5th May 2020
A LEAF FROM THE BRITISH LIBRARY-CHESTER BEATTY LIBRARY AKBARNAMA MANUSCRIPT:
A party of hunters returning to camp
Imperial Mughal, 1603-04
Opaque watercolour on paper with gold, laid down within the illuminated borders of a page from a manuscript of the Farhang-i Jahangiri, on the reverse thirty-five lines of the Persian text of that work in black and red nasta’liq
Miniature: 22.9 by 12.7 cm.; 9 by 5 in.
Folio: 34 by 23 cm.; 13 3/8 by 9 in.
Georges-Joseph Demotte (1877-1923), Paris
Christie’s, Islamic Art and Indian Miniatures, London, 25 April 1995, lot 8a
Pierre Jourdan-Barry Collection, Paris, 1995-2011
Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch Ltd., New York, 2011
J.P. Losty, Indian Miniature Paintings from the Lloyd Collection, London, 2011, no. 18
SOLD TO THE LOUVRE ABU DHABI, 2011
The Akbarnama, a history of the reign of Akbar, was commissioned by the Emperor and written by his prime minister and friend Abu’l-Fazl.
THE THREE IMPERIAL AKBARNAMA MANUSCRIPTS
Three major imperial manuscripts, all incomplete, are known, comprising one in the Victoria and Albert Museum, circa 1590 (Stronge, pp.36-85); a second, circa 1595-1600, perhaps commissioned by the Emperor’s mother Hamida Banu Begum, of which various pages are now scattered in different international collections, (Leach, 2004); and a third, dated to 1603-4, copied by the famous calligrapher, Maulana Muhammmad Husain Kashmiri, known as Zarin Qalam (‘Golden-pen,’ see no. 1 of this catalogue). The majority of the third version’s leaves are split between the British Library (volume 1: the history of the Mughals up to the childhood of Akbar, with 39 miniatures, for which see Titley, no. 11) and the Chester Beatty Library (volumes 2 & 3: recording events from Akbar’s reign itself, with 61 miniatures, for which see Leach 1995, pp. 232-300).
Seven miniatures were earlier removed by Demotte from the British Library volume, but all are now accounted for (Leach 1995, p. 241, note 15), while 51 miniatures are missing from the Chester Beatty volumes (ibid., note 16, with attempted identifications). Two inscriptions on different paintings of this third version date the pages to the forty-seventh regnal year of Akbar (1603-04). This has been read as the forty-second year by John Seyller (1987), but this opinion has been refuted by Robert Skelton followed by Leach (1995, p. 240 and note 20). Whereas the Chester Beatty date is slightly ambiguous and could be read as forty-two, there is no room for ambiguity with the British Library volume which can only be read as forty-seven.
This painting is ostensibly the left hand side of a double page composition. The hunters with their long forked spears look exhausted as they return to camp. The mahouts on top of the elephants are preparing to hobble them again outside the camp as assistants throw up ropes to them. As well as being tied round their legs, the ropes are tied all round the elephants’ body rather like a package. Other men bring home the hunting cheetahs, one being carried in a litter, the other being led on a lead. Two tame blackbucks who acted as decoys are being led back to camp, while some men carry the dead does round their shoulders.
This is an exceptionally vivid page allowing a glimpse into the practicalities of shikar in the world of the imperial Mughals. It is also very noticeable how all the figures interact with one another in a way that is typical of the new younger generation of artists in the early years of the seventeenth century: Balchand, Govardhan, Daulat and so on. With their facial expressions and gestures being so vivid, it is obvious that they are all focussed on something that is happening to the left of the present page, as despite its new positioning as a left hand page in the Farhan-i Jahangiri, it is in fact a right hand page.
The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Akbarnama covers the period from 1560 to 1577, while the Chester Beatty volume of the 1603-04 manuscript runs from 1556 to 1579. The earlier manuscript contains four specific hunt scenes where cheetahs are portrayed, of which only one, in the regnal year five or 1560-1 (Stronge, pl. 39), is also portrayed in the Beatty volume (Leach 1995, p. 257). It would seem that here as in several other instances the Beatty manuscript illustrated episodes that are different to the earlier manuscript. The last part of the third volume has completely disappeared, but all the known missing pages can be accommodated within the time span covered by the Beatty volume.
