"MINERVA. SCHOOL OF KESU DAS, MUGHAL INDIA, LATE 16TH CENTURY. Gouache heightened with gold on paper, the European-style Minerva stands contraposto, one hand resting on her gorgon-headed shield, the other holding a spear, within a landscape, slightly trimmed, blue, gold, orange, green and white margins, laid on a gold-speckled cream album page, mounted on card, typed note in French pasted to the back. Folio 10¾ x 6½in. (27.6 x 16cm.); miniature: 6 2/3 x 3 3/8in. (16.6 x 8.6cm.).
Lot Notes: One of the more prominent painters in Akbar's atelier was Kesu Das. He could paint in the more standard Akbari mould - with contributions to the Victoria and Albert Akbarnama (circa 1590), but is perhaps best known for his highly coloured copies of European engravings. The resulting studies, in particular of the human anatomy represent a departure from the Persianate cannon of aesthetics. Perhaps because of this he was also one of Jahangir's favourite early artists (Mughal and other Indian paintings from the Chester Beatty Library, London, 1995, p.152).
Examples of his work after the European mode include a signed painting of St Jerome (circa 1580-85) in the Musae Guimet (see Amiuna Okada, Imperial Mughal Painters, Paris, 1992, pl.100, p.97); a signed painting from the story of Joseph in the Chester Beatty Library, and another one ascribed to him in the St. Louis Art Museum (op cit. pls.110,111, the former also in Linda York Leach, 1995, pl.1.233, p.136, and in Milo Cleveland Beach, The Grand Mogul: Imperial Painting in India 1600-1660, Williamstown, 1978, pl.10 recto, p.54)- for which an earlier European engraving prototype is known; a Crucifixion album leaf ascribed to him, in the British Museum (illustrated in J.M. Rogers, Mughal Miniatures, London, 1993, pl.44, p.68)."