The decoration on this page is cut from tan paper and laid down on a blue paper background. It depicts flowering plants and a pair of long-legged water birds flanking a deer. The calligraphy, only partially deciphered, is integrated into the floral pattern, resembling foliage in the lower section and a tendril-like motif in the upper section. The words may provide the name of the artist (Baz Khan?) and an invocation to 'Ali.
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Title:Album Page with Cut-Paper Decoration
Geography:Made in India
Medium:Cut paper on paper, opaque watercolor, and gold
Dimensions:H. 10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm) W. 7 1/8 in. (18.1 cm)
Credit Line:Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky Fund, 2002
Album Page with Cut-Paper Decoration
The light, silhouetted forms of plants, delicate birds, animals, and ornamental calligraphy on this album page are not painted or stenciled; they are instead cut and pasted into the dark blue ground from paper so fine that the seam can barely be discerned by eye or touch. While a cut paper technique was well known in Ottoman tradition, particularly in "decoupage calligraphy," in Mughal albums such cut-paper works are much more rare, this being one of only two similar known examples. The fully flourishing profile of the plant forms suggest a date for this page in the reign of Shah Jahan (1628–57), when the decorative borders of picture albums made for the Emperor often contained comparable painted flower shapes, frequently executed in gold against a blue background. The calligraphy on the lower part of the page is vertically arranged along the stem of a plant in a mirror arrangement that gives the impression of foliage and reads: ''amal-i baz (?) khan ("work of Baz? Khan"). On the upper part of the page an Arabic phrase, also vertically placed and sinuously curving, may be read as: inna illa 'ali kull (that except...'Ali....every.."?). Later Hyderabad traditions showed a renewed interest in this cut-paper technique, which, notwithstanding, remained a rare accomplishment in Indian art.
Navina Haidar in [Topsfield 2004]
1. A late sixteenth-century Mughal cut-paper work is reported in a London private collection.
2. Welch, S.C., The Emperor's Album: Images of Mughal India. New York, 1987, p. 118, no. 20.
3. A cut-paper composition with trees from Kishangarh is in the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum, Hyderabad. The Gol Gumbaz Museum in Bijapur contains two unusual decoupage pages where the folio "negatives," or the page from which the calligraphy has been very precisely cut out, are mounted on a burnished page which can be seen through the shape of the letters, thus giving a two-dimensional effect (no. 123 B 68: Surat al-Fatiha as described above, and inscribed: al 'abd al muznib haji beg sipahi; and no. 65 B 10, inscribed: sayyid 'ali bukhari ghafarallah)
Inscription: The calligraphy in the lower part of the page is in Persian and is vertically arranged in a mirror-composition which appears to say: 'amal-i baz (?) khan (work of Baz? Khan).
The calligraphy in the upper part of the page is in Arabic and is also vertically placed and may be read as: inna illa 'ali kull (that except...ali...every...).
[ Terence McInerney, London, until 2002; 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. 12.
Topsfield, Andrew, ed. "Arts of India." In In the Realm of Gods and Kings. London; New York: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2004. no. 12, pp. 48–49, ill. (color).
Haidar, Navina, and Marika Sardar. "Opulence and Fantasy." In Sultans of Deccan India 1500–1700. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. p. 134, ill. fig. 54 (color).
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