BORDERS FROM THE FARHANG-I JAHANGIRI
The painting has been laid on to a leaf of the Persian lexicon known as the Farhang-i Jahangiri by Mir Jamal al-Din Husain Inju, a manuscript prepared for Jahangir and dated 1608, with its distinctive borders decorated all in gold with figures, angels, animals, grotesques and so on, strategically placed among naturalistic sprays of leaves and flowers. The only known major group of untouched leaves from this manuscript is in Dublin (see Leach, pp. 321-24). The inscriptions on the illuminated page here relate to the lexicon, not the subject matter of the painting. The inscription in the lower-left hand corner is a catch-word written on the illumination of the lexicon, revealed by some damage in this corner of the miniature. A number of other miniatures from this manuscript were re-mounted in this way by the Paris dealer, Georges-Joseph Demotte, who published eleven miniatures in these borders in his 1930 catalogue (see Blochet).
Stronge, S., Painting for the Mughal Emperor: the Art of the Book 1560-1660, London, 2002
Leach, L.Y., “Pages from an Akbarnama” in Crill, R., Stronge, S. and Topsfield, A., ed., Arts of Mughal India: Studies in Honour of Robert Skelton, London, 2004, pp. 42-55
Titley, N.M., Miniatures from Persian Manuscripts: a Catalogue and Subject Index of Paintings from Persia, India and Turkey in the British Library and British Museum, London, 1977
Leach, L.Y., Mughal and other Indian Paintings in the Chester Beatty Library, London, 1995
Seyller, J., ‘Scribal notes on Mughal Manuscript Illustrations’, in Artibus Asiae, vol. 48, Zürich, 1987, pp. 247-77
Blochet, E., Catalogue of an exhibition of Persian paintings from the XIIth to the XVIIIth century: formerly from the collections of the shahs of Persia and of the great moguls: held at the galleries of Demotte Inc., New York City, New York, 1930
AN IMPORTANT MARBLE FRAGMENT FROM A RELIEF:
Portrait Head of Menander
Roman, 2nd Century A.D.
16.9 cm.; 6 1/3 in.
Henning Throne-Holst (1895-1980)
SOLD TO THE BRITISH MUSEUM, 2000
Menander (342-290 B.C.) was one of the most popular Greek playwrights, particularly in New Comedy. This beautiful head, from a relief, would have been just under life-size and Menander would probably have been seated in profile, a theatre mask before him. Examples of such reliefs can be seen in the Princeton University Art Museum, and the Vatican Museum. The deeply drilled hair and pupils and incised irises date the fragment to the late second century A.D.
This head was in the collection of Henning Throne-Holst (1895-1980), a Swedish industrialist and art collector and was sold by Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch to the British Museum (acc. 2000,0907.01) in 2000.
13th May 2020
AN ILLUSTRATION TO THE GULSHAN-I ‘ISHQ, A ROMANCE WRITTEN IN DECCANI URDU BY NUSRATI,
COURT POET TO SULTAN ‘ALI ADIL SHAH II OF BIJAPUR (r.1656-72)
Angels descend from the heavens to visit a princess
Deccan, circa 1700
Opaque watercolour on paper heightened with gold and silver, a catchword at lower left, inscribed on the recto with two lines and on the verso with eleven lines in Deccani Urdu written in naskhi script
Miniature: 22.3 by 14.4 cm.; 8 ¾ by 5 5/8 in.
Page: 39.5 by 23.5 cm.; 15 ½ by 9 ¼ in.
Anonymous private collection, Europe
Christie's, London, 11 October 1979, lot 187
Lloyd Collection, London, 1979-2011
Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch Ltd., New York, 2011: Losty, J.P., Indian Paintings from the Lloyd Collection, London, 2011, no. 12
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2015
Zebrowski, M., Deccani Painting, London, 1983, p.224, fig. 195
Haidar, N. and Sardar, M., Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700: Opulence and Fantasy, New York, 2015, no. 173
SOLD TO THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK, 2011
A princess lies sleeping on a pearl-fringed silver bed within her chamber, while her lady-in-waiting sleeps on the terrace outside with candles burning and an impressive silver water-ewer. From an evocative blue star-studded moonlit sky, nine angels somersault down to visit her in a cascade of pearls, gold and silk brocade. The pavilion is of white marble inlaid with floral decoration, a richly worked curtain gathered up in swags hangs over the front of the chamber, and on the roof is a marble kiosk decorated with vessels in niches. Princess and maid are enveloped in white saris trimmed with silver, the jagged curves of which echo the swags in the curtain hanging above.
The unique design and palette of this evocative Deccan night-scene painting dramatically contrast the cascade of colour heralding the descent of the angels, with the monochrome world of the cool, silent, moonlight-suffused palace. This is probably the finest page from what is unquestionably the finest Deccani manuscript of the period, outstanding for its calligraphy, its superb technical accomplishment and its poetical fantasy.
