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Lot Details

Inscribed above in nasta’liq: Navab Husayn Quli Khan and below: Nuwab Khussein Kauli Khan

Private collection, USA

The Nawab dressed all in white save for a brocade patka and turban-band sits on a rug on a terrace holding a flower. He is supported by blue cushions and a blue and red bolster. His sword, shield, spittoon, and pan box as well as a book are placed around him. Husain Quli Khan was deputy to Nawab Shahamat Jang, nephew and son-in-law to Nawab Alivardi Khan of Bengal (reg. 1740-56) and naib nazim of Dhaka. Husayn Quli Khan was the reputed lover of Ghaseti Begum, Alivardi Khan’s eldest daughter and wife to Shahamat Jang, and having offended the young Siraj al-Daula, Alivardi’s heir, was murdered by him in 1755.

The pale watercolour appearance of the portrait conforms to a strain in Murshidabad painting in the late 18th century, of which the prime example is an album in the British Library from around 1790 which contains portraits in similar style of all the principal actors in the affairs of Bengal in the period 1740 to 1760 during the transition from Mughal to East India Company control. See Mildred Archer, Company Drawings in the India Office Library, HMSO, London, 1972, no. 39, and also pl. 19 which is a very similar portrait of Husain Quli Khan.

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.

Company Painting

‘Company painting’ is a broad term for a variety of hybrid styles that developed as a result of European (especially British) influence on Indian artists from the early 18th to the 19th centuries. It evolved as a way of providing paintings that would appeal to European patrons who found the purely indigenous styles not to their taste. As many of these patrons worked for the various East India companies, the painting style came to be associated with the name, although it was in fact also used for paintings produced for local rulers and other Indian patrons.

The subject matter of company paintings made for western patrons was often documentary rather than imaginative, and as a consequence, the Indian artists were required to adopt a more naturalistic approach to painting than had traditionally been usual. Europeans commissioned sets of images depicting festivals and scenes from Indian life or albums illustrating the various castes and occupations, as well as the architecture, plants and animals of the sub-continent. While most of the works were painted on paper, there was also a fashion for images of Mughal monuments and Mughal rulers and their wives painted on small plaques of ivory. This increased use of western approaches to painting coincided with the later phases of local painting styles, as manifested in centres such as Lucknow, Murshidabad and Delhi in North India and Mysore and Thanjavur in the South.