Ragini Desvarari (detail)
Aurangabad, Northern Deccan, circa 1680
Opaque pigments with gold on paper
22 x 14.5 cm
On the occasion of Islamic Week 2015, Prahlad Bubbar presents a selection of Indian court paintings with a group of Safavid and Ottoman carpet fragments. Together they provide a rare glimpse of court life in India, Iran and Turkey over a period that spans the late 15th to 19th centuries.
The magical, dream-like quality associated with painting from India’s Deccani courts is conjured in a painting from Burhanpur. A wistful maiden sits with two attendants amongst an abundance of flowers, the complex palette and dark sky effectively conveying the hypnotic mood of nightfall. A second Deccani page, this time from Aurangabad, combines bold, primary hues of red and yellow with brooding skies, under which a woman sits in elegant ‘tribhanga’ pose while gazing into a mirror. The artist strikes a masterful balance between freedom and restraint, combining bold lines with delicate figural forms and soft foliage.
Tempestuous monsoon skies set the mood for a painting from 17th century Bundi, a Rajasthani court known for its esteemed painting tradition. Against a dramatic backdrop of rain and thunder, an ascetic sits in meditation under a domed pavilion. His rounded facial features, the lively portrayal of the animals and atmospheric landscape would become defining features of the Bundi style, demonstrated with passion and inventive detail in this early example.
A beautifully observed portrait from the Fraser Album (circa 1820) depicts an Afghan couple and their child. The East India Company officer William Fraser commissioned a now famous album of watercolours that are amongst the finest known paintings in the Company style. The portrait is rendered with particular sensitivity, their pensive gazes bringing psychological complexity to the work.
The collection of carpet fragments takes the viewer west to the lands of the great Ottoman and Safavid empires. Two fragments attributed to late 15th or early 16th century Ushak, an important centre of production in Western Turkey, reveal the flow of artistic ideas from the Timurid to the Ottoman court. Large, rounded medallions and swirling golden tracery enclose delicate lotus flowers; carefully worked and detailed, their colours are remarkably brilliant after five hundred years.
The fluid intricacy of Persian carpet design is displayed in examples made for the Safavid courts. A bold and large-scale lotus flower clasped by two leaves adorns a fragment of a ‘Vase Carpet’, made in Kerman during the 17th century. Finally, a stunning example of the ingenuity of Persian weaving is found in a rare and unique fragment from early 17th century Khorasan. Executed on a grand scale, a curvilinear, floral lattice is bordered by a scroll of beautifully rendered feather-like leaves. The distinctive Persian technique allows for greater fluency of design, evident here in the flowing curves of the vines and elegant flowers.
The exhibition opening will be accompanied by a talk given by Dr. Jon Thompson, renowned expert on carpets and textiles from the Islamic World.
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