A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM: A COPPERSMITH BARBET (MEGALAIMA HAEMACEPHALA) ON A FLOWERING STAR FRUIT TREE BRANCH (AVERRHOA CARAMBOLA) BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1782
Lot 3236
A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM:
A COPPERSMITH BARBET (MEGALAIMA HAEMACEPHALA) ON A FLOWERING STAR FRUIT TREE BRANCH (AVERRHOA CARAMBOLA)
BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1782
US$ 180,000 - 220,000
HK$ 1,400,000 - 1,700,000

Lot Details
A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM: A COPPERSMITH BARBET (MEGALAIMA HAEMACEPHALA) ON A FLOWERING STAR FRUIT TREE BRANCH (AVERRHOA CARAMBOLA) BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1782 A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM: A COPPERSMITH BARBET (MEGALAIMA HAEMACEPHALA) ON A FLOWERING STAR FRUIT TREE BRANCH (AVERRHOA CARAMBOLA) BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1782 A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM: A COPPERSMITH BARBET (MEGALAIMA HAEMACEPHALA) ON A FLOWERING STAR FRUIT TREE BRANCH (AVERRHOA CARAMBOLA) BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1782
A PAINTING FROM THE IMPEY ALBUM:
A COPPERSMITH BARBET (MEGALAIMA HAEMACEPHALA) ON A FLOWERING STAR FRUIT TREE BRANCH (AVERRHOA CARAMBOLA)
BY SHEIK ZAYN AL-DIN, PATNA, DATED 1782
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: In the Collection of Lady Impey Calcutta / Painted by (Zayn al-Din) Native of Patna 1782; numbered 140 in pencil in the upper left corner; further inscribed in pencil in the lower left of the outer margin: Averrhoa Carambola L; also inscribed in pencil in the bottom center of the outer margin Yellow Throated Barbet; verso stamped with Sir Elijah Impey's seal.

Folio: 24 3/4 x 36 7/8 in. (62.9 x 93.7 cm)

Footnotes

  • Like most Europeans in India during the 18th century, Sir Elijah, the Chief Justice of Bengal from 1774 to 1782, and his wife Lady Impey, were fascinated and intrigued by the artistic traditions. Lady Impey employed three painters from Patna, three hundred miles up the river from Calcutta, who produced a set of 326 studies of the flora and fauna from the Impeys' private zoo, which included birds, fish, reptiles, mammals, and flowers. This painting of the Coppersmith Barbet is one of the studies from the Impey album, painted by the senior-most painter Sheikh Zayn al-Din.

    The study is an amalgamation of the foreign company style and the local Mughal tradition. The painters employed by Impey were well-versed in the Mughal style, and their subsequent training in the company style birthed this remarkable tradition that integrated the scientific accuracy of European natural history paintings with the gem-like characteristics of Indian miniatures. This fusion produced some of the best works from the Company school, and this study exemplifies the preeminent work of Sheikh Zayn al-Din whose mastery is embedded in his varied brushwork, his sense of design, and the ability to encapsulate the essence of his subject on paper.

    The attention to detail in rendering of the coppersmith barbet, with its plump body, short neck, large head, and short tail, and the bushy and heavily branched carambola tree evinces the scientific fidelity of the painter. Combining the study of animals from real life at the zoo with the perceptive knowledge of Mughal portraiture produced the naturalistic and vivid paintings in the Impey album. This body of work would consequently alter the course of European natural history painting, which continued to perpetuate the convention of using stuffed animal specimens for illustrations. The Impeys brought their collection back to London in 1783, where it proved to be of considerable scientific and artistic interest.

    Examples of these paintings are present in the Wellcome Institute of London, the Radcliffe Science Library at Oxford, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the Binney Collection at the San Diego Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and numerous private collections. 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
    Simon Ray Ltd, Indian & Islamic Works of Art, London, 2007, no.61.

    Provenance
    Sir Elijah and Lady Impey (1732-1809)
    Phillips, London, 21 May 1810
    Private UK Collection
    Simon Ray Ltd, London, 16 October 2006
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