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Portrait of Sikh prince

18th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Other Title
    Portrait of a nobleman
    Place where the work was made
    Rajasthan India
    Cultural origin
    18th century
    Media categories
    Miniature , Painting , Watercolour
    Materials used
    opaque watercolour on paper
    22.8 x 14.0 cm sight
    Gift of Michael Hobbs 2009. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    Portraits of the royal ruler and his associates were among the most popular of all Indian painting commissions. Under Mughal patronage, realistic portraits were preferred. However, they did not show concern for the effects of light and shade and instead emphasised the features of the face and clothing through detailed brush work.

    Once the outward form and the accompanying pictorial motifs, like a sword or a book used to indicate the ruler’s attributes, triumphs or character were established by a master they were copied by others thus establishing a convention and an easily recognisable portrait of the ruler. In this way portraits of nobility and courtiers were made within an established set of standard compositions. These forms even survived into the Company School patronised by the British rulers and officers of the East India Company.

    For instance, portraits set in the palace usually show the ruler against a plain background, standing looking out from a window, separated from his subjects, or relaxing seated against a bolster on a mat, maybe even smoking a hookah. In outdoor setting he might be seen mounted on a horse or elephant leading the hunt or battle as a sign of his power and leadership, or seated with a lover, holding a flower as a sign of his cultured and sensitive nature.

    The state of Jammu, situated in the northwest India near Kashmir, was well known within the many states of pre-independence India for its cultural achievements. Outstanding among its paintings are the graceful portraits of the various Sikh princes and their court officials who ruled Jammu for centuries. This delicately rendered portrait of an unidentified sitter shows a seated man in the posture of a nobleman. The lack of a detailed landscape focuses all of our attention on the sitter.