A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM: LINEATED BARBET (PSILOPOGON ZEYLANICUS)  BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1778

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Lot 3234
A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM: LINEATED BARBET (PSILOPOGON ZEYLANICUS)
BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1778

Sold for US$ 187,500 inc. premium
A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM: LINEATED BARBET (PSILOPOGON ZEYLANICUS)
BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1778
Pencil, pen, ink, and watercolor with gum arabic heightened with touches of white on English paper watermarked, "J Whatman"; Inscribed in the bottom left corner: Honest Face / In the Collection of Lady Impey in Calcutta / Painted by (Zayn al-Din) Native of Patna 1778; further inscribed in Persian and Urdu with the name of the bird; numbered 58 in pencil in the upper left corner; verso with Sir Elijah Impey's seal.
Folio: 20 7/8 x 27 1/8 in. (53 x 69 cm)

Footnotes

  • This study by Sheikh Zayn Al-Din shows a Lineated Barbet perched lightly on a juniper tree. Brightly colored, the painting is rendered in mixed media and combines the strong sensibilities of European naturalism with the vividness of the Mughal tradition. Working with real-life specimen, the artist articulates incredible details that identify the species as a barbet, such as the characteristically heavy bill surrounded by stiff bristles. The bird's head, breast, and nape have brown and cream-colored streaks that extend to the belly, and the eye is outlined with a yellow ring, surrounded by naked yellow skin. Its body is predominantly green allowing it to camouflage among the juniper's leaves. With particular flair, Al-Din has enhanced the painting's perspective and dimensional depth by articulating folds within the leaves, and conveying their thickness in the curves.

    The bilingual inscription on the bottom left names the species of the bird and the tree: drakht deodar (pine tree or cedar), and Sat ro (the barbet). The John T. Platt's dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi and English does not record any bird with such a name. Sat in Sanskrit means honest, and ro in Persian means face, hence the translated "honest face" is written right next to the inscription.

    Sir Elijah and Lady Impey employed three local artists from Patna to produce an album of 326 studies of the flora and fauna in their private zoo near Calcutta. Sheikh Zayn Al-Din was the most senior and accomplished of the three. The Impeys arrived at a critical moment for Indian miniature artists, alleviating a void in patronage created by the declining courts of the Mughals and Northeast Indian rulers. The artists proved astoundingly versatile, not only able to apply their trade to a new genre of natural history watercolor, but also setting a new standard for it back home in England. Whereas in Europe, natural history paintings had typically been observed from taxidermy, Sheikh Zayn Al-Din and his peers brought the perceptiveness instilled in their craft by the Mughal portrait tradition to the Impey album, seeming to capturing the spirit of each of their subjects' observed behavior.

    After returning to Europe, the Impey album and collection were sold at Phillips, London, 21 May 1810. Examples from the album are now held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Radcliffe Science Library in Oxford, the Binney Collection in San Diego, and the Wellcome Institute, London. A group from the collection of the 18th Earl of Derby were sold by Christie's, London, 17 June 1998, lots 170-3. A fruit bat from the album was sold by Bonhams, London, 8 April 2014, lot 292.

    Published
    Michael Goedhuis Ltd et al., Birds in an Indian Garden: Nineteen Illustrations from the Impey Collection, London, 1984 (unnumbered, no. 10 in the sequence).
    Simon Ray Ltd, Indian & Islamic Works of Art, London, 2009, no. 35.

    Provenance
    Sir Elijah and Lady Impey
    Phillips, London, 21 May 1810
    Christie's, London, 5 June 2007, lot 228
    Sotheby's, New York, 19 June 2009, lot 129
    Simon Ray Ltd, London, October 2009
Contacts
A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM: LINEATED BARBET (PSILOPOGON ZEYLANICUS)  BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1778
A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM: LINEATED BARBET (PSILOPOGON ZEYLANICUS)  BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1778
A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM: LINEATED BARBET (PSILOPOGON ZEYLANICUS)  BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1778
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