A LOVE SCENE
A LOVE SCENE
Mughal, India, c. 1580 - 1590, Calligraphy 17th Century
Opaque pigment on paper heightened with gold, inscribed with four lines of calligraphy in Nasta`liq script on reverse
Image 6 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (16.5 x 8.5 cm.)
Folio 14 x 10 1/4 in. (36 x 26 cm.)
The A.C. Ardeshir Collection, 1962
A Mughal prince (possibly the Emperor Akbar) and his consort are seated on a bed in a palace courtyard; their arms are locked around each other in a passionate embrace. The woman gazes longingly up into her lovers eyes. A female attendant bends towards the couple offering them a cup on a golden tray. At the foot of the bed are a candle covered by a translucent shade, a golden flask placed in a low-rimmed bowl, and a crouching black and white cat.
This early and important painting appears to depict the Emperor Akbar embracing one of his wives or consorts. The profiles of the current figures are certainly very close to several depictions of Akbar in the Akbarnama that now form part of the Victoria and Albert Museum Collection (as well as various other works), particularly, for example, the two scenes of him hunting, V&A Inv. IS.2:56 -1896, and IS.2:55- 1896. (See Susan Stronge, Made for Mughal Emperors, London, 2010, pp. 74-75.) If indeed it is Akbar that is depicted in this scene, then it is an unusually intimate depiction of a royal figure at this early period of Imperial painting.
The appearance of a cat is a comparatively common feature in early Mughal paintings and is a direct import from European prints. Several other Mughal works of this period, especially those depicting European or Christian scenes, include a cat like this in the foreground (eg. Kesu Dass scene of St. Matthew the Evangelist in the Bodleian Library, MS. Douce, Or. A.1, f.41b, see Andrew Topsfield, Paintings from Mughal India, Oxford, 2008, p. 31, no. 11).
The calligraphy on the reverse is a quatrain in Nasta`liq script, which is preceded by an invocation to God in smaller letters at the upper right which reads Huwa al-aziz al-rahim (He is The Almighty, The Merciful). The inscription in small Nasta`liq in the centre of the four lines of calligraphy dates the calligraphic panel, stating in the city of the abode of victory, Bijapur, in the month of Shawwal 1099 (September 1687). This is a pertinent date because the use of the term dar al-zafar (abode of victory) implies that the victory of the Mughals and the siege of Bijapur had already occurred and indeed the Mughal victory had been achieved exactly a year earlier in September 1686. However, in the lower left corner the calligraphy is attributed by `Abd al-Rahman to `Abd al-Rashid, which presumably refers to Abd al-Rashid al-Daylami, the great Mughal calligrapher. Since `Abd al-Rashid had died in 1670 - 71 (fifteen years before the victory at Bijapur), `Abd al-Rahman must be referring to him in an honorific manner. The junior calligrapher at court writes in the style of the master and honours him by name as his own inspiration.