Watercolor on European paper; 29 3/4 x 21 1/2 in. (75.6 x 54.6 cm)
Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art and Rogers Fund, 2000 (2000.266)
By the late eighteenth century, many Mughal-trained painters in central and eastern India were looking to the emerging British ruling class for patronage. The products of this new Company School were often albums of flora and fauna and other exotic sights of India, made to be taken back to Britain. Although this tradition reached its climax in the late eighteenth century, it continued well into the nineteenth. Of the varied subjects, bird studies, such as this bold depiction of a sturdy black stork, may be deemed a classic type. Paintings of birds, animals, and flowers had been an important genre in Indian art since the time of the Mughal emperor Jahangir (r. 160527), and the continuation of such subjects under British patronage was a natural extension of that established tradition, although the results were often quite different stylistically. In this painting, the stork is standing upright in a receding landscape of considerably reduced scale that contains a meandering river. The dramatic contrast in size between the bird and the vista it dominates gives the composition a distinctively idiosyncratic mood.