Study of "The Lovers" by Riza-yi ‘Abbasi

This painting is based on a Safavid work— dated to seventeenth-century Iran—in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which Sikander copied from a reproduction. Although copying historical examples was part of the training at the NCA, students had little access to original works: due to the legacy of colonialism, most South and Central Asian manuscript illustrations now reside in Western museums. “My first visual encounter with miniature painting was with its facsimile,” Sikander recalled. “But even in printed reproductions, the inherent eroticism and beauty of the works captivated my imagination and challenged my assumptions.”

Shahzia Sikander (born 1969)
Study of “The Lovers” by Riza-yi ‘Abbasi, 1991
Watercolor on wasli paper
Collection of Roger and Gayle Mandle
© Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly, New York and Pilar Corrias, London.