Scenes of Music, Dance and Acrobatics

UnknownMid 18th Century, Muhammad Shah Period

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

The painting depicts a moment of festive gaiety of a celebrating group of elite women who picnic along a river - some swim and bathe in its flowing waters, playfully splashing water on each other, while two women on the top swing together, their hands enjoined balancing and stabilising their swinging motion. On their right, one woman flings her arms holding up her veil in joyous abandon, while a woman standing next to her recoils at her sudden gesture. On the left a woman is attended to in her toilette by a woman scrubbing and rubbing emollients on her before her bath.

Across the river a group of acrobats display a variety of skills for the entertainment of a nobleman and his young consort, attended by a group of women, one whisking a peacock feathered morchal behind them, while another offers a little cup of wine to the seated couple.

The acrobats meanwhile exhibit an assortment of breathtaking manoeuvres on a tightrope - one woman ‘walks’ upside down on her head on a little round tray that she skilfully moves across the tightrope, while her legs up in the air carry two pots. Another woman on the left is depicted carrying out an equally fascinating feat - she has her body convoluted in a pose where her feet touch her mouth, and her hands carry two large pots, while she manages a way on the tightrope on her elbows and torso. On the right, a woman is depicted in a somewhat milder and more credible feat - she walks along the tight rope carrying multiple pots on her head and hands.

In the foreground, on the right, a man holds up a tall pole on which a woman is perfectly poised on her navel, carrying pots on her feet and back of the neck, while her hands casually finger a string of beads. Below her on the right corner, another acrobat crawls on her belly, her feet carrying two pots.

If this spectacle was not enough, further entertainment is provided by the means of a dancing woman. While this entertainment is keenly watched by a group of women attending the couple who raise their fingers in gestures of awe and astonishment, the prince's young consort embraced by him bashfully gazes downwards entirely missing the display.

The private entertainment for the party is witnessed by a delighted voyeur conspicuously depicted behind a thicket of bushes that shield the party.


  • Title: Scenes of Music, Dance and Acrobatics
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 18th Century, Muhammad Shah Period
  • Physical Dimensions: 49.5 cm x 30.5 cm

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