Marwar Style in the 18th Century

thakur padam singh of ghanerao in darbar. ghanerao, by chhajju

Marwar in the 18th century

Maharaja Ajit Singh
(b.1679, r.1707-24)

jaswant Singh left no heir at his death in 1678, but one of his wives was pregnant when he died, and was dissuaded for this reason from becoming sati along with his other wife and seven concubines. A son. Auit Singh, was born to Rani Jadamanje, a princess of Gwalior and granddaughter of the Raja of Kankroli, at Lahore in February 1679, and from the moment of his birth the child was the focus of at least one faction of the militant Rathor rebellion against Aurangzeb. Popularly remembered as one of the most heroic figures in Rajasthani history, Ajit Singh eventually brought Jodhpur securely back under direct Rathor rule only after the death of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1707. But before that could happen, nearly thirty years of concealment, exile and continuous skirmishing with the imperial forces were to be the content of Ajit Singh's life, and also that of his faithful retainer and guardian Durgadas.

Durgadas Rathor (1638-1718) belonged to the Karnot branch of the Champawat clan, and was born in the village of Salwa Kalan, of which his father was the jagirdar, 18 miles north-east of Jodhpur. His father, Askaran Karnot, was in the service of Maharaja Gaj Singh and later also of Jaswant Singh, and from 1666-77 was the chief minister (pradhan) of Marwar. Jaswant Singh personally took the young Durgadas into his service in about 1655, and Durgadas accompanied him to Jamrud.

On the maharaja's death, Aurangzeb refused to acknowledge the infant Ajit Singh as ruler of Marwar, and demanded that the child be handed over to him to be brought up at the Mughal court and given land in Marwar when he came of age. The Jamrud faction of Marwar nobles, including Durgadas, refused to accept these terms and fought, in many cases to the death.

maharaja ajit singh jodhpur, c.1720
Maharaja Ajit Singh. Jodhpur, c.1720. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Other less romantic accounts imply that some of the Jodhpur nobles were doubtful of the authenticity of the child's claim to be Jaswant Singh's son. The secret smuggling of the baby out of Delhi and, at one stage, substitution of another to fool Aurangzeb, combined with the child's disappearance for six years, caused some nobles to be less than wholeheartedly supportive of Ajit's claim to the throne. Matters were further complicated by the claims to the throne of the son of another of Jaswant Singh's widows, the Bundi princess Rani Hari, and also of Indar Singh of Nagaur, son of the dispossessed Amar Singh, hewant Singh's brother. It was Indar Singh whom Aurangzeb recognized as ruler of Jodhpur in May 1679.

Although Indar Singh had a legitimate claim to the gaddi as the son of Gaj Singh's oldest son, he was not welcomed as ruler in Marwar, partly because of the continuing feud between the descendants of Jaswant and Amar Singh, but more significantly because his was a Mughal appointment. He had already served the emperor as a mansabdar (commander) in the Deccan, and relied more on imperial support for his rulership than that of his kinsmen, an attitude that inevitably alienated the Rathor clans. His inability to control these clans led to his early removal from the throne by Aurangzeb, in September of the same year." Jodhpur continued under direct Mughal rule until the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. Ajit Singh finally reclaimed the throne of Jodhpur on March 12th, 1707, having already had the title of maharaja restored to him by Aurangzeb's second son Azam Shah, in an attempt to win Rajput support in the war of succession. Relations between Jodhpur and the Mughals continued to be volatile until Ajit Singh's daughter Indra Kunwar married the emperor Farrukhsiyar (r.1713-19) in December 1715. Farrukhsiyar then bestowed on Ajit Singh the additional title of 'Raj Rajeshwar', which continued to be used by the Jodhpur maharajas until 1971.

Ajit Singh unaccountably banished his loyal supporter Durgadas from Marwar during his later years, but the old soldier's popularity as a heroic figure who sacrificed personal ambition for the struggle to place his master on the throne endured in both Marwar and Mewar. He is almost always depicted in portraits as an elderly man with a white beard, often paying homage to his ruler, though he was also represented on horseback, ready to dash to the service of his master, toasting batis (barley cakes) on the point of his spear over a campfire, in a painting shown to Aurangzeb. The Mughal emperor considered Durgadas one of the most serious threats to his rule (along with Shivaji, the Maratha leader), and is reputed to have exclaimed, upon seeing his picture, 'this dog is born to be my bane”. Durgadas died at Ujjain in 1718, and his chhattri (memorial) may still be seen there, recently renovated by craftsmen from Jodhpur, where his memory is still venerated. He had been supported in his exile by the ranas of Mewar and is shown in several Udaipur court paintings. After the reinstatement of Ajit Singh as maharaja, he was in Mughal service until 1716. He was granted the title of Rao in 1712 and received a pension from the Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar until his death.

