The painting even captures her better half, who protectively swings the entrancing lady. The handsome man is encapsulated as a possessor of a fawn colored countenance adorned with a thin imperial moustache. The Royal geezer is appareled in a light lava silver jama that drops down his ankles, swaddled in a tawny brown and golden stripped choga, revealing the silver cloth below his arms. A cinnamon brown, tuscany thread-embroidered turban sets down over his frizzy, unkempt hair, as a lavender shaded and orange tinted dupatta entangles in his manly wrists. He is emblazoned with ravishing white pearl ear tops and an elegantly layered opera that droops down his neck.
Although, this scene of giving one's lover a splendid ride should show cheerfulness, the illustrator has portrayed both the characters to look away, instead of smiling, a grim expression drenches their face, complimented with the pale and dusty fern green trees, depicting their despising lives, making it a painting with an intriguing secret, worth working out.
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Contained within a broad border embellished with floral arabesques rendered in gold on a deeper golden background, the painting, a miniature in late Mughal art style of the later half of the eighteenth or early nineteenth century when its centres had shifted from the Mughal court to the Mughals’ provincial headquarters like Lucknow that had proclaimed sovereignty and were emerging as new cultural centres upholding Mughals’ refinement, sophistication, taste, excellence and grandeur that the Mughal court itself had lost, presents to the eye a pleasant view, a royal couple, a sharp featured damsel and a prince with rounded face, riding a swing. The couple is in their most private and intimate moments which even their most trusted aides are not allowed to trespass. Away from the court and harem, and the town’s rustle and bustle, they are away on an uninhabited terrain but not on an outing. There is around them neither the drinks’ jar nor the snacks’ tray, nor a carpet to seat on or an attendant to serve. They are out to enjoy the swing, and only swing, and all by themselves, alone and unattended.
Though the terrain with a low-height hill-range, strewn all over with trees – tall and small, isolated and in groves, shrubs, flower-plants and grass-weeds, and the trail of red around the hill-range that the setting sun had left behind, attribute to the painting great beauty, the painting’s focal point is only the swing-riding couple. The artist has evaded including other forms, except whatever nature afforded, lest the viewing eye is diverted by them. The royal couple is bare-footed, and their foot-wears are nowhere seen. Obviously, they can not be expected to travel such distance with nothing on their feet. Even the swing, the painting’s main feature, does not have an ornate or eye-arresting form. The artist has conceived it as a simple device, a single rope hung on a huge tree, perhaps banyan, holding by its ends a piece of board. Even technically a single rope could not be adequate to keep the board in balance. Two ropes with four ends holding the piece of board by four corners could be more rational, but could distract the eye from the focal point. Instead of, he has so placed his figures, the prince on the swing’s one part, and the damsel, on the other, that they balance it by their weights.
What disturbs the equation is the demeanour of faces of the royal couple. Instead of a feeling of enjoyment their faces reveal a feeling of being pre-occupied and somewhat tense. The prince might have spared his time for his consort’s delight but his face does not reveal such caring mind. A corresponding satisfaction does not reflect even on the face of the princess. The prince’s sash unfurls on sides as if blown by swift winds, and that of the princess, parallel to prince’s jama, but the swing is almost stationary, not moving, such as would be required to blow the winds and let these textiles float in the air. Obviously, a formal portrayal, it lacks Mughals’ vigour and is closer to provincial styles.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.