialist attitudes, assumptions, presumptions and prejudices, but also possessed of inquisitive curiosity and real pathos of human emotions. Cohen argues that an even more comprehensive, all-encompassing and strikingly consistent colonial world view straddling both the West Indies and East India emerges if Lady Nugent’s West India journal, Journal of her Residence in Jamaica from 1801-1805, republished 1907, is read alongside as part of an integral whole. Cohen writes on p. xiii, “Taken together, Lady Nugent’s East and West India journals render a remarkable portrait of an imperial life whose trajectory flaunts the seeming boundaries between the British Atlantic world and British India, and invites the reader to view the British empire from the global perspective of those that administered it.” Also crucial for the modern reader is an alertness to what is left unsaid or unmentioned, unobserved, misread or even misunderstood by Lady Nugent as a result of her colonial mind filters. The
glaring omissions in her narrative are often as telling as what she so intricately records. From this fuller picture emerges a rounded portrait of a personality that is very much the product of her time and place in society, flawed and blinkered, especially when judged by today’s politically correct standards (though emphatically not so in her own mind) but also captivating and compelling nonetheless and above all, absolutely fascinating. A good example of attitudes revealed by what is left unsaid is the skilled native artist of the present painting, who remains un-named in Lady Nugent’s Journal; yet time and time again she shows her keen awareness of art and appreciation of artists, as well as her ability to judge artistic quality, by her mention of personal encounters with Chinnery and Robert Smith, her astute assessment of their work, and her quick recognition of a famous Zoffany oil painting she sees in Lucknow, “Colonel Mordaunt’s Cockfight”, which she has previously seen in print versions. Her own scenic descriptions of the picturesque in her Journal are also penned with the skills of an excellent “eye”: not only is she able to look, but also to describe and convey atmosphere and setting, people and places, using text to paint verbal pictures that vividly conjure the scenes in which she is immersed, and to transport the reader/viewer there. In reality, Lady Nugent suffered greatly from eye strain and the stresses of her journey plus perhaps some sort of eye disease or infection, left her at times practically blind. Despite these visual challenges, Lady Nugent did her best to see and observe; to write and record; to enjoy, purchase and commission art; and to attempt some amateur sketching of her own such as her zenana portrait of Munni Begum, widow of Mir Jafar. She also appreciated not just the aesthetics of
art but the documentary value; she mentions frequently in her Journal that she will obtain a picture of what she finds hard to describe, such as the tonjon and her entourage in the present painting. The Nugents arrived in Calcutta on 14th January 1812, and quickly her Journal entries begin to reveal her keen aesthetic sensibilities.1 On 20th January 1812 she writes, “I pass over many descriptions of people, dresses, buildings, &c. &c. as I intend to get drawings of every thing, and my time is now so occupied, and I am so unwell, that I cannot write much or distinctly”. On Good Friday, 27th March 1812, she attends for the first time a breakfast party with Sir George, instead of taking morning tea as usual in her own dressing room, and at breakfast she is delighted to be introduced by a certain Mr Shakespear to Mr George Chinnery, “the miniature painter”. On the very same day, after Easter church service, she visits Chinnery and sees his paintings, declaring “the likenesses excellent” and so impressed that “I prevailed on Sir George to sit for me.” It is clear that the impetus for commissioning works of art stems from her rather than from Sir George; in the same way that we feel the birds and animals belong more to Lady Impey than Sir Elijah, who functions like George Nugent as the politically powerful yet domestically doting and supportive husband. The fact that she “prevails” upon Sir George also shows her force of character; one feels that though he is Commander-in-Chief of India, he had little choice but to comply! It is not till 1st June 1812 that Nugent begins to dutifully sit for Chinnery, but by 17th June 1812 she writes with satisfaction that “Sir George sits twice weekly before breakfast to Chinnery. - Went in the evening to see his miniatures,
which are very good indeed.” In the meantime, on 1st May 1812 she “had a native painter to draw the house”. This native drawing of her house anticipates the famous pictures made in the mid 1830s-1840s for Thomas Holroyd, Esq. of no. 5, Park Street, Chowringhee, and other house-proud colonials, by the superb and deservedly recognised painter, Shaykh Muhammad Amir of Karraya.
