Apparently she seems to be sporting with balls, tossing them into air with her right hand and then catching each, one by one, into her left hand but the expression of her face and the gesture of her eyes fixed into void away from everything reveals that she has on her mind some pressure, a tension or merely loneliness, or she is passing through moments of acute pain of separation, and in the flow of balls : in their rise and fall, she is trying to dilute this tension. However, as has been wondrously arrested in the strokes of the artist’s brush, her mind refuses to distract, perhaps because it finds that the pain of separation with which it always realises the presence of the loved one is sweeter than the relief of forgetting him. Two balls float into the air, and the third, she is ready to toss, but despite that she has her hand extended to catch them her eyes are led away from them and from everything, by something in mind, some sweet memories of past, upheavals of present or fears of future. Though a portrait, the artist has attempted to arrest the lady in his lines and colours in a definite state of mind and thus he has painted not only her exterior but also inside-out, her total being.
The painting has been rendered using the late nineteenth century idiom of art, a form that evolved on Indian soil by sharing the then rulers’ art models as developed in the nineteenth century Europe. Portrait painting was its thrust; however, unlike the portraits in the miniature format of the medieval period, particularly those rendered in the Mughal art style, striving to reproduce with minute details courtly splendour with the same thrust as the portrayed figure, these painters of the late nineteenth century strove to reproduce his figure, a king or a common man, inside-out revealing his essential personality : his intrinsic being and sometimes his class. They hardly ever focused on the painted figure’s surroundings except an aspect of it having some reflection on his total being. They usually drew their figures against a monochromic background or a background composed of diffused forms not distracting the viewer’s eye from the main figure. In this portrait too the figure of the young lady has been drawn against a monochromic background with a form or so suggestive of interior wood-panelling in a different colour.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.