Sign In

Lot Details

Galerie Louis Manteau, Brussels
Private Collection, USA

Krishna is seated in the ancient posture known as ardhaparyankasana within a grove of trees playing his flute. Not just a simple cowherd, he wears a dhoti of gold brocade and of course his gold jewelled crown and peacock finial. Two gopis on each side have come to listen to him and bring their offerings, while others below engaged in filling their water pots from the stream pause to listen. Cattle, a crocodile, various birds and monkeys also listen enraptured to the music of the divine player. The setting is an idyllic landscape full of beautiful trees and verdant meadows through which a river meanders below distant hills crowned with trees and a many-towered city.

There were several Rohilla Afghan principalities in western Avadh in the later 18th century - Rampur, Bareilly, etc., but Farrukhabad is the only one as yet that has a school of painting linked to it, although the evidence is actually slight, being based on a portrait thought to be of Nawab Ahmad Khan Bangash (r. 1750-71), its ruler (Falk and Archer 1981, p. 189), during whose reign the style appears to have flourished. The style is basically that of Faizabad and Lucknow but with characteristic elongation of figures and of ladies’ faces and often in its early phases with a harsh palette involving orange, yellow and brown. The style is associated with the artist Muhammad Faqirallah Khan whose Avadhi females with their elongated figures and long narrow faces with receding foreheads and pointed noses seem to have influenced the artists of the short-lived Farrukhabad style in the 1760s and 1770s (documented in Binney 1973, nos. 103-105; Falk and Archer 1981, nos. 362i-vi; and Leach 1995 nos. 6.364, 365). While it is possible that Faqirallah actually worked in Farrukhabad and initiated this style there, no paintings signed by him in this characteristic Farrukhabad colouring have yet been forthcoming.

The subject of Krishna and the gopis is an unusual one for Farrukhabad which apart from a few portraits concerns itself primarily with ladies and their doings. The artist has lavished much attention on the animals and birds, mingling the characteristic Hindu subject with a more typical Mughal one such as Majnun in the wilderness being comforted by the denizens of the wild. The page comes from an album of which two other pages from Farrukhabad are in the former Benkaim collection, now in the Cleveland Museum (Quintanilla 2016, nos. 82 and 83), with their characteristic album pages of dark browny-purple surrounds splashed with gold and calligraphic specimens on the versos.

Binney, E., 3rd, Indian Miniature Painting from the Collection of Edwin Binney, 3rd : The Mughal and Deccani Schools, Portland, 1973
Falk, T., and Archer, M., Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1981
Leach, L.Y., Mughal and other Indian Paintings in the Chester Beatty Library, London, 1995
Quintanilla, Sonya Rhie, Mughal Paintings: Art and Stories, The Cleveland Museum, Cleveland, 2016

EXPERT : J. P. Losty
J. P. Losty was for many years curator of Indian visual materials in the British Library in London and has published many books and articles on painting in India from the 12th to the 19th centuries.

Artiana would like to thank J. P. Losty for his expertise and assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

Classical Indian Painting

Classical Indian Paintings - an ode to the rich history of art in India - are divided into Rajput, Mughal, Deccani, Pahari and other schools, each having their signature stylisations. These paintings, across all the various schools display a strong connection with nature, people and early Indian culture and tradition. Although these pictures seen at a glance, are easily recognized as Indian in origin, they are a confluence of various cultures and traditions. This genre of classical Indian art is also an important window into the past, as the images reliably depict the surroundings and milieu around the time of their execution.

The tradition of Indian miniature painting finds its beginnings around the 7th century ACE. Appearing as text illustrations, these paintings emerged primarily in Jain and Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts. Reaching a high level of sophistication in 15th century, the style grew steadily, sustaining its similarity with other schools of miniature painting while articulating a unique aesthetics of its own. The schools of miniature painting consist of two broad variants – the first centred on Islamic elements unique to Iran and Turkey, and the second an indigenous tradition of India. Indian miniature paintings are famed for its diverse qualities – its myriad themes, subtle aesthetics, stylistic diversity, sensuality, religiosity and the opulent life of the royals to name a few.

Mughal painting sprouted and grew during the Mughal Empire (16th to 19th centuries). It was exclusive to the nobles and royalty its development depended, to a great extent on, the patronage of this class of society. With its origins in Central Asia, the Mughal empire was heavily influenced by Persian cultural trends, which was taken to new heights in India. The paintings are known for its subtlety and appreciation of historical or quasi-scientific themes in nature. Its scientific quality ensured that the paintings were largely secular in nature, consisting of allusions to natural life, literature and the routines of royalty. The Mughals were best known for their fusion of Indo-Islamic culture, and early Emperors — particularly Akbar (1556-1605) — commissioned paintings to illustrate Hindu epics as well as various Persian texts.

The Rajasthani School emerges around the 16th century as an off shoot of the early Mewar paintings. Later several states of Rajasthan had developed their own individual styles of painting, the most prominent amongst them were Kota, Bundi, Bikaner, Kishangarh and Mewar and Jaipur. Rajputs of the time, who patronised the art to a great extent, ensured that it featured themes of religion and literature in a distinct sense. Once Rajasthani Miniature painting came into being, it progressed quickly under local painters. While the influence of the Mughal style was unmistakable, the style retained its unique lyrical temperament and classical worldview.

At the close of the 7th century, the Pahari school of painting developed in the Hills of Punjab, which, at the time, grew in the margins of mainstream culture and art. The lively and romantic school of Pahari miniaturists produced some of the finest religious scenes, offering a glimpse of the daily mind and sentiment of India. The earliest Pahari School of miniature painting is called Basholi. Basholi had produced some wonderful portraits and is famed for its Rasamanjari series. Pahari art, produced in Kangra under Raja Sansar Chand is known for its pronounced rhythmic quality. The Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism, celebrating the love of Radha and Krishna, bears its distinct stamp of the Kangra style.

Deccani painting grew almost simultaneously with Mughal art, with Ahmednagar, Golkonda, Bijapur, and subsequently Hyderabad as its centres. Most of the painters working at these courts were immigrants of Turkey, Iran and Europe, and had brought with them their artistic idioms and skills. Deccani art attained a great maturity in form and sophistication, acquiring the same regard as Mughal paintings.