A NAWAB AND HIS RETAINERS IN PROCESSION, INDIA, MURSHIDABAD, CIRCA 1760-1770
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF CLARK & JOAN WORSWICK
A NAWAB AND HIS RETAINERS IN PROCESSION
INDIA, MURSHIDABAD, CIRCA 1760-1770
Opaque watercolor on paper heightened with gold
image: 10 ⅛ by 13 ⅛ in. (25.7 by 33.3 cm)
folio: 10 ¾ by 13 in. (27.31 by 33 cm), unframed
Gifted by Stuart Cary Welch, circa 1966
This rare and remarkable painting depicts a stately procession slowly making its way across a landscape bearing timeless vignettes of rural Bengal, rendered in infinite detail.
In the foreground farmers plow their fields and tend their crop while herds of cows and goats graze serenely. The procession itself is seen at the center of the picture, moving from left to right in a dignified cadence with a nawab on a canopied elephant accompanied by riders on horseback, soldiers on foot, noblemen on caparisoned elephants and horseback and even a pair of camels at the front of the train. At the center is a cloth covered litter no doubt bearing a precious cargo of noble ladies, sheltered from prying eyes. The palanquin is surrounded by a throng of attendant figures bearing swords and shields and dressed in fine white muslin jamas, ubiquitous in the humid climate of Bengal. Riders at the front of the train point spears at a target off-scene, as a horseman gallops forward on the right. One of the horsemen bringing up the rear holds a banner with a meen a’lam or fish-shaped standard.
Above the procession, on the upper left, are a group of figures, so delicately drawn as to be barely discernible, sheltering from the midday heat in a grove of shady trees. In the farther distance hunting preparations take place near a pond filled with waterfowl. Beyond gently sloping hills, tall palm trees, some with bent trunks, break the horizon line, with puffy clouds floating beyond.
This extremely fine painting from Murshidabad displays elements of naturalism – evidenced in the detailed depiction of the land and people – as well as perspective, with the elements of the landscape disappearing to a vanishing point. Another very similar composition, possibly by the same artist(s), from the Stuart Cary Welch Collection, was sold at Sotheby's London, May 31, 2011, lot 109. For two other relatable examples in the British Library, London, see T. Falk and M. Archer, Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library, London, 1981, pps. 200 and 489, cat. 374 i & ii.
Robert Skelton in a personal correspondence has remarked that the style of this artist/workshop recalls the work of Dip Chand. Based on the historical record we might surmise that the Nawab pictured herein is Najm ud-daula, son of Mir Ja'far, who ruled as a dedicated British vassal. For another painting from Murshidabad now in the collection of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, see L. Leach, Mughal and other Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library, London, 1995, vol. 2, no. 7.103, pp. 768, 788-9.