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Ladies on a Terrace

Asian Art

Court women were a favorite subject in Indian painting, although few images of upper-class women are actual portrait likenesses. The zenana (women's area of the palace) was the stuff of fantasy for the male artists and patrons of painting: those not privileged to enter the zenana speculated about the delights to be found inside, while the husbands—who were frequently away on military campaigns—waxed nostalgic about the happy hours they had spent there. Images of the zenana usually show the denizens whiling away their time in graceful languor, awaiting their husband's return. In this image, the entertainments overlook a Middle Eastern-style garden split into four quadrants by a fountain and water channels.

CULTURES Mughal Style; Indian
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor on paper
  • Place Made: India
  • DATES ca. 1700-1710
    DYNASTY Mughal
    DIMENSIONS Sheet: 13 3/4 x 10 1/4 in. (34.9 x 26 cm) Image: 8 3/16 x 6 7/16 in. (20.8 x 16.4 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Asian Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 36.231
    CREDIT LINE Obtained by exchange with Nasli M. Heeramaneck
    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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    CAPTION Mughal Style. Ladies on a Terrace, ca. 1700-1710. Opaque watercolor on paper, Sheet: 13 3/4 x 10 1/4 in. (34.9 x 26 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Obtained by exchange with Nasli M. Heeramaneck, 36.231
    IMAGE overall, 36.231_IMLS_PS3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION A bejeweled Hindu lady and three of her attendants are portrayed on a terrace before a formal garden. At the left of center the lady sits cross-legged on a white carpet with a pillow on her lap. Clad in a gold hat, gold flowered pajama and strings of pearls and jewels, and the ubiquitous red caste-mark on her forehead, she leans against two more pillows and holds a glass wine cup out to her attendant. At the right the attendant offers a gold wine cup to the lady with her right hand while holding a wine bottle in her left hand. At the lower right a female musician plays a stringed instrument, and at the left an attendant waves a peacock-feather fly whisk. The ornate floral arabesque on the balustrade echoes that found in the red, orange, blue and white carpet on which the women sit and stand. The garden consists of rhomboid flower beds intersected by paths and watercourses with an octagonal pool and fountain in the center. Cypresses, flowering trees and leafy deciduous trees alternate along the horizon. At the upper left a tank and a building are visible. Although single-figure and ragamala paintings of women are found in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Mughal painting, the depiction of two or more ladies on a terrace did not become popular until the eighteenth century. Because aristocratic wives were confined to the harem, their portraits are necessarily idealized. Apparently, the depiction of the calm and timeless lives of women in the Mughal court appealed to some artists of this period more than the chronicling of an empire where rigid convention had displaced the vigorous feats and aesthetic excellence of the previous century. From Accession Card Medium-sized rectangular miniature painting, of the Mughal School, but with a strong mixture of Rajput elements, on paper in rather bright colors and gold. The scene shows a princess seated on a terrace, with three female attendants. The princess wears a gold and red turban with a black plume, greenish gold trousers (pajama) patterned with widely separated stylized flower sprays. She is nude above the waist, but wears many large pearl and ruby necklaces, armlets, bracelets and anklets. A small cushion is in her lap and two more, one very large, are behind her back. One attendant stands behind holding a fly whisk (morcal). The other two are seated in front. One plays a vina and the other offers a golden cup, into which she has evidently just poured some liquid from a bottle held in the left hand. All three wear gaily colored trousers, transparent bodices (coli) and saris, and gold sashes suspended from the front of the waist. They also have much jewelry. The princess is seated on a small mat with a flowered border. This is perhaps a cotton print, but it is impossible to tell as the mat is merely drawn in but not colored. The mat in turn rests on a large rug which covers the whole visible area of the terrace. The field is purplish red and is filled with a diaper pattern of green vines marked where the vines touch with flower heads and leaves in red, green, white, yellow, blue and other colors. In addition each diaper contains a flower on a curving green stem. The border has an undulating vine with pink flowers attached, on a pale green ground. The railing of the terrace is low, and has a stylized floral pattern in red, white, and green. Beyond, with a complete disregard for European perspective, rises a large garden, divided into four quarters by a stream, and with a fountain in the center. Each section is further subdivided by narrow brown paths and is filled with a tight regular mass of flowers, chiefly in red, but with a few spots of white and purple. Six dark green cypress trees rise at regular intervals. The whole effect is remarkably like a Persian garden rug. Against the sky, which is a light blue-green, are silhouetted cypresses alternating with large dark green trees and smaller delicate trees covered with pink flowers. In the upper left corner are a tank and a section of the walls of a city or a fort. The facial type, composition and feeling show strong Rajput influence. Condition: The paint is chipped in many places, especially in the left foreground. The figure in the lower right corner is damaged. The upper right corner is torn.
    RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (86%)
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