Prince Muhammad Sa’id Hunting

South India, Deccan
circa 1720
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Folio: 12 1/8 by 8 ¼ in. (30.8 by 21 cm)
Image: 8 ¼ by 6 ½ in. (21.1 by 16.4 cm)
Recto inscribed with identifying inscriptions in nasta’liq and seal

Private Collection, England, 1968-2013

Majestically seated on the back of a white steed, Prince Muhammad Sa’id is out hawking in the jungle. He is bedecked in a splendid jama, the fabric of which is decorated with a gold foliate pattern, and a matching turban. In his left hand, the prince holds the horse’s reigns, while his gloved right is held up to support a falcon. Frolicking beside him, a playful and loyal saluki dutifully follows the two attendants depicted in the lower left corner of the image. These men, dressed in striking white robes that stand out against the green of the lush landscape, carry various objects needed by the prince on his leisurely journey: a hookah, a sack, and a cloth, all meant for recreation along the way.

Although a horizon line is often used to give a sense of perspective, the artist here has purposefully cropped it out of his composition. In so doing, he conveys the enclosed sense of the jungle. This technique is evident in other Indian hunting imagery as well, revealing to the viewer just how lush the landscape is in which the hunt takes place. Animals including birds, cheetahs, gazelles, and hares abound, running throughout the hills and rocks that are depicted in the upper section of the whimsical scene. However, the artist has not completely romanticized nature; in the upper right hand corner, a vignette depicting a tiger attacking his prey, his paw wrapped around the gazelle’s neck, is an interesting addition to an otherwise idyllic image.

A special feature of this painting is that both the seal and inscription specifically identify the prince, who unfortunately remains an unknown historical figure.