The folio is from a romance written in Deccani Urdu, one of seven sold at Christie’s in 1979, and first identified by Dan Ehnbom (1985) as the Gulshan-i ‘Ishq (‘the Rose-garden of Love’) by the Bijapuri court poet Nusrati. It is written in an elegant naskhi, on fine polished paper, in two columns without any dividing rules or margins, the number of lines varying between five and twelve. When an illustration is included on the page, the text it is divided by a gold floral motif between gold rules, the whole surrounded by a gold margin between double gold rules, with a similar outer border.
The unpublished colophon (Christie’s, 1979) notes that the work was written by an unnamed author who ‘lived during the reign of ‘Ali ‘Adil Shahi, under whom I grew prosperous’. This would be ‘Ali ‘Adil Shah II of Bijapur (b. 1637), who ruled 1656-72 A.D., but there is no indication of a royal patron for the manuscript. After that monarch’s death, his four year old heir Sikandar was not in a position to be a patron, as his reign was consumed by a civil war ending with the capture of Bijapur by the Mughals in 1686. Artists migrated from the capital to provincial centres and also to Golconda during this period. Discussing this painting in 1983, Zebrowski (p. 222) observes that “the women’s large languorous eyes and dusky complexions derive from [circa 1660] portraits of Sultan Ali Adil Shah II”. He argues that the miniatures are painted in a transitional style, predominantly Bijapuri but with certain Golconda and emerging Hyderabad features, suggesting circa 1700 as a date for their production.
While the seven folios sold at Christie’s generally display layered compositions that are typical of earlier Bijapuri and Golconda work, their schematic layered landscapes prefigure much eighteenth century work. The two further folios, formerly in the Ehrenfeld Collection (Ehnbom, pp.90-1, nos.37-38), which have emerged since confirm this, along with a third, Raja Bikram and the angels, in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, bringing the total known to ten. One of the two Ehrenfeld folios, The lovesick Prince Manohara falls unconscious into his father’s lap, (Ehnbom no. 38) for instance, similar in subject to one of the Christie’s paintings, has an architectural background that leads on seamlessly to that typical of mid-eighteenth century Hyderabad such as the ragamala in the Richard Johnson collection (Falk & Archer, no. 426). The style of brilliant colouring against white went on to have a lasting influence on later manuscripts from Hyderabad.
Ehnbom, D., Indian Miniatures: the Ehrenfeld Collection, New York, 1985
Zebrowski, M., Deccani Painting, London, 1983
Falk, T. and Archer, M., Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library, London, 1981
The Cockerell Cup, attributed to the Dokimasia Painter
Attic, circa 480 B.C
10 x 30.2 cm.
Spink and Son, January 1966
Sir Christopher Cockerell (1910-99)
SOLD TO THE FITZWILLIAM MUSEUM, CAMBRIDGE, 2004
The Cockerell Cup is attributed to the Dokimasia Painter and dates to around 480 B.C. Decorated on one side with Dionysos, the god of wine, attended by two satyrs. One pours him wine from a large krater, the other plays the double pipes. On the other side an altogether more rowdy scene with a maenad being pursued by two satyrs. This cup was acquired from the London firm of art dealers, Spink & Son, in 1966 by Sir Christopher Cockerell (1910-99), an engineer, best known for his invention of the hovercraft. His descendants asked us to sell it on their behalf and since his father was Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum it was particularly appropriate that its final resting place should be there.
An elegant and beautifully painted cup such as this example would have been used at parties (symposium) attended exclusively by the Athenian male upper classes. Many similar vessels would have been decorated with wine-related scenes such as the two scenes depicted on this cup.
19th May 2020
AN IMPORTANT DECCANI EQUESTRIAN PORTRAIT
An equestrian portrait perhaps depicting Ikhlas Khan
Golconda, circa 1680
Opaque watercolour with gold on paper; cracked, some flaking and losses, pasted down on card
22.5 by 15.8 cm.
