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(Indian, active mid-1700s)
Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper (recto)
Painting only: 14.4 x 10.3 cm (5 11/16 x 4 1/16 in.); Page: 28 x 23.8 cm (11 x 9 3/8 in.)
Gift in honor of Madeline Neves Clapp; Gift of Mrs. Henry White Cannon by exchange; Bequest of Louise T. Cooper; Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund; From the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection 2013.347.a
The archer’s thumb ring is for drawing the bowstring. Perhaps he was left-handed.
Emperor Muhammad Shah, who reigned from 1719 to 1748, was known as “Rangila,” which means “the Colorful.” The innovative use of a black background sharply sets off the chartreuse green of his jama and the pearls of his adornments and bolster. On his left thumb he wears an archer’s ring, and a stabbing dagger is tucked into his bejeweled belt. Even his trained hunting falcon has a ruby necklace. In this formal posthumous portrait, the master artist conveys a heightened realism that emerges effortlessly from elegant contour lines and bold use of color. The work was part of an album of paintings collected in India before 1811 by a Scottish politician who worked for the British East India Company.
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