Mughal, circa 1660-80
Drawing with opaque watercolour and gold on paper, in a reduced album page with a specimen of calligraphy on the reverse
7 ½ by 3 ½ in. miniature; 19 by 9 cm.,
9 by 5 1/8 in. page; 22.9 by 13 cm.,
6 ¾ by 4 1/8 in.; 17.2 by 10.5 cm., calligraphy
Private collection, Switzerland
The nobleman facing right dressed in a simple white jama but with painted and gilded boots and wearing a patka round his waist ending in large poppies. He rests his hands on the hilt of his sword which is pointing to the ground, while a jade-handled dagger is pushed through his cummerbund. The background is totally unpainted save for a narrow strip at the bottom showing grass and a few flowers.
This fine portrait is unidentified, but the austere background became fashionable during the early reign of Emperor Aurangzeb. In spite of the Emperor’s ban on history painting in 1668, numerous surviving portraits up to the end of his reign testify that portraiture remained a flourishing art patronised by princes and noblemen.
CALLIGRAPHY BY THE MASTER MĪR ‘IMĀD AL-HASANI (?1554-1615)
This calligraphic composition in nasta‘liq script by one of the great Persian masters of that hand, Mīr ‘Imād al-Ḥasanī, probably dates from circa 1600-15.
This example, consisting of some Persian verses, set on clouds against a gold ground covered with sprays of hibiscus and other flowers, is prominently signed in the lower panel: ‘The wretched, sinful pauper, Mīr ‘Imād al-Ḥasanī. May his sins be forgiven.’
Ink and colour with gold on paper, inscribed in devanagari on the verso 6 by 4 1/5 in.; 15.6 by 10.7 cm.
This fascinating and enigmatic drawing shows a young garlanded bard, apparently named Nokar, reciting a play or ballad based on the story of the horse Chetak. The bard would normally be accompanied by musicians, as in a drawing from the Fraser Album. The inscription names him and calls him a bhandavamsa, of the race of bards, but he is dressed in a princely manner in jewellery, a gem-set turban and a jama finely striped in gold. He is named as from the court of Nawab Azam Khan, but nothing seems to be known of him or his connection with Rajasthan or Kishangarh.
Chetak (‘illusion’ or ‘magic’) is the name traditionally given to the horse ridden by Maharana Pratap Singh of Mewar (1540-1597) at the Battle of Haldighati, fought in June 1576 between the Mughal forces and those of Mewar. Chetak, although wounded, carried Pratap safely away from the battle, but then died of his wounds. The story is recounted in court poems of Mewar from the seventeenth century onwards.
The drawing is exceptionally intense as the young bard concentrates on the telling of his story using his hands to emphasise his points. He is isolated in space as a preparatory but finished drawing.
The Arcade Gallery, London, 1978
Private collection, London, 1978-2018
Mughal, circa 1700
Brush drawing with some colour on paper, with dark blue border
6 5/8 by 6 in; 16.8 by 15.2 cm. painting
7 7/8 by 7 ¼ in; 19.8 by 18.3 cm. folio
Garner collection, London
A Mughal nobleman sits leaning against a red bolster with a meditation band encircling his contracted legs. He is dressed in a white angarkhi and turban and sports a magnificent black beard. He is smoking from a hookah, apparently of jade with jewelled insets, of which the snake forms a striking curve on the way from the hookah bottle to his mouth. One hand is about to put the snake to his mouth, the other rests on his knees. Behind him stands an attendant youth wearing a similar costume and holding a cloth of honour in one hand while the other hangs loose. This seems to be a preliminary drawing for a terrace scene of an interview, for the nobleman is in a good humour as he smiles across at his missing interlocutor.
This striking drawing belongs to an increasingly common genre in the later seventeenth and early eighteenth century of formal portraits of Mughal officials and ministers done in line drawings with only their heads more or less finished. The degree of finishing of their clothes varies.
Comparable examples, in the Johnson Collection in the British Library include drawings of Islam Khan Rumi ascribed to Chitarman and of Shaista Khan ascribed to Gyan Chand, both circa 1670. Others are in the Fondation Custodia, Paris.
Deccan, late seventeenth century
Brush drawing with wash and some colour and gold on paper, blue border with gold rules, verso with a calligraphic page of four oblique lines of black nasta'liq in white clouds on gold, with corner spandrels, laid down in a buff album page
4 1⁄2 by 3 3⁄4 in., 11.8 by 8.5 cm. drawing
6 3/8 by 3 5/8 in., 16.2 by 9.2 cm. calligraphy
15 3/8 by 9 5/8 in.; 39 by 24.5 cm. folio
A very obese man, so fat his belly overhangs most of his cummerbund, is carrying a lamb of a fat-tailed sheep variety, with its mother standing alongside. He is wearing a jama with an angavastra over his shoulders, voluminous paijama drawn in round his ankles, and a red pointed cap with a brocade cloth wound round it. A pouch hangs from his belt. He has an intense face with a pointed nose, a black beard and moustache, and stares out into space.
The subject was a popular one in seventeenth century India. There are two versions in the Johnson Collection in the British Library, one Mughal, circa 1630, the other Deccani, circa 1640-60.
Our version seems based on a model such as the Johnson Deccani version, where the wide paijama are caught into the tops of boots. The subject was traditionally thought of as a representative of the Good Shepherd in Christian iconography.
Sir Robert Dent (1895-1983)
Maggs Bros., London, 1973
Private collection, England, 1973-2017