By Isabella Martinez
In the 17th century India, Dara Shikoh assembled a collection of paintings as a token of love. Moved by the beauty of his betrothed Nadira Banu Begum, he presented this album as a promise of devotion for the years to come. There between the pages of royal portraits, herbs, and swans is a study of flowers signed by artist Muhammad Khan. The careful strokes of paint used to craft the fragile petals work to illustrate Dara Shikoh’s elaborate love letter.
Flower Studies illustrates the poetry one can find in even the simplest of designs.
This piece features six flowers in the meadow of one page, but their significance goes beyond pretty petals, stems, and leaves; a deeper meaning lurks in the details of simplicity. The species of flora selected by Khan symbolize a message that Shikoh wished to share with his wife. The wedding wishes whispered through the simple flowers serve to remind that art blossoms in the beauty of our daily lives. Every morning I greet my reflection in the mirror and marvel at the potential of my bare face. With my skin free of product, pores and freckles and blemishes shine through, awaiting the application of warpaint. This is my canvas. Muhammad Khan and I, both artists, sit with our brushes poised. While he paints flowers addressed to Dara’s lover, my makeup is a love letter to myself.