At center left in this work is an Indian celestial dancer modeled on a sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The dancer flirtatiously entwines herself around a figure taken from the sixteenth-century Italian Mannerist painting An Allegory with Venus and Cupid, by Agnolo Bronzino. Sikander created this pairing in response to Partha Mitter’s 1977 book Much Maligned Monsters: A History of European Reactions to Indian Art, which points to the role of cultural stereotypes in the European perception of Asia. At right is another pair of figures, sourced from Greco-Roman and Indo-Persian traditions. They stand arm in arm beside a two-headed creature, reinforcing multiplicity and suggesting the closeness and overlap of histories and cultures.

Shahzia Sikander (born 1969)
Intimacy, 2001
Watercolor on tea-stained wasli paper
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Partial and pledged gift of Jeanne and Michael Klein, 2001
© Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly, New York and Pilar Corrias, London.