Acquired in Gwalior by a noble English family in 1931
Private collection, England, by descent
SOLD TO THE BRITISH LIBRARY, LONDON, 2013
Both subject and horse are distinctively Deccani, the costume of the former relating to other seventeenth royal portraits. The physiognomy of the horse has been captured with great skill –rearing in the haste and excitement of a procession proceeded and followed by flag, fan and banner-waving male attendants - and the splendour of his gold trappings would appear to reinforce a royal identity of the subject. A very closely related horse appears in another equestrian portrait formerly in the Welch collection, Saint Shah Raju on horseback, by Rasul Khan, Golconda, circa 1675, see Zebrowski, M., Deccani Painting, London, 1983, pp.196-7, no.161; also Sotheby’s, The Stuart Cary Welch Collection: Part I: Arts of the Islamic World, London, 6 April 2011, lot 127. The flaring nostrils, braided mane, tasseled trappings and powerful presence of the stallion are all stylistically close.
In spite of the royal trappings – the parasol, rich clothing, banners, attendants - the subject bears some resemblance to Ikhlas Khan of Bijapur, and several scholars now conclude that this is in all probability who the portrait depicts. He is known to us from several paintings, in particular Sultan Muhammad Adil Shah and Ikhlas Khan riding an elephant, in the Hodgkin Collection, see Topsfield, A., Visions of Mughal India, Oxford, 2011, pp.94-5, no.36. He rose to high office under Ibrahim Adil Shah and his depiction with the paraphernalia of a ruler is perhaps a reflection of his real power at court. The faces of the boy attendants show Rajput traits, as influences from north Indian spread into the Deccan via Mughal military expeditions.
Africans were known at the various Deccan courts and several reached high positions as ministers. For two other portraits of Ikhlas Khan, see Zebrowksi, M., Deccani Painting, London, 1983, nos. 96 and 97. Also see Alderman, J.R., “Paintings of Africans in the Deccan” in Robbins, K.X. & McLeod, J., African Elites in India, Ahmedabad, 2006.
AN IMPORTANT CLASSICAL GREEK MARBLE HEAD
Possibly of Artemis
Greek, circa mid-fifth century B.C.
h. 27 cm.
Paul Hartwig (1859-1919), the German archaeologist
Max Klinger (1857-1920), the German symbolist painter and sculptor
Johannes Hartmann (1869-1952), the German sculptor
Ernst Langlotz (1895-1978)
Private collection, Switzerland, 1978-2001
The Stanford Place Collection, UK, 2001-06
SOLD TO AN ENGLISH PRIVATE COLLECTION, 2001
In 2001 we were invited to a house at the foot of the Alps south of Zurich to see what was to become one of the most important works of art we would go on to sell. A classical Greek marble female head, possibly from a statue of the goddess Artemis, it came from the collection of the German scholar and archaeologist Ernst Langlotz (1895-1978). Before him other distinguished owners included Max Klinger (1857-1920) the German symbolist painter and sculptor who had designed the elaborate onyx mount on which it now stood.
Dating to the mid fifth century BC, when the classical style was at it’s artistic zenith, the head has an idealized timeless serenity and beauty made even more striking by its fragmentary condition. Originally forming part of a group, her wavy centrally-parted hair is worn up at the back. The eyes, now hollow, would have been inlaid with coloured stone. First published in 1938 by Karl Anton Neugebauer, it was exhibited at the Kunsthalle in Basel in 1960
26th May 2020
A Gandhara grey schist bust of the Bodhisattva Padmapani
Northern Pakistan, second-third century A.D.
h 52.5 cm.
Private collection, Switzerland
Beurdeley et CIE, Paris, 1976
Private collection, Geneva, 1970s
Private collection, south of France, 1980s-1997
Sotheby’s, London, 8 May 1997, lot 12
Stanford Place Collection, Oxfordshire, 1997-2006
SOLD TO THE DETROIT INSTITUTE OF ART, 2006
This exceptionally beautiful fragmentary bust was sold by us on behalf of a private collector in Oxfordshire. It first appeared on the art market in 1976 with Beurdeley et CIE, Paris, when it was published, after which it entered two European collections before appearing at Sotheby’s in 1997.
The bust would have come from a free-standing figure, seated in rajlalitasana or ‘royal ease’ on a woven cane throne, his raised right leg leaving one of his sandals on a footstool. His right hand would have been raised to his face, and his left would have held a lotus flower, identifying him as Padmapani. In such images, which are thought to have formed a cult, the face of the bodhisattva is always shown at a three-quarters angle, its expression downcast in deep meditation.
The iconography of this type of image emerged during the Kushan period, both in Gandharan art and that of Mathura. See H. Ingholt, Gandharan Art in Pakistan, New York, 1957, no. 324 and M. Lerner, The Flame and the Lotus: Indian and Southeast Asian Art from the Kronos Collections, Washington, 1989, pp.30-35.
