A Parsi Family in their Family Room
Artist/maker unknown, India
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Until the advent of photography, portraiture had long been out of reach for all but India’s courtly classes. Photography not only democratized the portrait, it also spurred painters to adapt their skills in new and unusual ways. This depiction of a middle-class family, for example, was produced by layering watercolor on top of a photographic print. The identification of the family as Parsis (Zoroastrians who emigrated from Iran to India as early as the eighth century CE) is conveyed through their clothing and the lion-adorned toran (door-hanging) at left, which clearly draws from ancient Iranian traditions. Also prominently on display are a record player; an elaborate tea set; a board used for carrom, a tabletop game popular in South Asia; and a large, wine-colored rug on which the family is proudly gathered.