Ustad Allah Bux (Pakistan, 1895-1978) Sohni and Mahinwal
pencil and watercolour on paper, framed 46.5 x 34 cm.
Provenance: Private UK collection: acquired directly from the artist by the present owner's grandfather, and thence by descent.
In the Punjabi folk tale, the village girl Sohni ('the beautiful') swam every night across a river, kept afloat by an empty earthenware pot, to meet her lover, Mahinwal ('herder of buffaloes', who was originally a Muslim merchant from Bokhara called Izzat Beg). The meetings were discovered by Sohni's family and her brothers substituted a pot of unbaked clay. On her next crossing, on a particularly stormy night, the pot melted away in the water and Sohni drowned.
For other treatments of the story, of which Allah Bux frequently made use, see for instance M. Sirhandi, Contemporary Painting in Pakistan, Lahore 1992, pp. 28-29 illus. and Sotheby's, Indian Miniatures, The Travel Sale - India and the Far East, Modern and Contemporary South Asian Paintings, London, 17th June 1999, lot 207. For the story, see W. G. Archer, Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills, London 1973, vol. I, p. 151.