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Court lady pouring wine
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Item Details
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India, Lucknow, Mughal, 18th century
Court lady pouring wine
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Work Type
c. 1760; borders c. 1830s
opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper
Page: 30.6 x 25 cm (12 1/16 x 9 13/16 in.)
The artist has depicted a glass or crystal duck-headed decanter adorned with a gilded grapevine motif, signaling the contents. The red wine flows from the duck’s mouth into a tiny cup. Such bird-shaped wine vessels are vestiges of the blood sacrifices once part of ancient Persian court rituals. On the verso, floral sprigs illuminate the central calligraphic work, and paired verses have been written in smaller script all around the border. On this page, all the verses are about the beauty of—and longing for—the beloved.
The bird-headed decanter evokes blood rites of kingship in pre-Islamic Iran.
verso: Persian verses in nasta‘liq script:
Whoever set eyes on the Opening Verses of your face recited “Say He is the Only God” and breathed it out in pure sincerity.
“God has made her grow in purity and beauty,” So recited and passed by Khizr, the moment he saw the green [pubescent] sprouting around your lips.;
Persian verses in top horizontal border, right to left, in nasta‘liq script:
My heart became shackled to her tresses;
You have lost your head in fulfilling this desire.
Go and become entangled in her tresses.
If you see her mouth, do not say a word.;
Persian verses in bottom horizontal border, right to left, in nasta‘liq script:
If she asks you what you desire, say “your heart.”
Since once she knows it, one could never banish her from one’s heart.
For one cannot assure one’s heart based on her words of promise;
It is not fitting that one should lose one’s heart for naught.;
Persian verses in right vertical border, top to bottom, in nasta‘liq script:
From the anguished mood and state of this sorrowful heart,
Narrate down the story as you brush down her tresses [conjectural]
Of me, in an unfit state, shackled and in chains
How I fare in that stifling prison.
If you go and seek her out in that abode
Once you find her, you should say of me, the heartbroken;
Persian verses in left vertical border, bottom to top, in nasta‘liq script:
I have a heart ensnared by her tresses
Exiled in foreign lands [. . .] of her tresses
The tale of this broken-hearted soul, like disheveled hair
Bring to her ears in a well-composed manner, like well-arranged hair
Enchain her tresses in your speech
Brush her locks behind her for a while.
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Collection: Indian Art - Mughal
Department: Indian and South East Asian Art
Provenance: Collection of Sir Charles Forbes Bt (1773-1849), Bengal, London and Scotland
By descent to his great grandson Colonel Sir John Forbes, Bt, DSO, DL
December 10, 1962 -Sotheby's, London, Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures, (lot 25)
Gift in honor of Madeline Neves Clapp; Gift of Mrs. Henry White Cannon by exchange; Bequest of Louise T. Cooper; Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund; From the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection
Accession Number
Image and original data from The Cleveland Museum of Art
Use of this image is in accordance with the Artstor Terms & Conditions
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