This painting likely represents a woman of the court of Faizabad, where the London-born artist Tilly Kettle came at the invitation of Shuja ud-Daula, nawab of Oudh (d. 1775), the year this painting was made. Although the woman's identity is now unknown, her pose and clothing are consistent with those of women who performed the "nautch" dance to court elites and East India Company officials. The painting has been cut down on three sides. The original composition probably accommodated a male figure to the left, to whom the woman offers the hookah pipe. The canvas shows signs of having been rolled up, presumably when Kettle returned to London from India. This makes it likely to be a "whole-length portrait of a Gentoo woman in full dress with a hooker," which was sold from Kettle's home following his bankruptcy in 1783.
Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2021