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A Common Indian Nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus)

Object Name:
Illustrated single work
Date:
ca. 1780
Geography:
India, probably Lucknow
Culture:
Islamic
Medium:
Opaque watercolor on paper
Dimensions:
Painting: H. 18 5/8 in. (47.3 cm) W. 11 1/8 in. (28.3 cm) Mat: H. 27 in. (68.6 cm) W. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
Classification:
Codices
Credit Line:
Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art, 2004
Accession Number:
2004.175
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 464
The Latin name for the nightjar, Caprimulgus asiaticus, translates as “goat sucker” and refers to the ancient myth that these sweet-looking birds sucked on the milk of goats by night. While untrue, nightjars probably got this reputation for the close contact they had with goats while feeding on nearby insects. The artist has paid particular attention to detail, rendering each feather individually and marking lines on the legs, while situating the bird in a perspectival landscape complete with tiny trees in the background. This painting comes from an album made for Claude Martin (1735–1800), a Frenchman in the service of Nawab Asaf al- Daula (r. 1775–97) and the East India Company in Lucknow. It subsequently belonged to the family of Charles Jenkinson, the 1st Earl of Liverpool.
Inscription: Lower margin in pencil: Caprimulgus; in lower margin in ink: 465 chapka; on a ticket on the reverse in ink: chapka
Claude Martin, Lucknow, India (until d. 1800); Family of Charles Jenkinson, 1st Earl of Liverpool (after 1800); [ Victoria Munroe, Boston, until 2004; sold to MMA]
Chubb, William. "Natural History Drawings from the Collection of Claude Martin (1735-1800)." In The Lucknow Menagerie. London: Niall Hobhouse, 2001. p. 40.



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