A prince holding a falcon and galloping through a rocky landscape, Deccan, Golconda, circa 1680-1700
- Gouache on paper with gold highlights
Acquired in 1965
Zebrowski 1983, pp.212-4, no.183, and p.229, col.pl.XXI
Zebrowski in Michell 1986, pp.105-6, no.16
Khandalvala 1985, p.50.
Michell and Zebrowski 1999, col.pl.9, pp.213-6
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Mark Zebrowski, who published this painting on three occasions (1983, 1986 and 1999), attributes it to circa 1700 and to an artist trained at Golconda during the reign of Abu'l Hasan Qutb Shah (r.1672-87) who then worked for the Mughals in the Deccan before moving north, where he perhaps influenced the style at Kishangarh. Interestingly, a royal procession of Aurangzeb by Bhavanidas, painted at the Mughal court or at Kishangarh circa 1700-1715, shows related features and style, albeit more formally presented, (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.430, see Haidar in Beach, Fischer and Goswamy 2011, p.538, fig.6) and comparison should also be made to an equestrian hunting portrait of Atachin Beg Bahadur Qalmaq scene in the British Museum (see Zebrowski 1983, p.216, fig.185). Zebrowski suggests that the prince here may be either Rafi' al-Daula, a sickly prince who was Mughal emperor for less than a year in 1719, or, more likely, Azam Shah (1653-1707), Aurangzeb's favourite son and heir who was active in the Deccan campaigns and escorted Abu'l Hasan, the Qutb Shah's final ruler, on his surrender to Aurangzeb after the fall of Golconda in 1687 (for comparison see a contemporary but cruder portrait in the Victoria and Albert Museum, IS.227-1950). Zebrowski draws our attention to attenuation of form and the almost porcelain-like quality of the horse's flesh and the almost mirage-like presence of the prince's army, made more surreal by the presence of large angels in the sky. He suggests that the same artist also painted a harem scene in the Victoria and Albert Museum (IS.35-1957, see Zebrowski 1983, p.215, no.184) and (Zebrowski 1983, p.212), although this is disputed by Khandalavala, who furthermore dates the present work a little earlier, to the end of Abu'l Hasan Qutb Shahi's reign, circa 1680-85 (Khandalavala 1985, reviewing Zebrowski 1983).
The painting is full of arresting motifs and extraordinary detail. In the foreground are ducks and herons on the bank of the stream, two jackals running from the sudden human presence, and brilliant flowers growing underfoot. The details of the costumes of the royal party and the horse's trappings are finely executed, with individual floral motifs visible on the textiles, and jewels in the bridle and daggers, while even the gold-headed nails of the horseshoes are visible. The attendant immediately behind the horse's rump surprises us with a direct glance at the audience. In the middle distance the rock outcrops are populated by pairs of partridges, more jackals, a rabbit and a herd of deer, and in the far distance individual figures are visible inhabiting the architecture while cushions can be seen in the howdahs on the elephants' backs. Despite the almost dreamlike vision, there is a sense of slow but steady movement across the landscape from left to right. The whole composition is a brilliant vision, and there is almost certainly considerable symbolism yet to be uncovered.