Emperor Farrukhsiyar Enthroned, India, Mughal, circa 1715, and Lucknow, third quarter 18th century. Estimate 60,000 — 80,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby's.
gouache with gold on paper, innner borders of blue paper with gold foliate scrolls; narrow outer border (trimmed) of gold-flecked cream paper; painting: 35 by 23.2cm. leaf: 38 by 28.1cm.
Notes: This elegant portrait of Emperor Farrukhsiyar (r.1713-19) is notable for the fine quality of the painting throughout, especially the carpet, clothing, jewellery and chair in the foreground and the riverscape and distant landscape in the background.
The lower part of the painting, comprising the terrace scene and the near bank of the river, is datable to the reign of Farrukhsiyar and is typical of the fine quality and restrained compositional style of work produced in first quarter of the eighteenth century at Delhi by artists such as Chitarman II, also known as Kalyan Das (see T. McInerney, 'Chitarman II' in Beach, Fischer, Goswamy and Britschgi, Masters of Indian Painting, vol.II, pp.547-562, figs.2, 3, 5, 6, 11).
The background, comprising the river, the boats and the distant landscape on the further shore, has been added in the third quarter of the eighteenth century and is typical of Awadh work of the period (see, for example, a portrait of a Mufti by Bahadur Singh in the British Library, Johnson Album 1, no.20, Falk and Archer 1981, no.251, p.438; J. Losty, 'Towards a New Naturalism, Portraiture in Murshidabad and Avadh, 1750-80', in B. Schmitz, After the Great Mughals, Painting in Delhi and the Regional Courts in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Mumbai, Marg, Vol.53, no.4, June 2002, p.48, fig.12; S. Markel, with T. Gude, India's Fabled City, The Art of Courtly Lucknow, Los Angeles and Munich, 2011, cat.135, p.63). There is a physical paper join that runs horizontally along the lower bank of the river that is visible in raking light.
In many ways the combination of styles sums up the development of painting in Lucknow in the mid century, when "artists were keen to break away from the Mughal mind-set and improve pre-existing compositional formats in order to include realistic landscape settings. Specifically, the widespread use of aerial perspective to create distant landscape vistas in the backgrounds..." (M. Roy, 'The Origins of the Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh', in S. Markel, with T. Gude, op.cit., p.165). What is not known in the present case is whether the alteration of the background in a Awadh style of c.1760-70 was carried out in order to update the painting to the fashion of the period or to repair damaged areas in the background. Either way, the result is a sophisticated and elegant royal portrait.