It was after a few months from initial arrival and adjusting to Calcutta life and society that Lady Nugent attempted her first evening ride in a tonjon around her neighbourhood. We are fortunate that while the precise circumstances surrounding the creation of many Company School paintings remains unknown, this very incident is carefully recorded in detail in her journal entry of 24th April 1812:
Another excellent artist she enjoyed the company of when she accompanied the General on his tour of the Upper Provinces of the Bengal Presidency beginning 1st July 1812 and lasting for more than fourteen months (with a massive retinue of 100 boats, 87 elephants, 355 camels, 1,030 bullocks and more that 3,000 attendants, as great as a Mughal army) was Colonel Robert Smith (1787-1873), a Bengal Engineer and Aide de Camp (ADC) to General Nugent. Smith was described by the Surveyor General as “by far the best draughtsman I am acquainted with. His masterly rapid pencil particularly qualifies him for the survey of the Frontier as he will be able to delineate the passes and surrounding country with the greatest correctness.” 2 He was a much valued member of General Nugent’s entourage and it was thus essential that Smith accompanied Nugent on the grand tour. On 16th September 1812, on board the Nugents’ boat, upriver from Murshidabad heading towards Lucknow, Smith presented Lady Nugent with a much appreciated gift of drawings: “He draws beautifully and his sketches are all so correct I know every place immediately. Here I must mention, that all my collection of drawings and curiosities (excepting those belonging to female dress), I intend for my dearest George, if it should not please the Almighty to permit me to see my dear children again - I mean this to be
“Went out in the evening, in a tonjon, for the first time - the cavalcade was very curious - twenty-four men attended me - I mean to have a drawing of this procession, so I will not describe it. A tonjon is a small curricle body, carried on the shoulders of four men, and I could not help thinking I looked like a successful candidate at an election.” 3 She seems to refer to the same episode in a section of a letter dated 25th April, to Lady Temple:
© The British Library Board, 10027.e.22, frontispiece
considered as an absolute bequest.” Smith’s exquisite watercolours and drawings may be enjoyed on Jerry Losty’s Asian and African Studies Blog entry of 9th December 2013 at blogs.bl.uk, “Disentangling the Robert Smiths”, for confusingly there are two artists of this name working at the time in India. It is clear that our Robert Smith was a great favourite of Lady Nugent, as she consulted his expertise and praised his work frequently. Alongside her frequent contact with British artists in India, Lady Nugent’s collection of pictures by Indian artists continued to grow by gift, commission or purchase and the acquisition of pictures of life in India is a recurrent leitmotif of her diary.
On 14th March 1812 for example, she received “a present of some native drawings from the Vakeel of Bhurtpore - he is a fine young man, and an excellent horseman - he rides every night on the course, and always comes up to our carriage, to make his salaam, which he does in a very graceful manner”. Observe how she skilfully uses just a few words to rapidly sketch a picture of the Vakeel for us, as quick as Robert Smith’s famed “rapid pencil”. On 31st July 1812 while visiting Mr Wilton’s elegant house in Bankipore, in the vicinity of Patna, “Mr Wilton showed me some specimens of ivory work, &c., and several people attended with drawings, for sale; and I bought a number of different sorts, done by natives to add to my collection.”
“You would have laughed if you could have seen me going out yesterday. I have a little carriage called a Tonjon. It is a sort of Curricle Body fixed upon Poles and carried upon men’s Shoulders and I had no less than 23 men attending me - 8 to carry the Tonjon, a Surdar Bearer and his mate to direct them, four men carrying silver sticks before me and calling out my Titles and condescension in treating the World with my appearance [...] Then a man carrying a Chatta, a large umbrella with Fringe and silver ornaments. Another man with a sabre in his sash called a Jemendar and 7 Hircarhas or Messengers. The use of these last I can’t understand.” 4 The servants and their dress are also referred to directly in an earlier passage, recording their first arrival at their house in Calcutta on 14th January 1812, until recently
from Designs taken from Life with Description of Each Subject, all variously describe the tonjon as “the vehicle used by the European ladies to go abroad in the cool air of the morning or afternoon. For females it is preferable to the palanqun, for they can sit up in it as in a carriage. In fact, it is the body of a gig placed upon a pole, and borne upon the shoulders of bearers in the same manner as the palanquin.”
