Ladies at Bangles’ Shop
Watercolor Painting On Paper
Artist: Navneet Parikh
10.3 inches X 13.3 inches
This brilliant painting, a contemporary artwork rendered in miniature format of late Mughal art-style of around 1830-40 practised primarily at Mughal Subas – provincial headquarters like Oudh, though in all other things – theme and ambience in particular, revealing Rajasthani character, represents two damsels at a bangles’ shop where the shop’s owner is giving them a trial by putting on bangles on the wrist of one of them for determining its size, suitability of colour and overall look. In perfect execution, fine iconography and anatomical proportions, modeling and finish, figures’ gesticulation, mild colour tones and depth perspective, besides overall sophistication, the painting pursues norms of Provincial Mughal art style, though the character of the shop’s architecture, style of costumes, kind of textiles used in them and prints’ patterns, and the items put on sale – articles made of lac, bangles and jewellery boxes in particular, are typically Rajasthani. An identical shop, its proto-model, built in 1730s, might be still discovered in symmetrically built rows of shops at one of the bazaars in Sawai Jai Singh’s medieval Pink City Jaipur. This medievalism might be seen revealing also in dozens of shops at Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner, Ajmer and other old towns of Rajasthan not merely in the character of their architecture but also in the articles they sell – bangles, wears, jewellery, artifacts and things of day-today use. In the shape of these bangles and other mirrors- inlaid and lac-coated articles Rajasthan makes its presence felt world-over as also in far-gone seventeenth-eighteenth centuries in the form of their painted versions in miniatures of those days. A raised carpeted floor affording seating space for both, the shop-owner as well as the buyer, arched brackets manipulating corners, and a well moulded and gilded lintel with beautifully cast eave, typical features of Rajasthani architecture, define the shop’s face. Its interior-wall, the lower part distinguished from the rest by a projected platform with storing cabins provided under it, middle, pierced by arched alcoves, corbelled and pointed alternating mutually, and the uppermost, with low-height shallow alcove-designs, further strengthen the shop’s medieval character. As suggest her more elaborate and expensive jewellery, richer costume, fairer complexion, more elegant look, and seating posture, which traveled from Mughals’ lifestyle to entire elite class in the country, the lady on the inner side of shop is obviously one from society’s upper strata, and the other giving her company, clad in green lehanga, seated on her left, is her maid, or a friend with humble background. Almost in equation, the lady towards the right of the former and on the shop’s innermost side, wearing a green blouse, is the shop’s owner. The other lady on her right, busy in casting bangles on a heated moulding rod, is obviously her help. She has before her an oven with blazing coals and an extra moulding rod by her side. Colour and size-wise arranged series of bangles are stored in a wooden case behind them. A few of them are kept on the platform, others in a portable small wooden case and on a reel, and a few, the shop’s owner has before her for giving trial from them. The figures have been conceived with sharp features though not without what distinguished the age of the one from the other. The shop owner’s elderly age, as compared to the two buyers, reveals in her look. With a young maiden’s appearance her helper is obviously the youngest among all women. The painting is most accomplished in its portrait quality for besides portraying a set of female figures it also discovers their social status, age distinction and the period they belonged to. This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature
The Mughal school of painting runs parallel to the Mughal dynasty. It came into prominence in the sixteenth century, during the reign of king Akbar. It reached its zenith under the patronage of Akbar’s grandson – king Jahangir. The reign of the latter’s successor king Shah Jahan saw its decline and finally under the unsympathetic Aurangzeb it breathed its last. Indeed, as a school of art, the duration of Mughal painting was a limited one, extending only over approximately two and a half centuries. Actually, it has often been referred to as not exactly a school, but rather an exceptionally brilliant phase in Indian art.
The roots of Mughal painting lay in Samarkand and Herat, where under the patronage of the Timurid kings, Persian art reached its apogee. Babur, a descendant of Timur, and the founder of the Mughal dynasty, speaks of a person named ‘Bihzad’ as ‘a most eminent painter’. It was with the descendants of Bihzad and the deep personal interest taken by Akbar, the grandson of king Babur, that the Mughal school of art started off with a flourish.
Regarding the aesthetics of Mughal painting, one exceptional feature is its commitment to realism or the delineation of likeness. The subjects were majorly drawn from the extremely rich and magnificent court life under the Mughals. That this was a flourishing art during Akbar’s reign is borne out by the list of more than forty painters found in a book written during his era.
However, it was under Akbar’s son Jehangir that Mughal painting gained its highest peaks. Not only portraits and hunting scenes, but also scientific studies of botany and natural history found favor with the artists under the king’s support. The Mughal painters were asked to paint unusual specimens of flora and fauna in their exact likeness. Some of these skilfully painted pictures have survived till today, narrating to us the uniqueness of those rich times.
Under the reign of Shajahan, son of Jahangir, the Mughal school of painting entered its decline. The actual treatment of the subject matter is replaced with more decorative embellishments like rich flowery borders etc. Under Shahjahan architecture scaled new peaks (Taj Mahal etc.), but painting deteriorated. Finally, with the rise of Aurangzeb, Mughal painting breathed its last.