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A Princess and Demons before a Nobleman: A Leaf from a Poetical Romance Relating to Shah Alam I (recto); Stenciled Scenes of Lion and Gazelle (verso)

A Princess and Demons before a Nobleman: A Leaf from a Poetical Romance Relating to Shah Alam I (recto); Stenciled Scenes of Lion and Gazelle (verso)

c. 1710

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Opaque watercolor with gold on paper (recto); ink and gold on pink-speckled paper (verso)

Page: 43 x 28.9 cm (16 15/16 x 11 3/8 in.)

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 2013.337

Description

The source story of this painting remains enigmatic to scholars, but it includes a range of depictions of the “other”––from the foreign to the demonic. A prince kneeling in front of his horse addresses a lady; the moon in front of her face may identify her as Mahliqa (“moonlike” in Arabic), the Chinese princess identified by inscription on the adjacent page. A group of men whose eyes hang vertically stand behind her. Horned figures with grass skirts lie slain behind them, presumably killed by the kneeling prince conspicuously holding a bow. The city in the background, at the top of the painting, is populated solely by women, and its eight surrounding walls are interspersed with slain composite creatures wearing leaf skirts, which may identify them as bands of forest-dwellers, or tribal groups.

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