A Spotted Forktail

Historical period(s)
Mughal dynasty, Reign of Jahangir, 19th century
Movement
Mughal Court
School
Mughal School
Medium
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions
H x W: 11.4 x 20.5 cm (4 1/2 x 8 1/16 in)
Geography
India
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1939.46b
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Album leaf with painting

Keywords
bird, India, Mughal dynasty (1526 - 1858), Reign of Jahangir (1605 - 1627), spotted forktail, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Label

This nineteenth-century bird study, inscribed to artists of the seventeenth century, is intriguing in that it challenges the Western notion of a copy as not merely an inferior work but actually a forgery. Indian artists did not consider it inappropriate or deceitful to closely copy a fine painting, including even the original artist's signature. Rather, they looked upon it as a tribute to the earlier artist.

The Spotted Forktail is a Himalayan bird that lives near streams that run through densly forested ravines. Its black-and-white plumage provides camouflage among the rocks and water as it searches for insects. To produce this copy of a work by the noted seventeenth-century artist Abul Hasan, the artist has inverted a tracing of the original, thereby reversing the image. He has misattributed it to the other famed natural history painter, Mansur. An inner border of rhyming couplets and a second border of palmettes and flower heads separate the painting from its wide outer floral border.

Published References
  • Sport in Art: Some Wonderful Birds. vol. 1, no. 9, October 11, 1954. p. 62.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court. Exh. cat. Washington, 1981. p. 189, fig. 33.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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