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Paintings > Mughal > Harem > The Royal Couple Engaged in Love
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The Royal Couple Engaged in Love

The Royal Couple Engaged in Love

The Royal Couple Engaged in Love

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Watercolor on Paper

13.6 inches x 10.5 inches
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Viewed 31920 times since 1st Sep, 2010
A highly accomplished miniature rendered in the late eighteenth century idiom of Mughal art style, as practiced at Oudh, a provincial headquarter of Mughals acclaiming independence after Mughal power waned in eighteenth century, this contemporary work of art reproduces with unique skill and in absolute exactness not merely the art-style of those bygone days but also a true picture of the priorities of feudatory at Lucknow like centres of Mughal sub-power. The artist seems to have created his theme by assimilating the face of life as it reflects in a number of miniatures of those days painted at Lucknow like centres of art. Love, made inside the quilt, or after putting it aside, was hardly a private matter, and its display, and even pictorial documentation, was immensely favoured and prided on. In one of his best known short stories ‘Shataranja ke Khilari’, the legendry Hindi writer Munshi Prem Chand draws an identical sketch of feudal life at Lucknow. Engaged in the game of chess Wazid Ali Shah, its Nawab, even after reports of an invasion reach him, does not leave the game for attending the peril facing his land preferring losing the State but not the round of chess he was playing.

The painting is contained within a broad border – almost half of the canvas space, designed with floral plant-motifs – three leaves and three flowers, much in the style of miniatures from the period of Jahangir, a cult also followed by the artists of Shahjahan’s court. Symmetrically laid and uniformly conceived, the flower-plants may not be treated as realistic but they are also not stylized or arabesque-type. Despite a pale opaque background and repetition of the same form all across, these flower-motifs do not breathe a feeling of monotony.

The actual painting, within the frame, portrays a young handsome prince as engaged in making love with his consort in his bed-chamber. Besides wearing a Jahangiri turban the figure of the royal personage has been conceived with an appearance as the Mughal Emperor Jahangir is seen having during the early days of his youth in many of his contemporary miniatures. With her back supported on a huge bolster overlaid with a cushion the princess, with her breasts swelling with the heat of passion, and her eyes, melting with his touch, is lying on her bed, while with one of his arms holding her from behind, and with the other, clasping her to his bosom from the front, the prince is almost riding over her. A delicately designed silk quilt is laid covering their lower halves but censoring the movement of their legs does not appear to be its job. Besides the turban the prince is putting on a tight full sleeved transparent muslin upper wear, while his mistress is almost semi-nude. She is wearing a blouse, though not so much for concealing her breasts as for more sensuously revealing them, and a small black scarf on her head seems to have been added to her ensemble only to further enhance the lustre of her already shining black hair.

The walls of the bedchamber are lined with silk tapestry in bright magenta and printed with floral motifs in gold. The colour of tapestry has been repeated also in bolster and bed-cover’s frill. The artist has introduced at equal distance of the wall-space some black stripes embellished with floral motifs rendered in gold, and a door-frame design made of such stripes, for breaking its monotony. They are attended upon by two maids, one carrying a flywhisk, and other, a wine-jar and a tray with a goblet in it. Their dressing pattern reveals their identities as maids. However, all four figures have alike sharp features and fair complexions, though while the faces of the maids are slightly whitish, those of the royal couple reveal golden glow.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.

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