An elegantly attired young woman is shown in a half-length portrait. Her hands are crossed in front of her at the wrist and she holds a partially open folding fan in her right hand. Her blue silk dress has long lace cuffs and a lace overlay at the shoulders and bodice. The bodice is also ornamented with silk bows of matching silk. At her neck is an elaborate pearl and lace choker; she has a matching pearl bracelet and seed pear earring. Her haif carries the blue of dress in the ornamentation at the crown of her head. Ribbons from her hair ornament cascade down either side of her bosom.
Johann Valentin Tischbein was a member of a prosperous Saxony-based family of artists. Tischbein spent time in the Netherlands working in Maastricht in 1747 and then at the Hague in 1750, before settling in Kassel as a court painter.
We do not know the sitter of this portrait, but from her elaborate dress we may assume that she was a young woman of rank in the region near Kassel. This painting is unusual in that it has never been relined (the process of adding a second canvas behind the original to give it support and strength) and preserves the freshness of the brushwork, particularly in the areas of the lace where the delicate impasto is frequently lost during relining.
Inscribed: in plate, in margin below image: Né en 1615. Inscription in plate: SEBASTIAN BOURDON/ de Monpellier [sic] Peintre ordinaire du Roy, Recteur en son /Académie de Peintre et de Sculpture /gravé par Laurent Cars pour sa réception à l'Académie en 1733.
A young man with long hair looks over his shoulder at the viewer through an illusionistically described stone octagonal aperture. A heavy satin cloth cascades from his right shoulder towards the viewer and through the opening. On the near side of this rusicated aperture are the palette, brushes, drawing folio and a book, indentifying the sitter as an artist, the identification further secured by the canvas on an easle seen behind the figure.
In order to be admitted to the Académie Royale, portrait engravers were required to create two engraved portraits. This portrait of the painter Sébastien Bourdon was one of the prints Cars produced as his reception piece to gain admittance to the Académie as an engraver. The conventions that governed official portraiture from the period are evident in this engraving, which is after a painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud now in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt. The figure is framed within an octagonal stone frame surrounded by the materials of his profession: easel and canvas, paper, palette, brushes, and a book. Another feature common to these portraits was the use of drapery, either inside the framework or outside of it. Cars’ ability to denote different textures is evident in this work: the velvet coat and waving hair contrast with the sheen of the satin drapery, which cascades across the stone frame forward into the viewer’s space.
In this idyllic scene, the goddess Parvati offers her husband Shiva a drink, as they enjoy a quiet moment together. Their children, the elephant-headed Ganesha and Skanda, play inside a tent made from the hide of an elephant demon that Shiva had slain. Both parents are clothed in animal skins, the garb of mountain-dwelling ascetics, while Shiva is further adorned with a long necklace of skulls and a snake.
The narrative and iconographical elements of this scene alludes to multiple aspects of Shiva’s character—as lover, family man, destroyer of evil, and supreme practitioner of austerities—but, as is typical of Kangra painting, the overall mood is one of tranquility and domestic harmony.
Kangra was a small Rajput state in the Punjab Hills, which lie at the foot of the Himalaya in the far north of India. From the mid-eighteenth century, artists in this region began to adapt certain features of European painting, as filtered through Mughal painting. That impact is seen here in the naturalistic palette and treatment of forms, especially the animals and tree.