Indian and Himalayan Art
Nawab Muhammad Riza Khan Smoking a HuqqaMade in Murshidabad, West Bengal, India, Asia
Artist/maker unknown, India
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Currently not on view
2004-149-70125th Anniversary Acquisition. Alvin O. Bellak Collection, 2004
LabelAs the Mughal empire disintegrated in the early 1700s, regional rulers abandoned their emperor and established separate courts, especially in eastern India. One of these, Murshidabad, became such a bustling mercantile center that by the mid-eighteenth century European visitors likened it to London. This painting typifies the Murshidabad variant of the Mughal style. It features a sparse composition, deep vista, and cool gray palette. Muhammad Riza Khan smokes his huqqa but, rather than reclining on a rug, he rests on a European-style bench. The bench is drawn using a Western-influenced perspective that contrasts with the flatness of the woven-grass floor covering. Known as a haughty spendthrift, Muhammad Riza Khan's career ricocheted back and forth between the exalted roles of governor and minister, and the depths of financial and social ruin.