Two courtly ladies
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Two courtly ladies


Two courtly ladies
By Bihari, India, Bikaner, in Golconda style, circa 1700
Two elaborately bedecked ladies standing on a floral carpet, the lady at right clad in a lengha with gold waistband over a printed blue choli, glancing at her companion who turns profile to meet her gaze, the companion in a rose lengha and dupatta with green choli, each holding a betel case, within an interior painted with blue-and-white ceramics, trimmed on three sides, the upper edge with partial margin, the reverse with devanagri inscription, ownership stamps and librarian's signature
Opaque pigments and gold on paper
7 1/8 x 4¾ in. (18 x 11.5 cm.), painting
Royal Collection of Bikaner (no. 5337), before 20 August 1964
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Umah Jacob
Umah Jacob

Lot Essay

The style of this painting is closely related to that of Golconda originals of the late 17th century. A very similar painting of two ladies with a bottle and cup, dated to circa 1680, is in the Chester Beatty Library (Linda York Leach, Mughal and other Indian Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library, London, 1995, Vol. II, p. 916). A well-known further example of a single lady, provocatively posed, formerly in the Stuart Cary Welch Collection, is now in the collection of Dr Daniel Vasella (Navina Najat Haidar and Marika Sardar, Sultans of Deccan India 1500-1700, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2015, no.147, pp.252-3). These comparisons indicate that the inscription on the reverse was probably added later and that the date was an estimation. All the Golconda examples depict standing ladies elegantly dressed, their bodies elegantly curved, with narrow waist and heavy jewellery. The colouring is soft, not at all the thick opaque colours of most paintings. The style is very similar to that of Rahim Deccani (Haidar and Sardar, op.cit., nos.143-146, pp.249-251). The present painting must have been very close to the original that it copied; it captures the subtle shading and mischievous expression of the ladies perfectly. The very thin completely diaphanous shawl of the original has however been misunderstood in our painting. In the originals it clings to the body, clearly revealing the shapes underneath, while here it stands up above the shoulder of each lady as if it has been starched. Dress in Muslim Golconda appears to have been considerably more acceptably provocative than in Hindu Bikaner.


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