Opaque watercolour on paper, red border, reverse with inscription in Devanagari
Harvard 1965, no.27
Welch and Beach 1965, no.26, pp.55, 120
Welch 1985, no.243, p.361
This large, imposing and very finely painted portrait of a monkey is a rare and important work. The interesting inscription on the reverse is as follows:
"bandaro husaini nabab davad khan ra thi ? ayvo"
"The monkey Husaini, the gift of Nawab Daud Khan"
This statement that the monkey was presented by a Muslim nobleman gives a very unusual and intriguing piece of information. Cary Welch discussed the political circumstances at Mewar about 1700 that may have led to this unusual gift, and the painting of portrait itself. He suggested that the political relations with the Mughals in which the young Amar Singh was involved while maintaining his court in exile led to the gift being bestowed upon his wife by a courtier of Prince Mu'azzam (later Emperor Bahadur Shah I) (Welch 1985, pp.360-361).
Welch also pointed out the Mughal fashion for maintaining menageries in the royal gardens in Delhi, linking the artistic ancestry of the portrait itself to the animal studies executed by artists such as Mansur for Emperor Jahangir in the early part of the 17th century.
The quality of the present portrait is exceptional, especially the face, which combines monumentality and extremely fine execution to great effect. The monkey is clearly a pet - the red rope harnesses the animal to a metal ring, and the portrait is highly unusual in the context of Mewar painting. A series of large portraits of hunting dogs was painted in Mewar, but somewhat later, around 1762 (see Wiener 1974, no.36, sale in these rooms The Bachofen von Echt Collection of Indian Miniatures, 29 April 1992, lot 38, and Pal and Seid 2002, no.30, p.65). It is probable that the unusual event of the gift occasioned the painting of the portrait, which is thus an extremely unusual phenomenon in Mewar painting.
Welch thought that the artist of the present portrait was one of those trained in the Deccan, moving to Rajasthan as a result of the patronage of Rajput officers who had been in the Deccan on campaign with the Mughal armies. Certainly the body and face of the monkey are rendered in a more accurate and precise manner than was usual at this time in Mewar painting, but the exact movement of artists and the development of styles in Rajasthan at this period continues to be debated by scholars.
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