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Lot Details

Private Collection, USA

Our painting is unfortunately not inscribed, so it is not possible to identify the subject of this splendid court scene of an unnamed Thakur of Marwar enjoying a musical performance. He is seated wearing a white jama over blue and gold striped paijama, a red cummerbund, and a saffron turban decorated with magnificent jewels as well as a flower garland, another of which he wears round his neck along with other jewels. He is seated at ease among brocaded cushions and bolsters on a red rug drinking from a wine cup, while three of his nobles sit beside him also enjoying wine. These are all garlanded with flowers while a basket of flowers sits in front of them. Three attendants behind them carry further refreshments, one of whom waves a morchhal over the Thakur. Three women singers are seated facing them, one with her arms in the air making hand-gestures accompanying the singing. Two men sit behind them playing the sarangi and the tabla, the latter with the histrionic gestures beloved of tabla players everywhere. The scene is set on a terrace outside a pavilion with a shamiana over the Thakur. Beyond the balustrade of the terrace is a garden with massed flowers and stylized trees. The scene seems to be set at night with a dark sky, although cranes are flying through it and we can see clouds outlined as the petals of flowers above.

The painting is very much in the style of Dana of Jodhpur who painted several portraits of Maharaja Man Singh all dated 1811 in the Kunwar Sangram Singh collection (Crill 2000 ‘Marwar’ p. 102). He also painted portraits of Marwar Thakurs, including Ajit Singh and his son Pratap Singh of Ghanerao (Crill 2000 ‘Ghanerao’, figs. 12-13) as well as the Thakur of Chandawal in 1815 (Crill 2000 ‘Marwar‘ fig. 102). All these as well as the double portrait of Ajit Singh of Ghanerao and Tej Singh in this collection have much the same sort of composition on a terrace with one or more pavilions and with a distant garden. The beautifully painted flowers with trees beyond as in our two paintings attributed to Dana are also seen in other examples of Dana’s work noted above. Our musicians are based on the same charbas as in the Ajit Singh and Tej Singh composition. The cranes appear again in Dana’s portrait of the Thakur of Chandawal in durbar (Crill 2000 ‘Marwar’ fig. 102). All these paintings have varied stylizations for the clouds, but the flower petal arrangements in our painting do not seem to have been repeated.

The Thakur’s physiognomy is depicted very carefully so that we can observe his beard joining his moustache with its ends brushed up loosely, his shaven chin and back of the neck, and the heavy bangs of hair falling in front of his ears. While some or all of these features appear in other Jodhpur portraits at this time, no other Thakur seems to have precisely this combination. Also unusual for a Marwar Thakur is the triple jewelled ornament attached to his turban, whereas the Thakurs of Ghanerao and Chandawal normally wear more modest ornaments. Were it not for the bangs falling before his ears rather than behind, he might be taken for Kunwar Pratap Singh of Ghanerao (Crill 2000 ‘Ghanerao’ figs. 13-15), who alone among these portraits wears a similar kind of turban ornament. However, dreadlock bangs in front of the ears are an acknowledged fashion in other Marwar thikanas, for instance at Pali (Crill 2000 ‘Marwar’ fig. 103), but there the turban style is very different.

Crill, R., Marwar Painting: A History of the Jodhpur Style, India Book House Ltd., Bombay, 2000
Crill, R., ‘The Thakurs of Ghanerao as Patrons of Painting’ in Topsfield, A., ed., Court Painting in Rajasthan, Marg Publications, Bombay, 2000, pp. 92-108

EXPERT : J. P. Losty
J. P. Losty was for many years curator of Indian visual materials in the British Library in London and has published many books and articles on painting in India from the 12th to the 19th centuries.

Artiana would like to thank J. P. Losty for his expertise and assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

Classical Indian Painting

Classical Indian Paintings - an ode to the rich history of art in India - are divided into Rajput, Mughal, Deccani, Pahari and other schools, each having their signature stylisations. These paintings, across all the various schools display a strong connection with nature, people and early Indian culture and tradition. Although these pictures seen at a glance, are easily recognized as Indian in origin, they are a confluence of various cultures and traditions. This genre of classical Indian art is also an important window into the past, as the images reliably depict the surroundings and milieu around the time of their execution.

The tradition of Indian miniature painting finds its beginnings around the 7th century ACE. Appearing as text illustrations, these paintings emerged primarily in Jain and Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts. Reaching a high level of sophistication in 15th century, the style grew steadily, sustaining its similarity with other schools of miniature painting while articulating a unique aesthetics of its own. The schools of miniature painting consist of two broad variants – the first centred on Islamic elements unique to Iran and Turkey, and the second an indigenous tradition of India. Indian miniature paintings are famed for its diverse qualities – its myriad themes, subtle aesthetics, stylistic diversity, sensuality, religiosity and the opulent life of the royals to name a few.

Mughal painting sprouted and grew during the Mughal Empire (16th to 19th centuries). It was exclusive to the nobles and royalty its development depended, to a great extent on, the patronage of this class of society. With its origins in Central Asia, the Mughal empire was heavily influenced by Persian cultural trends, which was taken to new heights in India. The paintings are known for its subtlety and appreciation of historical or quasi-scientific themes in nature. Its scientific quality ensured that the paintings were largely secular in nature, consisting of allusions to natural life, literature and the routines of royalty. The Mughals were best known for their fusion of Indo-Islamic culture, and early Emperors — particularly Akbar (1556-1605) — commissioned paintings to illustrate Hindu epics as well as various Persian texts.

The Rajasthani School emerges around the 16th century as an off shoot of the early Mewar paintings. Later several states of Rajasthan had developed their own individual styles of painting, the most prominent amongst them were Kota, Bundi, Bikaner, Kishangarh and Mewar and Jaipur. Rajputs of the time, who patronised the art to a great extent, ensured that it featured themes of religion and literature in a distinct sense. Once Rajasthani Miniature painting came into being, it progressed quickly under local painters. While the influence of the Mughal style was unmistakable, the style retained its unique lyrical temperament and classical worldview.

At the close of the 7th century, the Pahari school of painting developed in the Hills of Punjab, which, at the time, grew in the margins of mainstream culture and art. The lively and romantic school of Pahari miniaturists produced some of the finest religious scenes, offering a glimpse of the daily mind and sentiment of India. The earliest Pahari School of miniature painting is called Basholi. Basholi had produced some wonderful portraits and is famed for its Rasamanjari series. Pahari art, produced in Kangra under Raja Sansar Chand is known for its pronounced rhythmic quality. The Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism, celebrating the love of Radha and Krishna, bears its distinct stamp of the Kangra style.

Deccani painting grew almost simultaneously with Mughal art, with Ahmednagar, Golkonda, Bijapur, and subsequently Hyderabad as its centres. Most of the painters working at these courts were immigrants of Turkey, Iran and Europe, and had brought with them their artistic idioms and skills. Deccani art attained a great maturity in form and sophistication, acquiring the same regard as Mughal paintings.