The portrait of Asaf-ud-Daula is after a painting by the renowned German artist Johann Zoffany (1733-1810), completed in 1784 and now in the India Office Library (see M. Archer, India and British Portraiture 1770-1825, Oxford, 1979, no. 89, p. 147). Both paintings exhibit similar details, such as the striped green and cream cushions, the lowering background and various features of Asaf-ud-Daula's jewellery and costume. Another Lucknow School watercolour after Zoffany was sold in these Rooms on 23 September 2005, entitled 'Colonel Antoine-Louis Polier enjoying a nautch at his house in Lucknow'.
Zoffany trained in Germany and Rome, later making his way to Britain and rising to Royal patronage in 1769, with a personal recommendation from King George to be a founding member of the Royal Academy. Falling out of favour with the Queen, and lured by the financial promise of India, Zoffany relocated in 1783, spent his first month in Madras, moved to Calcutta and from there travelled to Luckow and the court of Nawab of Oudh, Asaf-ud-Daula.
For another example of a Lucknow School copy after Zoffany see the watercolour of Colonel Antoine-Louis Polier enjoying a nautch at his house in Lucknow, Christie's, London, 23 September 2005, lot 47.
Asaf-Ud-Daula was the fourth Nawab, and his accession brought great change to Awadh politics. He moved the court of Awadh from Faizabad to Lucknow in 1775. With the move of the court to Lucknow the city grew rapidly in and around the existing town to accommodate the influx of people. There emerged a powerful Shia culture, in constant interaction with the Shia heartlands of Iran and Iraq. The increasing number of Shia emigrants from Iranian cities transformed Lucknow into a great intellectual centre.
The portrait of Jawan Bakht is after the oil painting by the celebrated Scottish artist Charles Smith, a contemporary of Johann Zoffany. Smith was an artist adventurer who travelled widely throughout India under the protection of his countryman, the Governor-General, John Macpherson. Macpherson, whose arrival in 1785 guaranteed work for Smith, introduced the artist to the Nawabs of areas far removed from the central British rule. In this way oil portraits were commissioned from Smith by such Indian dignitaries as Jawan Bakhat and Asaaf-ud-Daula. (see Mildred Archer, op. cit., pp. 180-181, pl. 111 & 112).
Prince Jawan Bakht was the eldest son of the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam, who visited Lucknow in 1784 to ask for Warren Hastings' help in securing the release of his father from the Mahrattas. The Mahrattas Empire consisted of a powerful network of Hindu warrior familes centred in the western Deccan. It existed from 1674 to 1818 and at its peak the empire's territories covered nearly one third of South Asia. Hastings wrote that he found the Prince 'gentle, lively, possessed of a high sense of humour, of a sounding judgement, an uncommonly quick penetration, and a well-cultivated understanding, with a spirit of resignation and an equality of temper almost exceeding any within reach of my own knowledge or recollection'.
As a result of Tilly Kettle's work in Oudh from 1771 to 1773, it became the fashion for local artists to copy European portraits.