Nawab Muhammad Riza Khan Smoking a Huqqa
Artist/maker unknown, Indian
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As 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.