The Heroine in Her Wind Palace

Water Color Painting On Paper

Artist: Navneet Parikh

10.5 inches X 13.5 inches

This painting, a masterpiece in Indian miniature art form, representing a royal lady, obviously a princess, seen across the gavaksha, or the oriel balcony of her wind-palace, presents a unique synthesis of various painting styles of medieval, as well as contemporary India. The features of the figure, slightly angular face, sharp nose, large eyes, broad forehead, tall neck, exceptionally long fingers and slim tall figure, a great beauty by any parameter, are characteristic elements of Kishangarh art style of Rajasthan. The damsel portrayed here has, in her great aesthetic beauty and elegant transparent costume, unique resemblance with Bani-Thani portraits in which the Kishangarh art school discovered its finest model of feminine beauty. The architecture, specially the style of oriel window, its dome, semi-circular eave, pilasters, pendentives that define the arch and the bracket, comprising of multiple lotuses, which supports this balcony, are features of Rajasthani castle and palace architecture. This dome and eave-type had developed in Bengal architecture quite early and was seen in its fully evolved form at the Vishnupur temple. Mansingh of Amer, when he was Akbar's governor of Bengal, saw the temple and was highly impressed with this form. He brought this architectural style to Rajasthan, where, adding to it the indigenous as well as Mughal elements, the craftsmen of Rajasthan led it to its ever finest, most sophisticated and accomplished form. The border, painted elaborately using soft colour tones, which frame-like contains the actual painting, the variedly designed fine jali, or trellis work and the arch motifs, used for defining the opening of the oriel window and the alcoves on the right and left of the dome, are elements of classical Mughal architecture. Floral designs on borders were quite common in Mughal paintings right since the days of Jahangir, although the lotus flower and the lotus leaf motifs emerged only in late phase of Mughal art. And, finally, the painting uses the globally known and appreciated Mysore technique, which by assimilating all above elements in its own characteristic style has created this exceptional work of art. It discovers its forms, obviously the architectural members- the trellises, bracket, dome, eaves, the framing columns and pilasters, pendentives and all projections by laying thicker colour layers, which give to the painting the effects of embossing. These special effects are created without involving the canvas but only by mixing into the colours the natural thickening agents. This splendid work of art is the formal portrait of a princess clad in fine transparent, but quite elegant costume and bejeweled gorgeously using diamonds, emeralds, rubies, pearls and other precious stones. She has been painted as standing in the gavaksha of her chamber, which obviously comprises the part of her wind palace, the usual castle type, which the feudatory of Rajasthan got built for summer. The princess is in a formal posture and, to highlight the beauty of her form, the artist has minutely and distinctively identified each of the members of her figure, her long slanting arms, thin long waving fingers, well formed long neck, subdued belly, sharp pointed nose, elongated fish eyes and slightly angular chin. For giving her figure pleasant contrast the artist has used a deep grey background around it. This background is itself contained within the oriel window used for further framing the entire composition. The effect, which the architecture creates in the painting, is as much pleasing as is the beauty of the princess, or rather her beauty has been sublimated to such heights by the gorgeous contrast, which the framing architecture of her palace apartment, its arched oriel window, dome seeking its height by repeated designing motifs and variedly designed trellises, provides. 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. Of Related Interest: Mughal Art Gallery

Mughal Painting

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.

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