India (Kolkata), Mughal, c. 1770 - 1785
Found in northern parts of the subcontinent, the sarus crane is India’s largest bird, the males sometimes measuring two metres high. Usually living in pairs, these cranes became proverbial in folklore for their conjugal fidelity. The emperor Jahangir (1605-1627) kept a pair, which he named after the legendary lovers Laila and Majnun. Shaikh Zain ud-Din’s half life-size depiction of this bird is still almost too large for the outsize sheet of English paper. While retaining the format and plain ground of a scientific study, it shows great assurance and sensitivity in its elegantly flowing outline and finely painted plumage.