Exhibitions/ Art Object

Melancholy Courtesan

Date:
ca. 1750
Culture:
India (Rajasthan, Bundi, or Kota [?])
Medium:
Ink, gold and opaque watercolor on paper
Dimensions:
12 7/8 x 10 3/4 in. (32.7 x 27.3 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Purchase, Evelyn Kranes Kossak and Josephine L. Berger-Nadler Gifts and funds from various donors, 1995
Accession Number:
1995.232
Not on view
Of the several pictures of this type that are known, this example is the finest. No inscription identifies the subject, but the painting is probably the idealized portrait of a courtesan. She has raised a small cup to her lips and seems lost in reverie. Her melancholy may be due simply to alcohol, but it is more likely that she was associated with a particular story that has not come down to us. The practice of making images of courtesans migrated from Persia into the artistic repertoire of Muslim India and from there to Hindu painting. This compositional formula derives from Mughal prototypes, but the handling of color, pattern, and space is purely Rajput.
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