British Museum collections, £12.99
Height: 170.000 mm
Width: 101.000 mm
ME OA 1937.4-10.03
Portrait of a courtier, an album painting in gouache on paper
From Bijapur, Deccan, India
Around AD 1615
A well-dressed member of the court in Bijapur stands in isolation, with his face in profile. The dark brown backdrop suggests no particular landscape, but the pair of orange birds overhead and the few leaves underfoot show that the setting is outdoors. The skirts of the courtier's robe flare out, as though caught in a light breeze, and the man seems lost in contemplation. The olive yellow shawl and golden belt and turban band make a subtle combination of colours against the dark brown background. Naturalistic details, such as the man's black beard going grey at the chin, suggest that the artist intended to make quite a close portrait.
Painting at the court of Bijapur was subject to the outside influences of Persian, Mughal and Christian art, as well as to the native artistic tradition of southern India. Foreign artists could find employment at the court atelier, and the import of European prints and both Mughal and Persian paintings provided examples of different artistic approaches and subjects to resident painters. For example, this portrait copies a contemporary trend in Mughal painting for individual portraits of courtiers. The imaginative fusion of these various elements produced a gentle decorative Deccani style, different to the naturalism of neighbouring Mughal painting.
M. Zebrowski, Deccani painting (London, Sotheby Publications, 1983)