This large painting, oil on canvas, portrays a royal lady with rare beauty and lustrous youth – an exact Indian idiom of it, in a semi-reclining posture. Her left arm, supporting her figure, rests on a gorgeous bolster made of deep green velvet with its opening worked with gold thread so compact that it looks more like an exquisitely designed medallion made of gold out of which radiates a larger ring of green with light and deep pleats alternating mutually. The bolster is laid over a large cushion stretching across her bed-chamber’s entire breadth from towards her head to her feet. The cushion has laid over it a pearl-white sheet, as soft and eye-soothing as if made of genuine ground pearls. For better projecting the portrayed figure, the royal lady, the artist has avoided inclusion of subsidiary forms except a few, those that magnified her grandeur or balanced the otherwise monotonous canvas-space, such as the two golden cords breaking with their knotted ends terminating with beautiful tassels the monotony of the wide-spread maroon curtain, or the floral and pot-motifs on the back-wall, and these too in exceptionally subdued tones.
The cushion the lady is reclining on has been painted as laid on the floor. The artist did not conceive it with a bed or any kind of wooden structure, legged or with rising, under it elevating it to a certain height, which he believed would not only create a void – an empty space, monotonous and dull, under it, but would also distract the viewer’s attention by its emptiness or by the unwarranted forms if such forms are painted for filling this emptiness. Besides, with an elevated structure, a bed or whatever, the romantically poised figure of the lady, reclining fully stretched revealing great beauty of form, would not have had under her such elaborate base-line as she has in the painting, and would look like hanging in the space above the ground and below the sky. A unified baseline, further defined by the colourful cord of the hookah running along it, and the hookah towards the feet and a tray with fruits and golden ‘surahi’ – a pot with a long slender neck and body and a spout, towards the head, affords to the portrayed figure not only a perfect base but also a delightful contrast. The artist has made wondrous use of the cushion also in managing his canvas space; he has managed its verticality by using the cushion’s horizontal thrust in its contrast, and its horizontality, by using it as an effective dividing line – balancing the horizontality by horizontality.
On one hand, the bolster, the young damsel is reclining on, is denotative of her status and on the other, through contrast multiplies the lustre of her golden form. Besides, it gives her reclining form the perspective of height creating a rhythm and to her romantically poised figure, to her beautiful face and tempting breasts, fascinating perspective and tempting contours, which the deep maroon background further magnifies. Her curved belly, upwards raised left arm turned to shoulder, and the right, lying straight along her figure down to her knees, and her knees rising like a subdued mountain, all reveal a unique drama. Close to her face she is holding in her left hand the golden nozzle of the hookah, and in the right, stretched along her figure, a beautiful ornamental fan made of red velvet, and edges and handle, of gold. Though in a thoughtful mood as if meditating on someone or something, with a hookah and a tray with a pot of drink along with a pair of goblets and fruits in it, she seems to be enjoying her solitude.
The royal damsel, characteristic to the late nineteenth century feudatory, has been modeled with an oval face, large deep eyes, elegantly moulded arched eyebrows, cute tempting lips, sharp nose, rosy cheeks, receding chin, a finely conceived high neck, besides a broad forehead which a delicate ‘bindi’ in its centre and a diamond-studded pendant above it adorn. A patch of shade extending from the chin to the neck only further projects their forms. The artist has most effectively charged her entire figure with great sensualism, though her breasts and belly in particular. The portrait, rendered in the late nineteenth century style of Bazaar art, particularly in the idiom of Raja Ravi Varma, is superb in anatomical balance, proportions, and figural grace. She has her person adorned elegantly in few ornaments, an elegant gems’ studded necklace and a gold chain with a small delicate pendant, the auspicious one defining marital status, on her neck, a ring on her left hand finger, a pair of ear-ornaments, a large number of gold-bangles, and a delicately cast lace around her belly, alternating the usual girdle. She is as much gracefully clad in expensive wears : a lehenga – a wide skirting lower wear, made of expensive silk and worked with gold threads, a blouse intricately woven with gold tread, and a delicate odhani – an upper wear, woven with fine flower-butis.
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.
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