Scenes of courtly pleasure, garden settings, and longlegged female figures dressed in high-waisted, flowing angarkhas (tunics) typify paintings attributed to the northern Indian court of Farrukhabad, a cultural satellite of Lucknow. The present work depicts twelve courtly ladies and a child gathered around a fountain, set in a lush landscape with fantastic loop-necked swans and the pairs of animals found in many Indian paintings.
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Title:Princesses Gather at a Fountain
Geography:Made in India, Farrukhabad
Medium:Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions:H. 9 in. (22.9 cm) W. 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm)
Credit Line:Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky Fund, 2001
Princesses Gather at a Fountain
Scenes of courtly pleasure, garden settings, and long-legged female figures dressed in high-waisted, flowing angarkhas typify paintings attributed to the northern Indian court of Farrukhabad. A cultural satellite of Lucknow, Farukkhabad, under the rule of the Rohilla chieftains of the Bangash tribe, developed the influential Avadhi idiom into its own stylistic expression, which flourished during the later part of the eighteenth century. The painting style at Farrukhabad essentially grew from the distinctive hands of Muhammad Faqirullah Khan and Faizullah Khan, who painted at Lucknow and Faizabad in the third quarter of the eighteenth century.
The present work depicts twelve courtly ladies and a child gathered around a fountain. A partial view of a palace is seen at the left, with a canopy extending over the fountain and some of the figures. The principal woman seems to have been introduced into the painting from a model in which the figure would have been seated on a chair, but little care was taken to adapt it to its present use. She therefore rests somewhat awkwardly on the edge of the fountain, with a hand and a foot extended into the water. An open background of rolling hills, trees, and a lake contains numerous birds and animals, mostly in pairs, as is typical in Indian painting. The necks of the swans are looped around each other in a feature that is sometimes seen in Deccani painting. The composition may be connected to a larger group that includes a similar painting in the India Office Library (now in the British Library, London) and another in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The India Office Library folio has been identified as part of a ragamala (musical modes) series. That classification is, however, less suited to the present work, which, although stylistically similar, does not bear inscribed or obvious iconographical evidence of being such an illustration.
Navina Haidar in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Leach, Linda York. Mughal and Other Indian Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library. Vol. 1. London, 1995, pp. 618–19, fig. 6.354.
2. This feature can apply to trees as well as birds, as seen in a Futuh al-haramain manuscript in the Metropolitan Museum (acc. no. 2008.251), in which the imagery is probably connected to descriptions in the text.
3. Falk, Toby, and Mildred Archer. Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library. London, 1981, no. 362, pl. 11; Los Angeles County Museum of Art painting (no. M.87.278.9), published on that museum’s website.
This idyllic scene of ladies gathered around a fountain may once have been part of a series relating to an unknown text, or formed a section of a larger album of such works. The attenuated forms of the long-legged figures and slightly stiff treatment of the marble pavillion and fountain are typical of images from the provincial Mughal center of Farrukhabad, which had a lively painting tradition in the later part of the eighteenth century. The rendering of the background, however, shows a strong Deccani flavor, particularly in the great receding views with hills and lakes dotted with animals and birds. A comparable painting in the India Office Library, London, is close in mode to this work, thus possibly from the same series, and also combines these stylistic features. Interestingly the animals and birds seen in the background of this scene nearly all occur in pairs, a metaphor of love in poetry and painting: the tree on the right contains three sets of colored birds and the background shows a couple of swan-like storks, whose long necks are curled into rings. Further pairs of birds can be seen around the lake, which also has deer, goats, and rabbits in its vicinity. An illustrated Deccani manuscript of the Urdu text of Nal Daman, dated 1698, shows a folio entirely filled with numerous birds in pairs, resembling those seen here. The city of Farrukhabad was founded in the early eighteenth century but it was during the second half of the century that it enjoyed the wealth and security that allowed its painting traditions to flourish.
Navina Haidar in [Topsfield 2004]
1. Zebrowski, M., Deccani Painting. London, 1983, figs. 183 and 185, for comparable backgrounds in Deccani painting.
2. Falk, Toby, and Mildred Archer. Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library. London, 1981, no. 362, col. pl. 11.
3. Zebrowski, op. cit., p. 218, fig. 188.
[ Natesans' Galleries Ltd., London, until 2001; sold to MMA]
New York. Asia Society. "In the Realm of Gods and Kings: Arts of India, Selections from the Polsky Collections and The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 14, 2004–January 2, 2005, no. 151.
Topsfield, Andrew, ed. "Arts of India." In In the Realm of Gods and Kings. London; New York: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2004. no. 151, pp. 342–43, ill. p. 343 (color).
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