General Sir George Nugent
inhabited by General Hewett and now “painted and done up new” for them. The yard in front of the house was filled with servants led by the surkah (supervisor), a Mahomaten, and the khanasounah (butler), a high-caste Hindoo: “The footmen are called Kitmatgars - we dress ours in white, with scarlet sashes, or rather white and scarlet mixed or twisted together - scarlet bands to their turbans - and silver crescents in front - this dress is really very pretty.” 5 With such a wealth of keenly observed detail provided by the sitter, our task of reading the picture is made simple as well as pleasurable; text and picture combine to afford the modern viewer a glimpse into the life of the British in India. The tonjon in which she is seated is a type of palanquin (from the Sanskrit palanki or palyanka for bed or couch), a horseless carriage for the very grand carried by attendants, and of such ancient origins that it can be traced back as far as the Ramayana circa 250 BC. The palki is however a
covered box-like structure with doors and an interior laid with bedding and cushions on which the passenger reclines. As its size is larger and the structure considerably heavier than the tonjon, it is sometimes carried on two parallel poles rather than a single pole stretching fore and aft. The tonjon (Anglo-Indian for tahmjan or thamjan, and vulgarly “tomjon”) is closer to an open sedan chair, but altogether lighter in construction. The seat takes the comfortable form of a European curricle or gig, a small, elegant single-axle carriage drawn by one horse or a carefully matched pair as described by Jane Austen. Early nineteenth century books on India like Joachim Hayward Stocqueler’s 1848 The Oriental Interpreter and Treasury of East India Knowledge: Companion to “The Hand-book of British India”; Robert Burford’s 1831 View of the City of Calcutta painted by the proprietor Robert Burford from Drawings taken for that purpose by Capt. Robert Smith, of H. M. 44th Regiment; and Captain Smith’s 1828 Asiatic Costumes: A Series of Fourty-four Coloured Engravings,
Because there is no “head” or covering, “it is constantly attended by a ch’hatta or umbrella bearer”, to “keep off the sun”, exactly as described by Lady Nugent herself. In fact, one could hardly imagine the prim and proper Lady Nugent with her full skirts lounging in an undignified manner on the mattress of a palanquin, a louche and languid posture more suitable for off-duty officers wearing trousers, able to cross their legs or to press their raised feet against the inner walls of the palanqiun. The body of the curricle she sits in, elevated above her attendants, is constructed just like the seat of the European curricle and even has the retractable hood to be drawn up when it rains. The weight of the passenger and the curricle seat is evenly distributed by means of tensile steel ropes linking the chair to its sleigh-like base and the tonjon poles. As an expression of British power using age-old Indian conventions and symbols, Lady Nugent is depicted in strict side profile in the manner of a maharaja, juxtaposed against the less prestigious threequarter view of her umbrella carrier. She may not be framed by a royal ruler’s nimbus, but she is partially shielded from view, and from dust and insects, by her silk tulle polka dot veil, through which can be seen her dark curly locks of hair. She must be described as very handsome, with a
commanding presence, rather than a conventional beauty; though she herself could recognise such generic allure in the exotically beautiful Indian temptresses she sought to shield, always bossily but not always successfully, from the young British officers under her charge. On the side of the seat is a crest of a gryphon with raised wings, perhaps hers or Nugent’s. As Lady Nugent states in her Journal, all the kitmatgars wear white turbans with scarlet bands and silver crescents to the front, and wound round their waists are white and scarlet sashes. Eight footmen have been assigned to carry her on each journey, taking turns, with four bearing her weight at any one time. A stable balance is maintained by the pole going alternately across the left and right shoulders of successive bearers. A hierarchy amongst her footmen is indicated by their dress. Those bringing up the rear, including four lantern carriers well-prepared for the sunset, wear dhotis and go barefeet. The men preceding her, carrying silver maces while loudly reciting her titles, wear long trousers of beautifully patterned crinkled fabric and curled-toe slippers (khussa). The maces are for her protection but also function as rank insginia. The important looking man walking alongside the tonjon wearing the most elegant fabrics on his jama and pyjamas is her surdar (sirdar) bearer, the chief or leader of the palanquin bearers, who takes from her orders to relay to his men. The jemendar or armed offcial with a sabre in his sash that Lady Nugent describes to Lady Temple, is absent from the present picture, but will have accompanied her as a body guard. Lady Nugent’s instinctive choice of words to describe how she feels while seated in a tonjon reveals a
personality steeped in the world of politics: “I could not help thinking I looked like a successful candidate at an election.” Indeed it is the patronage of immensely powerful political allies that has brought her to this very tonjon seat, and Sir George to his current position as Commander-in-Chief of India. Lady Nugent was born into the world of politics and the military at Perth Ambon in New Jersey, in what we now call America, though she would be most displeased at being called American as her father Cortlandt Skinner, was a staunch Loyalist during the American Revolutionary War of Independence, advocate-general of New Jersey and a brigadier-general in the New Jersey Volunteers or Skinner’s Greens (no relation to Colonel James Skinner of Skinner’s Horse, 1st Bengal Lancers). By the end of the civil war in 1783, he was one of three highest ranking Loyalist officers in the British Army. After the war, the Skinner family returned to England in the summer of 1783 but in much reduced circumstances as Cortlandt Skinner had to leave his American properties behind and was only partially compensated for this.
