INDIAN MINIATURE PORTRAIT (EARLY 19TH CENTURY)
SIKH MAHARAJAH RANJIT SINGH
Gouache heightened with gold on paper, farsi inscription ‘Shabah-i Maharajah Ranjit Singh Bahadur Rajah – i Lahaur o Panjab’, translated as ‘Maharajah Ranjit Singh the warrior of Lahore and Punjab
28cm x 14cm
Maharajah Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) was a Sikh ruler of the Punjab.
Born in Gujranwala in 1780, into a Sikh family. Ranjit is remembered for uniting the Punjab as a strong state and his possession of the Koh-i-Noor diamond (later gifted to Queen Victoria by Maharajah Duleep Singh). His lasting legacy was the beautification of the Harmandir Sahib, holiest site of the Sikhs.
This portrait is an accurate representation of Ranjit Singh; the French botanist Victor Jacquemont, a traveller in the Punjab from 1829 to 1832 wrote:
‘He is a thin little man with an attractive face, though he has lost an eye from small-pox which has otherwise disfigured him little. His right eye, which remains very large, his nose is fine and slightly turned up, his mouth firm, his teeth excellent. His expression shows nobility of thought, shrewdness and penetration.’
Early depictions of the Maharajah are very scarce, the earliest known painting was discovered by a research assistant at the British Museum. That painting is currently being exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in ‘The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts Exhibition’ (10 October 2009 – 17 January 2010).