Lot 47.The Royal Couple Engaged in Love
Watercolor on Paper
13.6 inches x 10.5 inches
A highly accomplished miniature rendered in the late eighteenth century idiom of Mughal art style, as practiced at Oudh, a provincial headquarter of Mughals acclaiming independence after Mughal power waned in eighteenth century, this contemporary work of art reproduces with unique skill and in absolute exactness not merely the art-style of those bygone days but also a true picture of the priorities of feudatory at Lucknow like centres of Mughal sub-power. The artist seems to have created his theme by assimilating the face of life as it reflects in a number of miniatures of those days painted at Lucknow like centres of art. Love, made inside the quilt, or after putting it aside, was hardly a private matter, and its display, and even pictorial documentation, was immensely favoured and prided on. In one of his best known short stories ‘Shataranja ke Khilari’, the legendry Hindi writer Munshi Prem Chand draws an identical sketch of feudal life at Lucknow. Engaged in the game of chess Wazid Ali Shah, its Nawab, even after reports of an invasion reach him, does not leave the game for attending the peril facing his land preferring losing the State but not the round of chess he was playing. The painting is contained within a broad border – almost half of the canvas space, designed with floral plant-motifs – three leaves and three flowers, much in the style of miniatures from the period of Jahangir, a cult also followed by the artists of Shahjahan’s court. Symmetrically laid and uniformly conceived, the flower-plants may not be treated as realistic but they are also not stylized or arabesque-type. Despite a pale opaque background and repetition of the same form all across, these flower-motifs do not breathe a feeling of monotony. The actual painting, within the frame, portrays a young handsome prince as engaged in making love with his consort in his bed-chamber. Besides wearing a Jahangiri turban the figure of the royal personage has been conceived with an appearance as the Mughal Emperor Jahangir is seen having during the early days of his youth in many of his contemporary miniatures. With her back supported on a huge bolster overlaid with a cushion the princess, with her breasts swelling with the heat of passion, and her eyes, melting with his touch, is lying on her bed, while with one of his arms holding her from behind, and with the other, clasping her to his bosom from the front, the prince is almost riding over her. A delicately designed silk quilt is laid covering their lower halves but censoring the movement of their legs does not appear to be its job. Besides the turban the prince is putting on a tight full sleeved transparent muslin upper wear, while his mistress is almost semi-nude. She is wearing a blouse, though not so much for concealing her breasts as for more sensuously revealing them, and a small black scarf on her head seems to have been added to her ensemble only to further enhance the lustre of her already shining black hair. The walls of the bedchamber are lined with silk tapestry in bright magenta and printed with floral motifs in gold. The colour of tapestry has been repeated also in bolster and bed-cover’s frill. The artist has introduced at equal distance of the wall-space some black stripes embellished with floral motifs rendered in gold, and a door-frame design made of such stripes, for breaking its monotony. They are attended upon by two maids, one carrying a flywhisk, and other, a wine-jar and a tray with a goblet in it. Their dressing pattern reveals their identities as maids. However, all four figures have alike sharp features and fair complexions, though while the faces of the maids are slightly whitish, those of the royal couple reveal golden glow. 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 Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.
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.
2 765 - 5 531 EUR
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Tuesday 20 Oct - 14:00