Water Color Painting on Paper
8.3 inch X 5 inch
Contained within in a gorgeous frame embellished with uniformly laid floral arabesques rendered in gold against a deep golden background, the painting portrays a textile shop with three female figures the shop's owner and the two buyers. Shop's architecture arched elevation painted with golden arabesques of which this painting focuses only the central part, and the recessed part of the floor raised to some height like a platform with the rising panelled with decorative marble tiles, forepart being left to normal floor-level for putting off shoes etc., besides shop's over-all set up, reveals its medieval character. A shop or otherwise, arch elevating a front or a door-opening, was a form that defined medieval architecture worth name. A female shop keeper and female buyers apart, all textiles put on display are feminine wears, or amongst all textiles displayed, not a single male wear is discernible. It further suggests shop's medieval character pursuing Mughal model. Mughals had uniformly structured and tastefully elevated shops in the form of a rowed complex in all their forts and townships. A bazaar complex, at least in a fort, essentially had a section of it reserved for women, usually Muslim inmates of the harem required to be in purdah - veil. Run exclusively by ladies the shops in this section reserved for ladies traded in items which only ladies used. This bazaar, often named Mina bazaar, did not allow access to any male except the Emperor himself or a prince. The painting thus takes the viewing eye back to not only the 17th-18th century bazaar system and to shops' architecture but also focuses on those days' life-style. With marble arch wrought in gold framing them, variedly coloured textiles hanging from the ceiling laharias, having waving pattern, tie and dye, mirror-inlaid, printed, painted, brocaded
all glistening with gold, give to the painting a lustrous look. Fixed to the rear wall is a multi-shelved wooden stand for storing different kinds of textiles assorted and classified. On the rest of the platform is overlaid an expensive carpet with golden border. All three women are seated on it. On either side of the saleswoman, perhaps shop's proprietor, lay heaps of diversely designed and patterned textiles out of which she is showing to her buyers different designs one after the other. She has already shown them some patterns of laharia, batik prints, tie and dye, those inlaid with mirrors, prints to include multi-coloured chhintari spotted design covering the entire field, typical of Rajasthan, and different woven-in designs, though the women, as betray their faces, dazzled by the incomparability of each piece, are unable to decide for which one they should go. To their eyes, it is a feast which they are fully enjoying. On the other hand, the sales woman is imagining what exactly her buyers are looking for. All three women are elegantly bejewelled. They are attired in lehangas long skirts, cholis, half-sleeved short blouses, and odhanis, an unstitched upper garment. The sales woman wears against a yellow lehanga and red choli a green odhani, one of the buyers, on the outer side, has green lehanga and odhani against a pink choli, and her companion, a green odhani against a golden lehanga and deep pink choli. Possessed of exceptional beauty, all three maidens have sharp features, gold-like glowing complexion, dreamy eyes, lustrous faces and vigorous youth. This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.
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.