712. [Indian miniature]
Paper, various formats.
Good overall condition.
Miniatures made in different hands and of varying quality, most of them in 17th-18th-century Mughal style, but executed probably not earlier than the 20th c., most probably for a foreign market. They depict different scenes, mainly of an amorous nature and in a courtly milieu, often inspired by "Ragamala painting" (paintings depicting various Indian musical modes). The princely figure is always wearing a turban, the women are in sari, they are idyllically seated on a terrace, near a pond or in a garden, surrounded with fruit, bottles of wine or a hookah, often with a hilly landscape in the distance, once they are assembled in a boat. In some we see the prince in an intimate setting dallying with a single woman. All these miniatures are painted on leaves from manuscripts (and even, in a single case of a lithography) of totally unrelated texts in Persian, Arabic or Urdu, some of these leaves might well date from the 17th or 18th century. These texts are poems (for instance, from the ghazals of the famous 14th-century poet Hâfez Shirâzi, of Rumi’s 13th-c. mystical "Mathnawi-ye ma'nawi" ("The Spiritual Mathnawi"), of Nezâmi’s 12th-c. epic on king Alexander the Great, "Iskandar-nâma"), a commentary on poetry (as on this "Iskandar-nâma"), a lexicographical work, several pharmacological or medical texts, and even commentaries on the Koran (obviously, the painters were Hindu).
In one particular charming miniature the two sit together on a swing hanging from a tree (a scene inspired by the "Hindola raga", the "swing raga"). The margin of this painting is decorated with five finely executed figures of ambulant artists with their animals: serpents, monkeys, a dog, a boar and a rat. In another painting a prince and his beloved are sitting near a balustrade, gazing on a lake and a hilltop castle at the horizon, a servant girl behind them waving a fan of peacock feathers. Another shows a prince listening to two female musicians playing a drum and a veena. In yet another a girl is dancing in front of him, accompanied by two other girls playing a drum and a horn. But in most he is flirting, with up to five girls, who may be half-naked, fondling the breasts of one of them. He may be attended by a courtier or a servant. In a single scene two couples are engaged in sexual intercourse. In some other scenes we see some women just conversing, looking in a mirror, fetching water in a river or standing near a well. Two identical, but mirrored, miniatures, show a single woman standing under a tree, holding a branch, next to a camp fire.
In one painting - in a different, provincial style - the woman is sleeping in a garden under a canopy, a male and a female servant are bringing her refreshments, the wide border above and below the scene show the elegant figures of a running tiger and antilopes. We also see men drinking together, the women serving or fanning them, or sitting in a grove or in a rocky landscape. One large miniature - in a more simple style - shows a scene of wine drinking and music making in a garden. Yet other scenes are at court in an all-male settting, the ruler on a dais, his courtiers standing in attendance. Two scenes depict a lion hunt.
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