Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Day 303- Mughal Miniatures On A Cube

It was right after I moved my tribal house. I was sitting in my living room, watching the Rollas at work. Motion, commotion and all their worldly possessions at a glance in a space only as big as an A2 size paper, I realised then why I love working in miniatures. How else can we watch time unfold simultaneously in a few different worlds without even blinking an eye? There was Ro watching Baby messing his face with a cookie, loving her child, OM thinking with his eyes closed, Maya dreaming, her father reading, at different places in their own worlds, all at once. Looking at the 5 all at once worlds all at once and all the time, seated on my daybed, I thought this was as close to playing God as I could get.

I leaned back, pleased as punch and that was when I felt something hard on my back. Oh! It was my art-on-a-cube toy. Nine different Mughal Miniature paintings unfold when you play with the puzzle cube. Wow, I thought, a gallery worth of museum treasures in the palm of one's hand, more miniature marvel moments! So I spent the next 20 minutes taking pictures of the paintings for this post

I thought maybe you will enjoy some of these moments too.

A Lady Serving A Meal
Oudh, India c1770-80

The dramatic colouring and the rhythmic and stylized flow of the women's clothing combine to create what is one of the most striking images in Sir Alfred Chester's collection. Painted in Kangria, in the Himalayan foothills, the painting is equally notable for being a genre scene, the artist having chosen to depict a woman at an everyday task, instead of one of the more popular feminine subjects of love, romance and beauty.

A Lady Sets Off Fireworks
Oudh, India c1770-80 

In this beguiling miniature, three women stand on a terrace at night, while one of them, her hands and feet dyed with henna, sets off fireworks. Feminine subjects, in particular scenes focusing in feminine beauty such as this one, were traditional in Hindu art but became especially popular in 18th century Oudh.

The Dejected Mistress
Murshidabad, India c1755-60

A young woman, seated on a terrace alone at night, holds in one hand a letter from her lover, which she reads stoically and with concealed emotion, while clutching a small posy of blossoms in her other hand. The sparse composition of this painting is extremely effective in conveying its message of dejection and isolation; it also serves to highlight the exquisite brocade textiles of the figure's clothing and her richly bejewelled turban.

Jahangir Holding A Globe
India c.1620 by the artist Bichitr

In this highly allegorical painting, the Mughal emperor Jahangir holds a globe, atop of which is a key inserted into a lock, a reference to a key which it was thought could open both the material and spiritual worlds. Access to the key and hence to the inner knowledge of the two worlds was believed to be through Shaykh Mu'in al-Din Chishti, founder of the Chishti order of Sufis in India in the 12th century. The Mughals regarded a Chishti order as their spiritual guardian, and this painting once formed a facing pair of a similar depiction in Shaykh Mu'in al -Din.

Raga Dipaka
Bengal, India c 1760

This night scene of a courtesan sitting on the lap of her lover illustrates the raga Dipaka. In Indian music, a raga is a musical mode, while a collection of ragas is a ragamala (or 'garland' of ragas). Ragas are frequently illustrated, the artist attempting to portray the scene invoked by the particular musical mode in question. Sir Elijah Impey and his wife, Lady Mary, who once owned this ragamala, arrived in India in 1774; both husband and wife were keen collectors and patrons of Indian art.

A Prince And His Consort
India c 1620-25 by the artist Govardhan

This portrayal of a Mughal prince and his consort once formed part of a royal album , each painting of which was framed by elaborately illuminated borders, such as those seen here. The painting is unusual both for its very subdued colouring , in which shades of gold prevail, and the highly intimate nature of the scene. The dark clouds forming above the enraptured couple may seem rather foreboding but, in the Indian tradition, they in fact function as symbols foretelling a season of fertility and love- making.

Ganesha Enthroned
Garhwal, India, c 1790

The four-armed , Hindu elephant deity, Ganesha, is the god of wisdom and the patron of sciences, art and all creative activities. He is also considered the sponsor of auspicious beginnings or the remover of obstacles. As such , this image once served as an introduction to the story of Sudama, a poor peasant who one day travels to the palace of his childhood friend, the god Krishna, to give him a small bundle of rice as a gift. Moved by his act of generosity, Krishna transforms Sudama's impoverished hut into a palace, clothes his wife in luxury and makes him a raja. 

Akbar Receives The Homage of I'Timad Khan
India c AD 1605 by the artist Sur Das

The Akbarnama is the official biography of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (r.1556-1605) written by his close friend and associate. Abu'I-Fazl. In this highly colourful and intriguing miniature, the artist records the moment when the warlord, I'timad Khan ruler of Cambay, humbly prostrated himself before Akbar, who sits proudly atop a brightly caparisoned elephant. But the Khan's apparent loyalty to the higher authority of the emperor was short-lived, for as soon as Akbar had departed, he quickly tried to rebel, which just as quickly led to his imprisonment.

Akbar's Visit To The Muslim Shrine of Shaykh Farid Sakarganj
India c 1605

Here again the Mughal Emperor Akbar is portrayed, this time dressed in a bright orange jama and praying before the black-draped tomb of a Muslim shaykh. Set in the exact centre of the composition, he is the unmistakable focus of this busy and highly detailed picture. Intricate geometric patterns and scrolling blossoms cover floors, walls and the dome, while a rich array of textiles clothe the many courtiers and servants depicted, each of whom is involved in an animated discussion with his neighbour. A garden of lush trees grows beyond the back wall of the shrine, while in front, by the man entrance to the shrine, yet more guards and servants wait, ready to tend to the emperor's every need.

All descriptions of the pieces came with the cube.


Cindy Teh said...

oh! this certainly brings back memories! used to spend hours playing with such toys as a kid, though i never recalled the photos being as fanciful and beautiful as these :D

The Old Maid said...