and Lord Nugent left his fortune to the daughter of his third marriage, Mary Elizabeth, George’s half-aunt who luckily adored him. She was to marry Lord Buckingham and become Lady Buckingham, so his uncle and aunt became George’s and Maria’s closest family, very best friends and greatest political patrons.7
Sir George Nugent also suffered from a family history of fallen financial circumstances that forced him to seek overseas employment to repair his fortune in challenging but immensely lucrative colonial postings. According to Cohen, his Irish grandfather, Robert Craggs Nugent, 1st Earl Nugent, was one of the richest men in Britain, his wealth acquired by successively marrying very rich widows.6 George as the eldest grandson was rightfully his heir, but Lord Nugent opposed the marriage of Edmund, George’s father, and used the Marriage Act of 1753 to have the marriage set aside so George and his younger brother were declared illegitimate. George was unable to inherit his title and estates
However, the system of political patronage leveraged through the influence of a small and tightlyknit oligarchy of powerful allies could mark the end of an illustrious career as well as its beginning or development, for in 1814, General Nugent was replaced by Lord Moira (Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings) who became both Commander-in-Chief as well as Governor-General of India. Lord Moira had found a patron more powerful than Nugent’s Grenville “cousinhood”, the Prince Regent himself, who ceaselessly championed his great friend Moira. Moira was hugely in debt to the Prince Regent to the staggering tune of £250,000 (£17,896,908 today), so he badly
As Cohen explains, though Lord Nugent did not leave George his title or fortune, his greatest legacy was the connection to one of the richest and most powerful political dynasties in Britain. Lord Buckingham’s father, George Grenville had been prime minister and his uncles Richard Grenville-Temple and William Pitt the Elder, as well as his brother William Wyndham Grenville (Lord Grenville) and his first cousin William Pitt the Younger, who was also to became prime minister, were all formidable politicians.8 It was through the patronage of Lord Buckingham and Lord Grenville that General Nugent rose continuously in the army and the colonial service of the East India Company to finally crown his political achievements by becoming Commander-in-Chief of India.
wanted to earn the salaries from both his positions, getting rid of Sir George to snatch his Commander-in-Chief salary; so like the Nugents, Moira had pecuniary motivation for going to India.9 Though she felt deeply for her husband’s loss of status and salary, our heroine was not sorry to leave India; Lady Nugent was delighted to return home to see her beloved children, and to escape the intolerable heat and insects.
different page numbers, as have scholars quoting passages from her Journal, we have found it expedient to locate the passages by date rather than page numbers, and hope this may also help in establishing a time line of events for the purposes of our description. 2. Survey of India Records, 9th April 1812 by the Surveyor General, quoted in Philimore, Historical Records, p. 442; re-quoted in “Robert Smith and Redcliffe Towers Case Study: Experiences in India” in the East India Company at Home,
1757-1857 online blog at blogs.ucl.ac.uk.
General Sir George Nugent, 1st Baronet
3. Cohen, 2014, p. 59; 1839 version, p. 130.
(1757-1849), Commander-in-Chief of India,
4. Cohen, p. 364.
1811-1813, and Maria, Lady Nugent
5. 1839 version, pp. 84-85.
Thence by descent via the Nugents to the
6. Cohen, pp. xiv-xvii.
7. Ibid. 8. Ibid.
Published: Ashley L. Cohen (ed. and intro.), Lady Nugent’s East India Journal: A Critical Edition, 2014, pl. 6 and cover illustration. Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Matthew Thomas for his expert advice. References: 1. For the preparation of this catalogue entry, we have consulted two versions of Lady Nugent’s East India Journal. The first is the version privately published in 1839 by Lady Nugent’s family and printed by T. and W. Boone, no. 29 New Bond Street, London: Maria, Lady Nugent, A Journal from the year 1811 till the year 1815, including a Voyage to and Residence in India, with a Tour to the NorthWestern Parts of the British Possessions in that Country under the Bengal Government. This is the version used by scholars such as Mildred Archer; when quoting Maria’s journal entries Archer makes reference to its page numbers. This original version may be read online at books.google.co.uk. We have also consulted the authoritative new version edited with an introduction by Ashley L. Cohen. Here the Journal is republished, publicly, for first time since 1839: Ashley L. Cohen (ed. and intro.), Lady Nugent’s East India Journal: A Critical Edition, Oxford University Press, 2014. As we have consulted two different versions with
9. Ibid., p. xxix.
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