A Folio from a Zafarnama Made for the Emperor Akbar
By the artist Khemkaran
Mughal India, circa 1598-1600
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Original Manuscript Folio: 17.8 x 10 cm
Re-margined Folio: 28 x 19.5 cm
On the occasion of Islamic Week and Asian Art in London 2014, Prahlad Bubbar presents ‘Masters of the Mughal and Rajput Courts: Indian Painting 1590 – 1860’.
The exhibition showcases fine works on paper that demonstrate the range and quality of painting from North India from the 16th to 19th centuries. It features the work of leading artists from the Mughal courts in addition to those working in the Hindu kingdoms of Rajasthan and the Punjab Hills.
A signature bearing the name of Bishandas, an artist whose talent for portraiture was extolled by the Emperor Jahangir (r. 1605 – 1627), appears on an exquisite folio from a Zafarnama (Book of Victories) made for the Emperor Akbar (r.1556-1605). The name of Khemkaran, another of Akbar’s foremost painters, is inscribed on two further folios from the same manuscript. These jewel-like paintings demonstrate the delicacy and finesse achieved during this vibrant period in Mughal painting. They also illustrate its evolution, from the strong colours and animated gestures of Khemkaran to the sensitive characterization and increasingly naturalistic work of Bishandas.
The group features a collection of paintings that portray the Hindu god Shiva in his various forms. He appears with his family in two paintings from the Punjab Hills and as Yogisvara, the ‘Lord of all Yogis’, in a dramatic portrait influenced by the artistic traditions of Kashmir. Particularly significant is a portrayal of Shiva Ardhanarishvara (‘Lord who is half woman’) riding a composite bull, exhibited and published by the pioneering scholar and curator Stella Kramrisch in her seminal work, Manifestations of Shiva, in 1981. This sublime expression of cosmic non-duality is a rare example of a Hindu themed composite depicted with the refined elegance of the 18th century Mughal style.
Three portraits of Sikh Gurus reveal the hand of a master painter from the Punjab Hills. Working in the family style of the artist Nainsukh of Guler, these paintings embody the serene elegance for which this region is known. Datable to the late 18th century, they are from the finest and earliest known series of Sikh Gurus. As such they are not only works of great beauty and religious significance, but are also central to an understanding of the origins of Sikh painting.
The drama of the Persian epic Shahnameh is brought to life in two elaborate Mughal paintings from the late 18th century. Painted in a large format with rich pigments, including expanses of deep lapis blue and shimmering gold, they are fine examples of the flourishing in manuscript painting that took place in the Mughal provinces at this time.
Prahlad Bubbar is a dealer and consultant of Indian and Islamic art based in London. He is a specialist in Indian painting and has placed works of historical importance and great beauty in leading museums and private collections around the world. He holds regular exhibitions at his gallery in Mayfair accompanied by publications that receive widespread critical acclaim.
Late night opening Mayfair, 3 November, 5-9pm
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