Hmmm is it really a Mistress that was dejected? She looks like a man to me. Sorry, LOL!
Anyway the paintings are so pretty!

Sans! said...

I bought this one at The Asian Civilization Museum, Cinds, for like S$10 !!! Truly a treasure for me :)

I don't remember ever playing with something like this though as a child.

Sans! said...

Ewa, I've looked 10 times and still think "she"'s a man. I even thought maybe the description was wrongly matched but then how do we explain the letter and the posies in "her" hand. LOL

Of course , the henna also confirms her gender :). Maybe that's why she was dumped. She looked too much like her lover!!

Kikka said...

Wonderful, wonderful, a true piece of MiniatureArt!

Flora said...

Sans my dear, I must be crazy, for neglecting so much the blog and friends, and losing for so long, wonderful things you are doing ...
I seem to have been away from home!
But now things are going better and I hope to resume the reins of the situation :-)
The cubes are extraordinary, evocative, fascinating ...
They are Sans!
Mini hugs my friend,

carmen said...

que rompecabezas increíble!!!

Dark Squirrel Victoria said...

Your cube is fascinating, I love the black elephants and Ganesha best :)

I always know beauty awaits me here.


Maria Ireland said...

Wonderful cube so many beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing.
Hugs Maria

BiWuBär said...

I've never seen such stunning pictures on cubes like that - only very simple illustrations for children. I think it's a clever way to present art this way because you have to think about it and how it fits together... ;O)


P.S.: Little confession... I thought of a typo in "The Dejected Mistress" and believed it should have been "The Dejected Mister"... kind of a relief I'm not alone with that

Janice said...

What great photos and marvellous stories as usual Sans. These were such fun when I was a child. Who needs computers eh!?

Daydreamer said...

Ah, Sans! You KNOW how much I LOVE this toy! I am Fascinated by the way it must unfold... I do not remember ever playing with such a toy! The Paintings are a TREAT! I have not seen these EXACT versions before.... and it makes me aware that the world of Access to these treasures is SO expanded since the age of Digital photography and Internet have made available treasures that would have been seen by few... the same is happening with the Medieval European works... they are being photographed and archived and viewable in the Internet! And reproduced on toys... I am Sure you will make versions of these paintings for your Palace someday!
I cannot choose a Favorite.... they all have much to Fascinate Me!

WeeLittleWest / Kathy Olaf-Obrenski said...


Drora's minimundo said...

Very interesting and educational.
The paintings are very beautiful, for me from a different world.
Thank you for sharing.

Ascension said...

Que pasada de cubo!!!!
Unas imagenes fantasticas, perfectas para sacar unas lindas pinturas.
Yo tenia un cubo cuando era pequeña, pero solo podias hacer escenas de animalitos jejeje
Me ha encantado como te documentas para tus trabajos, es siempre tan interesante.
besitos ascension

Eliana said...

The scenes of the figures are so wonderful! Good luck using them to miniatures.

CWPoppets said...

So colourful! I think "she" looks like a "she". lol

Rosamargarita said...

"Lo esencial es invisible para los ojos" (The little prince. Antoine de Saint Exupery)
Muchos besos querida Sans!

malu2 said...

Preciosas imagenes!!! que explican muy bien, la vida cotidiana de otros tiempos!!
Querida Susan estoy muy contenta, el mes de Marzo viene con muchas sorpresas!!!!
Un beso fuerte y hasta pronto!!!!

Sans! said...

Kikka, thank you again for the award! Just put it up on my left bar tonight :).

Sans! said...

It is always such a pleasure for me, Flora, to hear from you :). Absence makes the heart grow fonder and sometimes , a little time away makes us treasure more :).

Welcome back !

Sans! said...

Estoy feliz de poder compartir con ustedes, Carmen :)

Sans! said...

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Victoria and of course , the discerning one..heh heh :)

Glad you enjoyed the art.

Sans! said...

Like you say on your blog Maria Ireland, May we enjoy the little things in life. :)

Sans! said...

Birgit, have you been posting tons again? I guess I will find out soon enough :). Look at me, I can't even manage replies to comment in time :).

"The Dejected Mister" just doesn't have the right ring, don't you think? I am the type who can just change the gender of my art if the title doesn't sound right. Maybe the artist is like me.

Sans! said...

Janice, I was just wondering if I should bring my laptop on my 3 week vacation ..LOL. Nobody needed computers before they were invented :). Now BC means "Before Computers"!

Sans! said...

Bets, I knew this would appeal to you :) , Ms Lover of Miniatures. I think they have one on Japanese art as well.

I am not a purist and am in fact, quite a sucker for the kitschy. haha. I buy art on a coaster, in an ashtray, around a foldable cube. That's why I love museum shops. Usable art appeal to me more than the actual art work perhaps because I can never afford the real thing. It's my way of compensating.

I just realised that all the art work in my tribal house were gifts painted by very talented friends. i have reproduced nothing except kitschy Indian posters. Now if only I can paint like you...

Sans! said...

Glad you like it, Kathy O-O!

Sans! said...

Drora, it's a different world for me too :). It's always the different one that is fascinating , isn't it?

Sans! said...

Oh, sí, la Ascensión, el cubo con los animales. Creo que puedo recordar algo así. Nunca he visto una cosa así cuando yo era joven.

He oído de Eva que el equipo se echa a perder. Espero que lo arreglará pronto.

besos y abrazos

Sans! said...

Eliana, I don't think I can miniaturise the cube. LOL

Sans! said...

Christine, you are The One! The artist will really appreciate the fact that there is finally someone who understands his art!

Sans! said...

Sí, RosaM, se ve bien sino con el corazón. :)

Sans! said...

Gracias, María Luisa :). No puedo esperar para Marzo!


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