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ID number:  BIRBI-47.6
Institution:  The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Artist / Maker:  Anonymous
Title / Object name:  Portrait of a lady
Object type:  Portrait miniature
Culture:  Indian, Moghul School
Date made:  18th century
Materials:  Coloured ink on paper and fabric
Measurements:  21.6 x 13.8 cm including border
Provenance:  From an album arranged for the Nizam-ul-Mulk, or Regulator of the State of Hyderabad, Asaf Jah, who ruled 1713-48, and whose seal is on the reverse; purchased at Sotheby's, 24 June 1947, lot 401, with two others for £68.10.0

This exquisite portrait shows an unknown lady in traditional Indian dress, walking barefoot through a luscious landscape. It is thought to illustrate a piece
of Indian classical music.

Mughal painting is a particular style of South Asian painting, generally confined to miniatures either as book illustrations or as single works to be kept in albums, which emerged from Persian miniature painting, with Indian Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist influences, and developed largely in the court of the Mughal Empire (16th - 19th centuries).
Mughal painting immediately took a much greater interest in realistic portraiture than was typical of Persian miniatures. Animals and plants were also more realistically shown.

Notes:  This is an ideal portrait of a lady according to eighteenth-century Indian standards of beauty, virtue and perfection. In paintings of that period Women are always young and beautiful, quite unlike male portraits which were portrayed realistically, and were often the product of an artist’s imagination because social restrictions of the Indian harem did not allow male artists to paint women from life. This woman is shown in profile which, according to cultural tradition of that time, was the best angle to portray the perfect face. The fabric of her skirt and jewels would signify high-status. In Moghul culture, the Muslim dynasty that ruled India until 1857, jewellery was synonymous with beauty – a woman without such adornments was not considered beautiful. The henna dye on her hands and feet is associated with special celebrations such as betrothals, weddings and births.

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