Lee, J., ‘The Origins and Development of the Pensive Bodhisattva Images of Asia’ in Artibus Asiae, vol. 53, no. 3-4, 1993, pp. 311-57.
A Complete figure of this type is in the Art Institute of Chicago:
For variations of the type:
Beurdeley, J.M., Images Divines, exhibition catalogue, Beurdeley et CIE, Paris, 1976, no.1
26th May 2020
A Hellenistic marble fragment from a grave monument
Second century B.C.
66.6 by 35.5 by 11.3 cm.
John B. S. Morritt (1772-1843), Rokeby Hall, acquired between 1794-96
Sotheby's, London, 1st July 1969, lot 261
Private collection, UK
SOLD TO THE PRINCETON UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM, 2007
This statue is carved in high relief with a cloaked man and a young attendant who leans against a column holding a small casket.
This fragment was acquired by John B. S. Morritt (1772-1843) of Rokeby Hall, Yorkshire, a leading member of the Dilettanti Society. From 1794-96 he travelled extensively in Greece and Asia Minor where he acquired a number of ancient marble sculpture which he brought back to his famous collection at Rokeby Hall. This relief was initially sold at auction by the Morritt family in 1969 and was then subsequently acquired from us by the Princeton University Art Museum (acc. 2007-65). Two other grave stelae from the same collection are now in the Getty Villa, Malibu (acc. nos. 71.AA. 268 & 71.AA. 281)
Tortoise avatar of Vishnu
Bikaner, circa 1690
Opaque pigments and gold on paper
25.8 by 20.2 cm., 10 1/8 by 8 in.
Inscribed on reverse in nagari with a dated inspection note:
am. 2 sam. 1751 kati
‘number 2 [avatar] samvat 1751 (1694 A.D.) [month] Karrtika’
and with the partially erased stamp of the private collection of the Maharaja of Bikaner
Collection of the Maharajas of Bikaner
Natesan Gallery, London, 1996
Heil Collection, Berlin, 1996-2016
SOLD TO THE ASIAN ART MUSEUM, SAN FRANCISCO, 2016
The painting tells a somewhat unusual version of the second or Kurma (tortoise) avatar of Vishnu. The gods had appealed to Vishnu to help them recover the nectar of immortality that had been lost in the primordial ocean. Vishnu told them to churn the
ocean using Mount Mandara as the churning stick and the immortal snake Vasuki as the churning rope. The gods took one end, the asuras (demons) the other, and they pulled this way and that churning the water, but the mountain threatened to sink to the bottom of the ocean. Vishnu was incarnated as a giant tortoise on which the bottom of the mountain rested so that the churning could continue. The nectar duly appeared along with thirteen other highly desirable objects, which the gods and asuras quarrelled over.
Here the artist has an extravagantly crowned Vishnu emerging from the mouth of the giant six-footed tortoise, as he is often depicted, surrounded by the primordial ocean viewed from on high. He has however abandoned the usual iconography of the gods and asuras pulling on the great snake Vasuki coiled round the mountain, where the tortoise tends to get lost at the bottom of the painting. Instead, in this painting of great imaginative power, Vasuki’s body is coiled on the tortoise’s back and his many heads hold aloft the earth above the primordial waters. The churning had threated to destroy the earth and the artist is expressively showing the earth’s salvation by means of Vishnu’s avatar.
A Marble Head of Marcus Aurelius
Roman, circa 161-80 A.D.
h. 45 cm.
Collection of the Earl of Pembroke, Wilton House
Private collection, London
Christies, London, 2001
Lovatt-Smith, L., London Living, London, 1997
SOLD TO THE MOUGINS MUSEUM OF CLASSICAL ART, 2009
This fine quality, powerful, over-life size image of Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.) depicts the emperor facing forward, with thick curly hair, moustache and flowing beard. His eyes, possibly intentionally damaged in antiquity, are heavily lidded with drilled irises. Bought directly from from the 17th Earl of Pembroke in the 1970s; most of the sculptures at Wilton House were acquired by the 8th Earl (1654-1732) and the collection was not only the largest in England but also the oldest. Many pieces were from the Arundel, Giustiniani and, as maybe the case with this head, the Mazarin collections. The head was acquired at auction in London in 2001 and sold by Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch to the Mougins Museum of Classical Art in 2009
Marcus Aurelius, know as the last of the Five Good Emperors was also a celebrated philosopher and is shown here in late middle age with a contemplative air as befitting his temperament and intellect. His philosophical writings known as Meditations were intended for his own guidance and self-improvement. From 161 A.D. he ruled over a largely stable and peaceful Empire.