An Orange-Headed Ground Thrush and a Death's-Head Moth on a Purple Ebony Orchid Branch

Shaikh Zain al–Din Indian

Not on view

This natural study comes from a famous collection of works commissioned by the Chief Justice of Bengal, Sir Elijah Impey, and his wife, Lady Mary. The original album included 326 paintings, many of which, like the one here, were distinctively inscribed with the names of the artist and of Sir Elijah Impey's wife. This work has been signed in Persian by Shaikh Zain al-Din next to the inscription specifying "in the Collection of Lady Impey in Calcutta". Both inscriptions can be seen at the lower left. Zain al-Din, who is considered the foremost artist to have worked on Impey’s album, is believed to have painted from life, which accounts for the naturalism of his work. The bird in this picture appears to step up on the branch of the Bauhinia purpurea, while the moth rests lightly on the flower to drink its nectar. Although he was trained in Mughal techniques, the absence of landscape and even ground color derives from European natural history paintings, indicating that the artist was also familiar with European prints.

An Orange-Headed Ground Thrush and a Death's-Head Moth on a Purple Ebony Orchid Branch, Shaikh Zain al–Din (Indian, born Patna, Bihar), Opaque watercolor and ink on paper

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