An African Lyre Player

  • Year: c. 1640-1660
  • Location: Deccan Plateau, India

The anonymity of the subject of this painting obscures whether this is a portrait of a historical person, or a generic depiction of a musician. The instrument in his hands is a bowl lyre, called a nanga, of the type from Nubia in northeastern Africa. Many Africans, mainly from Ethiopia, settled in the Deccan, on the western coast of southern India, where they found employment as soldiers, mercenaries, and administrators. While stereotypical associations of Africans with music and dance persist in this Deccani album page, the figure is well dressed and less caricatured than the painting from 100 years earlier of the dancing Zangi in the Tuti-nama (Tales of a Parrot).

An African Lyre Player is available in the public domain via Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication .

Gift in honor of Madeline Neves Clapp; Gift of Mrs. Henry White Cannon by exchange; Bequest of Louise T. Cooper; Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund; From the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection | Source: Cleveland Museum of Art

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