Umrao Jaan

Umrao Jaan

Item Code: MJ48
Watercolor Painting On Paper
12.0 inch X 9.0 inch
The style of miniature paintings has been in vogue since the arrival of the Mughals in the cultural arena. Not confined to the Mughal court, it spread to the other regions of India. The artists accepted the miniscule surface as a challenge to show their talent. Mughal courts excelled in portraits, scenes of hunting, battles and indulgences. Artists elsewhere shifted focus and also painted scenes from the life of publicly known figures like Dhola Maru, emaciated Ranjha, and others.

This miniature depicts the famous character of Umrao Jaan, who lived in the decadent society of Lucknow. Her life, though colourful, also narrate the tale of the moral hypocrisy existing in those times. Like the geisha in Japan, she was trained in the arts of dance, poetry and entertainment. Here she sits, unmindful of the rose that she twirls in her hand. She holds the pipe of the hookah in the other hand, forgetting to inhale on it, as she stares into oblivion. Something about the tranquility in her eyes and the lurking smile on her lips give the impression of the blissful period of her life. She sits in a relaxed manner against the bolster, with one leg stretched and the other folded. Her body slumps in relaxation. Her footwear lies discarded, revealing her henna painted feet adorned with toe rings. Not only is she clad in ornaments from head to toe, her hookah and the beetle-nut box is encrusted with stones and jewels. Her attire is made of layers of cloth, as it folds over and over, with graceful ease.

The artist has achieved the painting mostly in various hues of grey, with the monotony broken by the encrusted jewels. His main focus has been the protagonist. The background is least impressive and superfluous. For good reason, though; it keeps the attention of the viewer on the heroine who plays a major role in this miniature narrative.

This description by Renu Rana.

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