Rare Original Paintings of the Holy Mosques in Mecca & Medina by painter Fateh Mohammed Mussawir, Company School, Bikaner Rajasthan, India. Circa 1880
Gouache on wasli measuring approximately 34 cm x 20 cm each. Inscribed on back Qalam Fateh Mohammed Mussawar. Also inscribed & dated in Devnagri in front.
Accurate early views of Mecca are normally limited to Ottoman depictions in oil and engraved views. Very few exist that make any attempt to illustrate anything other than the Kaaba itself. Other depictions do exist - Iznik tiles and Ottoman manuscripts are a plentiful source, particularly the numerous religious manuscripts produced in the 16th century including the Dala'il al-Khayrat and Futuh al-Haramayn . These illustrations are however schematic and thus unreliable.
The first illustrated example of a Futuh al-Haramayn manuscript, dated 1540, is in the Topkapi Saray Museum and shows what thereafter became a classic representation of the Masjid al-Haram and its topographic and symbolic environment (no. R.9617, fol. 14a; Esin Atil, The Age of Suleyman the Magnificent, Washington, 1988, p. 65, ill. 22). It is drawn from a flattened perspective, the Kaaba standing in the centre of the rectangular courtyard, surrounded by a double colonnade, the inner arcades being semicircular and forming a part of a key-hole shape and the six minarets pointing inwards into the haram.
With time the landscape of Mecca changed and in 1620, a new stone arcade was added, along with three more minarets - bringing the total up to seven. The next major renovations did not occur until the mid-20th century, sponsored by King 'Abdulaziz (1932-1953). The number of minarets depicted here therefore provides us with some (all be they wide) parameters for the dating of our miniature - from the early 17th to the mid-20th century.
It seems likely that Fateh Mohammed, the artist of our pair of miniatures, was serving at the the Anglo Rajput courts in Western Rajasthan, possibly Bikaner. When he visited Mecca in the third quarter of 19th century, Richard Burton wrote that a number of Indian artists there supported themselves by 'drawing pictures of the holy shrines in pen and ink' (Richard Burton, Personal Narrative of a pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah, London, 1893, p.341 quoted in Stephen Vernoit, Occidentalism, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London, 1997, p.33).
This pair of miniatures may represent the type of work done by these artists. The artist certainly demonstrates an almost photographic knowledge of the Holy sites that he depicts, although it could be that these are lifted from earlier prototypes.
A panoramic view of Mecca, signed by the painter Mahmud was recently sold at Sotheby's, 6 April 2011, lot 229. Another, by the same artist is in the Khalili Collection (J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Treasures from the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, Abu Dhabi, 2007, no.298, pp.260-61).
For related example of a smaller single painting by an unknown Indian artist, see Christie's SALE 5169 — ART OF THE ISLAMIC AND INDIAN WORLDS, 26 April 2012 London, King Street. Lot 359
Painting by Fateh Mohammed Mussawir in the Victoria & Albert Museum
The catalog entry of this painting in the V&A Museum by Fateh Mohammed Mussawir reads:
Raja Bakhtawar, Singh of Anglo Rajasthan, portrait by Fateh Muhammad. Gouache. West Rajasthan, India, c. 1880.
This Company painting is a portrait of Thakur Raja Bakhtawar Singh made by Fateh Muhammad around 1880 in western Rajasthan, probably Bikaner. The Rajput princely states had strong artistic traditions of their own, and their rulers were often generous patrons of painting. Consequently Company painting never really developed in Rajasthan to the extent that it did in many other areas of India.
Occasionally, however, drawings were made in a semi-European style based on paintings from other parts of the country, and towards the end of the 19th century rulers were depicted, as here, in a European manner strongly influenced by photography; but on the whole there is little Company painting from Rajasthan.
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