Guler, Punjab Hills, India
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
31 x 25 cm
Two Pahari women in traditional attire are depicted in this painting from the Guler School of the late 18th century in what was the prime centre of miniature art and later termed the birthplace of Kangra painting in the first half of the 18th century. With its great delicacy and sense of spirituality, the work displays a unique blend of Rajput and Mughal style as the painters under the royal Hindu patronage had been trained in Mughal miniature art.
The delicate and expressive painting displays a moment of great connection between two women – a young bride and her mother-in-law. The bride, dressed in traditional wedding dress, or lehenga, in red; the colour is significant as it reflects the image of the goddess Durga, who is the representation of feminine power in the universe and is the inner strength of every Indian woman. The woman sitting across from the bride is likely to be her mother-in-law as her welcoming and loving countenance and caring gestures of touch imply great care and concern over the young bride’s future and happiness.
With extraordinary refinement, the faces of the women define the chronology of the moment: the young bride has open eyes and is expectant, if a little frightened, and her demeanour is highlighted by the roundness of her body and inclined head, both a form of reverent acceptance. By contrast, her mother-in-law sits more upright and confident as she has a lifetime of wisdom to impart in small doses. She leans forward to reassure and with her hands brings her daughter-in-law to be strong and persevere in the flowering moment of her youth and transition into the next phase of life.
The chromatic balance of the painting is vivid and harmonious while in the smallest of details we notice the care given to the portrayed tableau. Delicate bracelets, a bejewelled armlet, several filigree necklaces and earrings are all used to decorate and embellish the bride. At the forehead, we observe a traditional piece of head jewellery known as a maang tikka, worn by South Asian women on their wedding day.
Private collection, UK, 1970s.
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