Maharaja Madho Singh Marches to the Hunt

citation

Pinkish-brown border speckled with gold

Historical period(s)
Reign of Maharaja Madho Singh, ca. 1755
School
Rajput School
Medium
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions
H x W: 40.3 x 54.4 cm (15 7/8 x 21 7/16 in)
Geography
India, Rajasthan, Jaipur
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
F2001.5
On View Location
Currently not on view
Type

Album folio with painting

Provenance

Dinesan Collection, Bombay [1]

From 1960s
Private collection, Germany, from the 1960s [2]

To 2001
Terence McInerney Fine Arts Ltd., New York City, to 2001

From 2001
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Terence McInerney Fine Arts Ltd. in 2001

Notes:

[1] According to Curatorial Note 3, Debra Diamond, March 29, 2001, in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Description

Pinkish-brown border speckled with gold

Inscription(s)

1. (Martha Smith, 6 March 2001) The only inscriptions on the back are two circles in blue ink, partly rubbed out.

Label

1. (Debra Diamond, 29 March 2001) While equestrian portraits of Rajput rulers were produced in abundance, the pristine finish and fresh palette of this Jaipur portrait are remarkable. If its polished, almost velvety, finish and luscious color invites the enjoyment of its two-dimensional decorative qualities, a sustained look rewards the viewer with areas of refined detail and carefully modulated depth. Although the painting does not bear an inscription on its verso, its line, color, silhouette and technical perfection strongly suggest that Sahib Ram, the master artist of the Jaipur royal atelier from ca. 1750 - 1800, painted this portrait of Maharaja Madho Singh (r. 1750-67).

Sahib Ram is first mentioned in the Jaipur archives of the 1740s. By 1763, when his salary was increased to a level well above that of other atelier artists, his pre-eminent status was a recognized fact. He was particularly celebrated as a portrait artist and his oeuvre ranges from exquisite small paintings to life-size portraits. Over a career spanning 60 years, Sahib Ram portrayed the Jaipur rulers Iswari Singh (r. 1743-50); Madho Singh; and Pratap Singh (r. 1778-1803) in both large and small format.

Sahib Ram's small paintings are remarkable for their technical expertise - the glowing colors and refined surfaces that result from the painstaking milling of mineral pigments and careful burnishing - as well as his fluid line and his depiction of glittering and bejeweled equestrian trappings. In comparison, the works of other Jaipur atelier artists exhibit stiffer contours and less inventive, somewhat colder, palettes (1). The pristine surface, delicate outlines, and nuanced palette of the Madho Singh equestrian portrait therefore point strongly to the hand of the atelier's master artist.

Sahib Ram synthesized several stylistic tendencies in mid-eighteenth century Jaipur painting to create the Madho Singh portrait. The delicacy of the ruler's face and detailed costume, the palette, and the relation of the figures to the landscape draw from the Mughal painting tradition of the early eighteenth century. At the same time, the rather broadly conceived attendant figures in unadorned jamas relate to the bold imagery of the life-size portraits that Sahib Ram and other Jaipur court artists popularized during the latter half of the eighteenth century. The connection between the equestrian portrait and the Sackler's Royal Ladies of Maharaja Pratap Singh (S1997.70) is somewhat less apparent. While Sahib Ram's male portraits are formal and hieratic, his depictions of women are astoundingly abstract compositions of rounded forms. We may attribute this range to the marked gendering of Jaipur portraits. However, in both the equestrian portrait under consideration and Royal Ladies of M. Pratap Singh, Sahib Ram employs subtly distinctive combinations of fruity tones. These fresh palettes suggest a familiarity with Mughal paintings of the Muhammad Shah period (see, for example, the equestrian portrait of Emperor Muhammad Shah in the Vever collection, S1986.434a). In the Madho Singh portrait, Sahib Ram enlivens the warm green tones of the hilly landscape with the maharaja's vivid orange garment and an attendant's raspberry-colored turban, but avoids the brassy or garish quality often seen in the works of lesser artists.

The painting can be dated by the maharaja's appearance to ca. 1755. Although Madho Singh is immediately recognizable from his snub nose, heavy jaw, and caplike turban, he has not yet gained the enormous girth or adopted the fiddlehead fern mustaches of his later years.

A painting of this caliber would be an excellent addition to the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, which has no comparable Rajput portrait. The acquisition of this painting would also provide a wonderful opportunity to study, savor and exhibit the range of Sahib Ram's work. As a complement to the large, late Sackler fragment of women, it is small, relatively early and its subject is masculine. In addition, the painting provides an intriguing entree into the ways in which Mughal elements entered Rajput painting of the eighteenth century.(2)

Although the price is substantial, the amount is justified by its condition, quality and the scarcity of available paintings by Sahib Ram. Most of Sahib Ram's paintings - 11 signed ones are known - remain in the collection of the Jaipur museum.

(1) See, for example, Ramjis portrait of Madho Singh, ca. 1765, Sotheby's Sept. 24, 1997, no. 199.

(2) In this example, we can trace the transmission of Mughal style from the Imperial atelier to the Rajput kingdom of Jodhpur and then from Jodhpur to Jaipur: Sahib Ram closely based Madho Singh's portrait upon the great equestrian portrait of Maharaja Abhai Singh of Jodhpur by Dalchand. The artist Dalchand was trained in the Mughal atelier and worked for Abhai Singh's atelier between 1724 and 1729, where he produced a number of superb portraits and court scenes in the Mughal style. Dalchand's painting clearly provided a model for Sahib Ram as the foreground figures are arranged in the same overlapping configurations and the landscape backgrounds are dominated by similar flat-topped hills.

2. (J. Smith, 8/22/2008) Primary classification: Painting; secondary classification: Album.

3. (R. Anderson per J. Smith, Nov. 30, 2010) transfer of remark(s) from Provenance Field: "1. (Debra Diamond, 29 March 2001) The painting was in a German collection since the 1960s. It came to Germany from the Dinesans of Bombay."

4. (D.Diamond, 28 January, 2011) The stylistic precedent for the Madho Singh portrait can be seen in an equestrian portrait of Muhammad Shah, ca. 1725, attributed to Bhavani Das and from either Delhi or Kishangarh. Note especially, the similarities in the depiction of the horse, halo type, honorific fan, and landscape. Bound in the Saint Petersburg album; Plate 99/folio 41r, The Saint Petersburg Muraqqa (see [[/ 84-5)/

5. (Vrinda Agrawal for Debra Diamond, July 2011)

Artist: Dalchand
Born around 1690-1695, active c1710-1760. Was possibly trained at the court of Prince Muhammad Mu’azzam in Lahore. Moved to Delhi with his father Bhavanidas around 1707 to work for Emperor Bahadur Shah I. Moved to Jodhpur Rajasthan around 1724, to work for Abhai Singh(r. 1724-1748). Moved to Kishangarh, Rajasthan around 1728. Son of Bhavanidas. (McInerney, p563)

[McInerney, Terence. "Dalchand." Masters of Indian Paintings. Vol II Eds. Milo C. Beach, Eberhard Fischer and B. N. Goswamy. Zurich: Artibus Asiae, 2011.]

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