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    Inhabited Arabesque
    Golconda, Deccan, circa 1600-10
    Nim Qalam (brush drawing on paper)
    9.5 x 18 cm

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Inhabited Arabesque
Golconda, Deccan, circa 1600-10
Nim Qalam (brush drawing on paper)
9.5 x 18 cm

Indian Court Paintings 1600 - 1900, New York

20th March, 2010 - 28th March, 2010

Exhibition held at
Galeria Ramis Barquet
New York, March 20 – 28, 2010

This sumptuous and brilliant design bursts forth with life both real and mythical. Phoenixes, dragons, feline heads, birds, floral and vegetal forms all radiate from an inner spiral.  In the centre two dragons are entwined while biting each other’s tails, a symbol of the cyclicality of the universe and creation.

The phoenix and dragon motifs are of Chinese origin, coming to India with the Mongol invasions of the 13th and 14th centuries and the development of Mongol-Persianate tastes.  There was, however, already a strong affinity for mythical beasts in Southern India, as can be seen in the stone carvings and metalwork from the Vijayanagara kingdoms, where they were endowed with magical and protective qualities.

The energy and ethos behind the drawing is representative of the hybrid and mystical traditions of the Deccan, as opposed to the more lyrical Persian aesthetic. A closely related drawing, certainly from the same workshop, is in the collection of the Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian art, Hyderabad.  The present work is also closely related to the famous Copper Salver, published in the exhibition ‘India 1300-1900’, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York. It is possible that this inspired and refined drawing served as a design by a master artist for a grand piece of metal ware or a border decoration for an exceptional manuscript.

Robert Skelton suggests that the best Mughal works have often been attributed to the Deccan. He believes the present drawing, in addition to the one in the Mittal collection, could also be by a master in Jahangir’s atelier.



Welch, Stuart Cary. Indian Drawing and Painted Sketches: 16th through 19th centuries (New York: The Asia House Gallery, 1976).

Welch, Stuart Cary. India: Art and Culture, 1300-1900 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985).

Zebrowski, Mark. Deccani Painting (London: Sotheby Publications, 1983).

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