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.