Furniture Plaque Showing Female Musician in an Architectural Framework
Not on view
This small plaque depicts a woman mid-dance step, playing a cylindrical drum known as the pakhavaj, which is suspended around her neck. She is positioned beneath a lobed, cusped arch, an architectural form familiar to the Deccan, where this piece was likely made. Scantily clad, this dancing girl is adorned with various pieces of jewelry including bangles, anklets, a necklace, and nose ring. Her long plait and scarf (dupatta) undulate with the rhythm of her movement
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Title:Furniture Plaque Showing Female Musician in an Architectural Framework
Geography:From India, possibly Deccan
Dimensions:H. 3 1/8 in. (7.9 cm) W. 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm)
Classification:Ivories and Bone
Credit Line:Gift of Cynthia Hazen Polsky, 2013
Ivory Panel Depicting a Female Drummer
This ivory panel depicts a woman dancing as she plays a drum. She is scantily dressed, and has her hair in a long plait, as she stands in an architectural frame with columns to either side and a cusped arch above her. The panel is carved from a single piece of ivory, and has lugs on the bottom and one on the top for assembly into a larger panel, probably a bed-head or other piece of furniture.
Musical instruments are extensively represented in Indian paintings and sculpture, indicating that in the past, as today, music was an important part of ceremony and social functions; the paintings of the seventeenth-century Mughal Padshahnama manuscript notably depict musicians with stringed instruments, trumpets and drums playing at the royal receptions and weddings of Shah Jahan and his sons. The female musician here is playing the cylindrical drum known as pakhavaj, which is suspended around the neck and has a drum-skin at both ends. Other drums traditionally played in India include the tabla (since the eighteenth century), which sits on the floor, and the older dhol or dholak, which was also suspended around the neck. The pakhavaj is described in the Ghunyat al-Munya, a fourteenth-century Gujarati manuscript, and a closely similar instrument is described in the 'Ain-i Akbari of Abu'l Fazl. Larger naqqara or kettle drums were also used at court, sometimes mounted on elephants.
Nautch girls, or dancers, who are often depicted semi-naked, commonly provided entertainment for the Mughal and Rajput nobility and later on, for European visitor. A painting from the Fraser album is inscribed by Edward Fraser, father of James: "Kander Buksh a celebrated dancing woman of Dehlee, once considered very beautiful. In the usual dress."
Michael Spink in [Topsfield 2004]
1. Beach, M. C. and E. Koch. King of the world: The Padshahnama. Wahington, D.C., and London, 1997, no. 22, pp. 62–63, and no. 26, p. 68.
2. Bor J. and P. Bruguière eds., Gloire des Princes, Louange des Dieux. Paris, 2003, p. 157.
3. Ibid., p. 161.
4. Ibid., pp. 155, 157.
5. Archer M. and T. Falk. India Revealed: The Art and Adventures of James and William Fraser 1801–35. London, 1989, no. 127, p. 129.
[ Spink & Son Ltd., London, until 1981; sold to Polsky]; Cynthia Hazen Polsky, New York (1981–2013; gifted 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. 154.
Topsfield, Andrew, ed. "Arts of India." In In the Realm of Gods and Kings. London; New York: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2004. no. 154, p. 348, ill. (color).
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