A miniature, it has been rendered pursuing the idiom of Mughal art of its decadent phase practised with greater commitment at its provincial centres like Oudh under its Nawabs around 1830-40 continuing with the same level of sophistication, technical perfection, neat iconography, mild colour tones and sense of perspective, though not with the same vigour, spirit or magnificence as the Mughal art had under any of the Great Mughals, Akbar, Jahangir or Shahjahan. With an arched opening and face elevated with alcoves, recesses and projections, and an eave, and with three-dimensional perspective, the architecture – the potter’s marble-panelled house or the other on its left, that constitutes painting’s background, is essentially medieval in its character and kind. Ladies’ costumes, a lehanga-type lower wear, a blouse-type breast-wear, and an odhani worn on head, made of average dyed and printed textile, defining the wearers’ social status, are also characteristically medieval.
The potter woman’s elevation from the street to the artist’s canvas, her humble occupation, ordinary earthen wares, toys and other clay articles transforming into canvas image revealing unique lyricism, and not the lady of the harem, an empress, queen, or princess, lines and colours aspiring to picturise the market-visits of harem-inmates, her maids, were certainly the trends that marked commencement of the process with which the rejection of medieval norms and practices began. The painting is unique in its mid-nineteenth century renaissance spirit which shifted the focus from the gentry to common man, class to non-class, feudatory to peasantry, and courts to courtyards.
Ordinarily, a woman, essentially a potter, clad in a lehanga dyed in green, a light orange blouse, and a pinkish green delicate odhani, is seated outside her house with a wide range of beautifully cast, designed and painted earthen wares – pots of various sizes with and without necks and covers, elephant toys, lamps and lamp-stands, mini models of houses etc., laid around her and around the tree opposite her. Some lamp-stands have been adorned in alcoves and others, hung over the entrance of the house and the wall of the building on the left. The abundance of lamps and their multiple styles, as also elephant toys and tiny models of houses, suggest that the festival of Dipawali is around, for not merely that people celebrated the festival by lighting multiple lamps and the articles consecrated for worship rites included also elephant toys and models of houses, symbolic of a shrine, but also changed utensils of their routine use, discarding old ones, and replacing them with the new.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery,