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.