Private Collection, USA
Inscribed on the verso in nagari: Thakuran Ajit Singh ji Ghanerao and Thakuran Tej Singh ji
Ghanerao is one of the thikanas of Marwar or Jodhpur, situated south of the capital and close to the Mewar border. A long continued tradition of royal portraiture was maintained by the Thakurs from the early 18th century to the middle of the 19th (see Crill 2000 ‘Ghanerao’ for its history). Thakur Ajit Singh (r. 1800-56) was one of the last rulers to keep up this tradition and several portraits of him and of his son Pratap Singh survive (see Crill op. cit., figs. 12-15). In our splendid double portrait Ajit Singh (on the right) holding a wine cup is seated opposite Thakur Tej Singh (whose thikana is not given in the inscription) who holds a flower, while attendants wave morchhals over them. They are both smoking from hookahs, and being entertained by two male musicians and seven female singers in a courtyard on a terrace. The sarangi and tabla players are especially well observed. Noblemen sit behind each Thakur, some holding wine cups. Two pavilions frame the action between which is a pool with fountains while a distant garden can be seen beyond. The clouds are arranged above in overlapping curls, one of the fashions peculiar to Marwar painting at this time. At the bottom of the picture in the centre of the action as if an attendant walks forward holding a cup and pouring wine from a flask into it.
Special points of interest in our painting include the male hairstyles: Tej Singh and all the men on his side have shaved the back of their heads and let their hair grow into curled dreadlocks behind their ears. Turban styles on both sides with their relatively flat turban cloths secured by differently coloured bands are very different from the high peaked style of turban worn at this time in Man Singh’s court in Jodhpur itself. The two principles and several of their nobles are wearing muslin jamas embroidered with the chikan work of Lucknow. Tej Singh has a jewelled dagger stuck through his cummerbund, while Ajit Singh has a pistol in the same place, a detail not often seen in paintings, and holds his katar in his unoccupied hand. The movements of the head and body of the tabla player are especially well observed.
The painting is very much in the style of Dana of Jodhpur who painted other portraits of Ajit Singh and his son at Ghanerao (Crill 2000 ‘Ghanerao’, figs. 12-13) as well as the Thakur of Chandawal (Crill 2000 ‘Marwar‘ fig. 102). All three have much the same sort of composition on a terrace between pavilions and with a distant garden. The balustrades with their interlaced arches are common to many Jodhpur paintings at this time, but the beautifully painted flowers with trees beyond seen in other examples of Dana’s work are rarer. As usual in Jodhpur painting at this time, little attention is paid to relative scale, so the less important figures even if nearer the viewer are smaller than the main ones.
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.