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LADY WITH MYNA BIRD. Golconda, about 1605. The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
LADY WITH MYNA BIRD


The subject and provenance of this enchanting picture are both uncertain. It is possible that a pendant to the lady whispering to her talking bird was provided by the 'Young Man holding a Parrot' in the Cowasji Jehangir Collection, of brilliant colouring and perhaps of similar date. Both were probably favourites or types of beauty which appealed to the patron's taste. That the lady is a Yogini, as has been suggested, is unlikely. Basil Gray's suggestion that she may be Balqis, the Queen of Sheba, is more attractive. It is certainly a subject which would have taken the fancy of the Deccan rulers, and the lady is dark complexioned.
The Cowasji Jehangir miniature carries on its mount an inscription referring to the subject as a member of the Qutb Shah family. While this is late and carries little weight, both pictures are distinctive variants of the early 17th-century Deccan style. The exaggerated swirl of the girdle and stole suggests one of the southern kingdoms. In this connection we may repeat an observation of William Methwold, in charge of the English factory at the chief port Masulipatam from 1618 to 1622, who says that the talented courtesans of Golconda wore "about their neckes many chaines of small pearle and corall". The lady also wears the four-pointed coat over her pyjama. The large flowers on either side of the lady seem to be inspired by the painting on Chinese porcelain, small parcels of which fetched high prices at Golconda according to the Dutch merchants.
Another version of this picture (unpublished) is in the collection of Ramesvar Rao, Rajah of Wanapurthy.