Text beneath the image: majlis-e holi zananah va chabutara-ye murabba’ va ‘imarat dar miyan-e darya
‘Ladies Holi gathering, the square terrace and the buildings in the waters’
On the reverse in the centre: A hadith of the Prophet: ‘He who writes the bismillah beautifully, enters the Paradise without measure’ and a Persian phrase, signed by Muhammad ‘Ali and both dated 1195 AH/1780 AD. The side panels that bear Persian verses are copied by Hafiz Nurallah and are undated.
Hafiz Nurallah must be the calligrapher who is recorded as having served at the court of Asaf al-Dawla of Oudh (Awadh) (1775-97) in Lucknow and Ghulam Muhammad Dihlavi, who met him, praised him in his tadhkira as a person and his nasta’liq hand in both small and large in ‘Abd al-Rashid Daylami’s style (M. Hidayat Husain (Ed.), The tadhkira-i-khushnavisan of Mawlana Ghulam Muhammad Dihlavi, Calcutta, 1910, pp.64-65). Bayani records five works by him two dated 1153 AH/1740-41 AD and 1154 AH/1741-42 AD (Mehdi Bayani, ahval va athar-e khosh-nevisan, vol.3, Tehran, 1348, p.949).
A few scribes with the name Muhammad ‘Ali are recorded. Ghulam Muhammad Dihlavi records a Hafiz Muhammad ‘Ali, who was an old Royal [Mughal] scribe and was honoured to be one of the masters to teach Prince Javan Bakht son of Shah ‘Alam. He wrote in nasta’liq in ‘Abd al-Rashid Daylami style and also wrote in naskh (M. Hidayat Husain, op.cit., p.67). Bayani records a Muhammad ‘Ali Hafiz, quotes colophons and concludes that Muhammad ‘Ali, Muhammad ‘Ali Hafiz and Muhammad ‘Ali son of Zarrin Qalam are the same person. He records one work by Muhammad ‘Ali dated 1196 AH/1781-2 AD and one by Hafiz Muhammad ‘Ali son of Zarrin Qalam dated 1202 AH/1787-88 AD (Mehdi Bayani, ahval va athar-e khosh-nevisan, vol.3, Tehran, 1348, pp.788-9).
Antoine Louis Henri Polier was born in Lausanne in Switzerland in 1741 and began his career as a surveyor in the East India Company in 1758. By 1762 Polier had become Chief Engineer of the Bengal Army in Calcutta and Chief Architect for the kingdom of Oudh, working within the Court of Nawab Shuja ud-Daula. During his time in India, Polier collected a number of Persian and Sanskrit manuscripts and miniatures. In 1767 he was gifted three albums by the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh. Polier also commissioned works, establishing a small studio in Faizabad with Mihr Chand as the chief artist, and assembled numerous colourful albums of paintings and calligraphy.
Polier is known to have given an album of paintings to Lady Coote, wife of the British East India Company Officer Sir Eyre Coote, whilst in India, and on his return to Europe sold the remaining albums to the English collector William Beckford, and in turn eleven of these eventually found their way to the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin. The present page, as well as lots 271 and 272, is so close in style, palette and size to others known to have belonged to the 'Lady Coote Album', including leaves in the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (see S. Markel and T.B. Gude et al 2010, nos.154, 156 and 184), that we can assume that these three pages were also among Polier's gift.
Both the present and following two lots possess the distinctive broad floral borders associated with other Polier album pages. The French inscriptions only appear between 1767-68 and after then Polier began to annotate his albums in Hindi and Urdu. For comparable album pages please see the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin (illus. Hickman & Enderlein: Indische Albumblatte, Leipzig 1979, cat nos.1,11, 21, 39, 43 and 51). Other Polier leaves were sold in these rooms 6 October 2010, lots 80 and 81; 15 June, 2010, lot 5.