A Common Indian Nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus)

Object Name: Illustrated single work

Date: ca. 1780

Geography: Made in India, probably Lucknow

Medium: Opaque watercolor on paper

Dimensions: Painting: H. 18 5/8 in. (47.3 cm)
W. 11 1/8 in. (28.3 cm)
Mat: H. 27 in. (68.6 cm)
W. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art, 2004

Accession Number: 2004.175


The Latin name for the nightjar, Caprimulgus asiaticus, translates as “goat sucker” and refers to the ancient myth that these sweet-looking birds sucked on the milk of goats by night. While untrue, nightjars probably got this reputation for the close contact they had with goats while feeding on nearby insects. The artist has paid particular attention to detail, rendering each feather individually and marking lines on the legs, while situating the bird in a perspectival landscape complete with tiny trees in the background. This painting comes from an album made for Claude Martin (1735–1800), a Frenchman in the service of Nawab Asaf al- Daula (r. 1775–97) and the East India Company in Lucknow. It subsequently belonged to the family of Charles Jenkinson, the 1st Earl of Liverpool.