Indian Miniature Paintings: Women at Work and Leisure Notecard Folio
Ten 5 x 7 in. blank notecards with envelopes in a decorative folio.
Published with Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Ireland.
This notecard folio presents two Indian paintings from the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland. Small works such as these, painted on loose sheets of paper, were gathered together in albums, although over the years most of these albums have been taken apart, with their pages now dispersed among collections around the world. These two paintings were probably not part of the same album but nevertheless they make a pleasing pair, illustrating Indian women both at work and at leisure.
In one, painted in about 1810, a woman dishes out food from a large gold pot. Perhaps she is a servant, or she may instead have lovingly prepared the food for her own family. Carefully placed around her, in the foreground, are various other vessels and utensils that she uses each day as she cooks, including two sets of tongs, three stemmed cups, two jugs, a ewer, and several small banana-leaf bowls. The brilliant palette of mainly yellow, orange, and red is suggestive of the hot, fiery food she has cooked.
The other, a mid–18th-century painting, depicts an obviously wealthier woman, one who presumably has her meals cooked for her and therefore has time to relax outdoors in a delightful, flower-filled setting. Balanced precariously against the slender trunk of a tree, she reads from a long, narrow book, a type of book usually used for collections of poetry and so we can guess that it is verses of mystical love that she is reading. The palette here is dark and sombre, despite the rich gold of the woman’s clothing, and so contrasts markedly with that of the other painting. Likewise does the mood of the two paintings differ, one hinting of heat and hurried activity, the other of cool, quiet pensiveness.
Contains five each of the following notecards:
A Woman Serving a Meal, c. 1810, Kangra, India
A Young Woman Reading a Book, mid-eighteenth century, India