This chameleon may have been one of the animals acquired in 1612. It is the flap-necked chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis), a (usually) bright green species widely distributed throughout east Africa, and probably bought as a curious pet by Portuguese traders on their voyages to India around the African coast. Mansur’s miniature is a scientifically precise depiction of this species: he accurately recorded the pale stripe at the corner of the mouth, the line of white scales running along the underside of the body, and the unusual digitation of the chameleon - on each foot the digits are fused into two opposed ‘bundles’, two outer digits opposed to three inner on the forelimb, and vice versa on the hind limb. While the calligraphic branches and the discrepancies of scale are conventional and rather old-fashioned in their reminiscences of earlier Persian manuscripts, the chameleon itself is wonderfully tense and vital, and even a little comical, clinging to the thin branch and glancing slyly backwards at a tiny butterfly. The texture and lustre of its conical scales is mimicked by the painstaking application of hundreds of tiny discrete dots of green bodycolour, which stand proud of the surface of the paper. Such skill and sensitivity seem worthy of Mansur himself. HIMALAYAN CHEER PHEASANT PAINTING:
The bold study of Himalayan cheer pheasant is a profile in isolation, domination majestically against a landscape subdued in detail, is very individual to Mansur’s expression in the portraits. The technique suited him best for picturization of natural history. Nevertheless, the natural surroundings do create rhythm and proportion, not excluding the suggestive skyline, in the composition. Maximum possible study of details of the main body of the bird comes out prominently in highlight for its contrastive thinly shaded strokes in combination with smoothly curved outline of the form; it gives subsequently the impression of a solid and firm drawing. The still...
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