TEFAF Maastrich 2024
9th March, 2024 - 14th March, 2024
Prahlad Bubbar is delighted to participate, for the second time, in the world-renowned TEFAF art fair in Maastricht for 2024, with “Enchanted Nature”.
The passion and love for nature reached an expressive pinnacle during the golden age of Mughal rule (approximately 1526–1707), and especially during the reign of the Emperor Jahangir (1605–1627), a knowledgeable naturalist with a keen interest in exotic fauna. It is in the spirit of this era that our presentation this year reflects nature in all its sublime delicacy and this powerful inspiration comes to life in a variety of mediums through the hands of the most skilled artists of their time, who documented courtiers and their activities as well as the flora and fauna native to India.
One of the masterpieces in our presentation is a leaf depicting the Mughal garden built for the Emperor Jahangir from an album made for Antoine Polier (1741–1795), a Swiss adventurer and connoisseur whose interest and engagement with India and its mythology was reflected in his commissions for works of the natural world viewed through the masters of the Mughal empire. In this remarkable 18th century painting, executed in opaque watercolour and gold on paper by Polier’s retained artist, Mihr Chand, we observe the ideal Mughal garden as a reflection of paradise and of eternal spring, a product of an ‘ordered aesthetic’, an idyll of peace and harmony. He was probably inspired by the rolling hills of Awadh, where the painting was no doubt executed, rather than the vast Pir Panjal Mountain range of the lower Himalayas, that form the backdrop to Dal Lake and the Shalimar Gardens.
Another outstanding work is a highly important 17th century Mughal jade-hilted horse-head dagger made for the inner circle of Shah Jahan. This masterpiece of the lapidary arts is rendered in the most extraordinary detail in the form of a horse’s head. The pommel, beautifully rendered in equine form, is carved from a light-coloured nephrite-jade known as mutton-fat nephrite and its translucence is marked by pale yellow and white inclusions, which the artist used to represent the mottled variations in the coat of the animal and elevates the naturalism within the form. The horse’s head is an artistic tour de force that likely portrays an Arabian stallion, which was generally regarded as the superior breed by the Mughals and, therefore, befitting the supreme status of its powerful owner. We know from the writings of the renowned late scholar and academic Stuart Cary Welch that objects of this quality were made for imperial court and the inner circle or family of Shah Jahan.
The Imperial spinel in our presentation, also known as a balas ruby and named after the Balascia region in which it was found, is an extraordinary gemstone distinguished not only by its deep red colour and considerable size (65.5 carats) but also by its inscriptions with the name of Emperor Jahangir, ‘Jahangir Shah [son] of Akbar Shah’, and with the name ‘sahib e qiran Sani’, the name of Shah Jahan (Shihab al-Din Muhammad Khurram), the fifth emperor of the Mughal Empire, who reigned from 1628 to 1658. The stone is testament not only to the rarest and most deeply held secrets of the natural world, but it also plays homage to the Mughals, who reached the peak of their architectural achievements and cultural glory under Shah Jahan and whose rulers valued gems for their rarity, physical properties, and provenance. Such was the fascination with marble, semi-precious and precious stones at the time that spinels are mentioned in the memoirs of the Mughal emperor Jahangir (r. 1605-1627) and also appear in miniature paintings, laid on trays of gems, or mounted in jewels. Inscribed Mughal spinels survive in a number of important collections, including the British Royal Collection, the Al Thani Collection and the Al-Sabah Collection.
Another great work of jewellery and horology coming with us to Maastricht is a Gold Hunter Case pocket watch with the Monogram and Coat of Arms of The Nawab of Bhawalpur Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi IV, who commissioned the time piece. The timepiece represents not only the Mughal fascination with all things mathematical but also with astronomy as the watch is built as a complication with perpetual calendar, moon phase and split-second chronograph. Aside from its splendid 18k gold casing set with rubies and diamonds, the inside of the case is graced with a striking portrait of the Nawab signed John Graff, the foremost Swiss portrait painter in enamels of the late 19th century. In the inclusion of this portrait, the artist has revealed a connection between all things precious – the celestial, the imperial and the magical as seen in the rarity and placement of jewels throughout the pocket watch.
An extremely rare and remarkable hand-knotted Tibetan tiger rug is part of a small group of only two hundred 19th century examples known to exist and of an even smaller group of fifteen rugs displaying a realistic pelt with stylised stripes. The rug represents an enigmatic tradition in Central Asian rug weaving that may date as far back as the 7th century. In the present example, the animal depicted has a pantomime-tiger muscularity that explodes beyond the woven frame. The master weavers interpreted the symbolic essence of the tiger through different stylistic approaches. The rugs and the tradition of sitting on an image of a tiger have their genesis in the historical use and visual representation of yogis and yoginis practising tantric meditation on tiger pelts and their motifs are related to the tiger skin loin cloths depicted in Tibetan thangkas, paintings of wrathful Tibetan gods, often shown riding tigers. Tiger pelts were also a sign of power for Tibetan kings and other high authorities, who were often portrayed sitting on flayed tiger pelts. Quite simply, the tiger symbolised status, ferocity, and bravery; in effect, only those in power and authority could own and use tiger rugs as they sat in judgement and meted out punishment. Furthermore, warriors wore tiger skins, and their graves were decorated with painted tigers.
TEFAF Maastricht – Stand 180
7 – 8 March (by invitation only), 11 AM – 7 PM
9 – 14 March, 11 AM – 7 PM
6229 GV Maastricht