A portrait of a learned pundit Lucknow, circa 1780
Lot 108
A portrait of a learned pundit
Lucknow, circa 1780
Sold for US$ 27,500 inc. premium

Lot Details
A portrait of a learned pundit Lucknow, circa 1780 A portrait of a learned pundit Lucknow, circa 1780 A portrait of a learned pundit Lucknow, circa 1780
A portrait of a learned pundit
Lucknow, circa 1780
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper; the brahmin dressed in white sits smoking a huqqa on a terrace outside a building, which is clearly his library for it contains several Hindu books wrapped in cloth binders, beside him is a bound volume as well as his pen box; inscribed above in Persian: Baba Lok Natha.
Image: 7 3/4 x 4 7/8 in. (19.6 x 12.3 cm); Folio: 16 x 11 1/4 in. (40.5 x 28.5 cm)

Footnotes

  • The artist has been influenced by the work of Mihr Chand, in turning the subject's profiled face only slightly towards the viewer, as the senior artist had done ever since he learned to draw foreshortened faces by copying the portraits of Nawab Shuja al-Daula by Tilly Kettle (see Archer, Indian and British Portraiture, London, 1979, pp. 76-83, figs. 28-36). A bust portrait of Shuja' al-Daula from the Polier album, formerly in the Phillipps Collection, (see Sotheby's, 27 November 1974, lot 757) now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, shows Mihr Chand's mastery of such foreshortening and is closest to this portrait.

    It is unlikely that the inscription identifying the subject of this portrait as 'Baba Lokenath' is correct. He was a sage and yogi still famous throughout his homeland of Bengal. He is supposed to have lived 160 years, between 1730-1890, most of it as a naked sadhu in the jungles and the Himalayas, and, after his enlightenment at the age of 90, visited the holy places of Islam. He was certainly not a learned pundit as implied by the painting. It is possible that the border paintings showing ascetics practicing austerities in wild places may have influenced the misidentification. These ascetics are found on several other pages from this group and do not necessarily bear any relationship with the subject of the painting that they surround.

    The decoration of the album page suggests that it comes from a group of paintings with similar border decorations mostly now in the Pierpoint Morgan Library in New York, where they form part of the second Read Album (MS 458), see Schmitz, Islamic and Indian Manuscripts and Paintings, New York, 1998, pp. 111-73, and especially figs 202, 204, 209-10, 220-2, 231. Schmitz lists other known pages from this album in public collections and sale catalogues, but they do not seem to include this page. Four of the pages are in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, see Leach, Mughal and Other Indian Paintings, London, 2002, pp. 666-8. Schmitz suggests that the unusual border decorations are influenced by similar, but much more elaborate border decorations executed by Mihr Chand for Col. Antoine Polier, such as her fig. 203 from the Polier/Hamilton Albums in the Islamisches Museum, Berlin (I.4594, f.16).

    Provenance
    Private Collection, Switzerland
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