The period following the death of Jaswant Singh was one of the most troubled periods in Jodhpur's history, and one that was not conducive to the production of courtly arts. When Ajit Singh regained the gaddi (throne) in 1707, following Aurangzeb's death, painting in Jodhpur was still strongly locked into the Mughal idiom, but portraits had started to move into a slightly more vernacular setting. Instead of showing the raja standing in the classic Mughal pose, they now frequently depicted the more typically Rajput scenes of a gathering of seated nobles with their ruler, or a noble sitting on a floor-spread rather than a throne. Equestrian portraits were now also becoming popular, as at the Mughal court. Although known since the end of the 16th century, they became widespread during the 17th century when Shah Jahan and his sons were frequently painted in formal poses on horseback. The ruler mounted on a strutting, magnificently adorned horse was a favourite theme of the later Mughal emperors such as Farrukhsiyar. Images such as these undoubtedly influenced portraiture throughout Rajasthan, and by the end of the 18th century every minor thakur had had his portrait painted mounted proudly on a horse.

maharaja ajit singh in procession at the gangaur festival. jodhpur,
Maharaja Ajit Singh in procession at the Gangaur festival. Jodhpur, dated VS 1779/AD 1722. Bharat Kala Bhavan, Banaras.

During Ajit Singh's reign, complex scenes of processions and hunts were produced for the first time. An impressive painting in the Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi, dated VS 1779/AD 1722 , shows Ajit Singh riding in procession, mounted on an elephant, with retainers and ladies surrounding him on all sides. The occasion seems to be the festival of Gangaur, devoted to the marriage of Shiva and Parvati (Gauri) as the ladies are carrying aloft images of the deities (dressed exactly as contemporary courtiers) - a practice that can still be seen in Rajasthan today.

The fresh colours and the composition of the painting were new to Jodhpur painting at this time, and they seem to have come not from the Mughal court but from another Rajput studio. The flourishing painting school of Mewar immediately suggests itself in elements such as the “squat figures running beside the ruler's elephant, and in the drawing of the elephants themselves. The scale and subject matter of this painting and the tiger hunt also suggest a Mewar connection, as large and vigorously detailed paintings of hunts and processions (as well as interior court life) had become popular there under the patronage of Ajit Singh's contemporary, Maharana Sangram Singh (r.1710-34), The fact that Ajit Singh grew up in Mewar and married a princess of the royal house in 1694 also suggests a likelihood that Mewari artists were influential in the development of the painting style in Jodhpur during his reign. Ajit Singh's ties with Mewar are confirmed by several portraits of him done in that state. A Mewar portrait of Ajit Singh dated VS 1781/AD 1724 is in the V&A, and another showing Ajit Singh and Durgadas with Maharana Amar Singh of Mewar is in the Habighorst collection in Germany."

The tiger hunt perhaps by the same artist, is dated VS 1775/AD 1718, and again shows the markedly short-bodied figures which are so noticeable a feature of both Mewar and Jodhpur painting of the early 18th century. In both paintings, however, the faces have developed the almond-eyed, rather large-nosed look which was to become characteristic of both Marwari and Bikaneri portraiture throughout the 18th century.

Few other contemporary portraits of Ajit Singh survive, although a great number were done posthumously during the 18th and 19th centuries. One painting which was almost certainly done during his lifetime shows Ajit Singh standing in the manner of a Mughal portrait, just as Gaj Singh and Jaswant Singh had also been represented, but with the difference that here Ajit Singh is shown looking somewhat upwards, towards the sun shown spreading its rays through the clouds at the top of the painting. This is a convention that is seen in several portraits of Ajit Singh, but its origin or significance is unclear. Fig. is inscribed as being of Maharaja Bakhat Singh, and on that basis would be datable to about 1751, but in fact the subject more closely resembles Ajit Singh and the quality of the portrait suggests a date closer to 1720.

maharaja ajit singh hunting tiger. jodhpur
Maharaja Ajit Singh hunting tiger. Jodhpur, dated VS 1775/AD 1718. Collection of the late Sangram Singh Nawalgarh.

Ajit Singh married his daughter Surya Kumari to Maharaja Jai Singh II of Amber in 1719. It is very likely that this is the event commemorated in a double portrait of the two rulers in the Kanoria collection. Although it is contemporary with the procession and hunt scenes discussed above, the styles of drawing and of colouration are very different. The blandly drawn faces and flat contours recall Jaipur paintings of the 18th century, but it was probably done by a Jodhpur artist who was influenced by contemporary portraits of Jai Singh and used one as the model for his work. This painting has also been attributed to the problematic Nagaur school, but one of the characteristics of Nagaur painting is a boldness of line that is quite lacking in this work.

Although during Ajit Singh's reign a more individualistic and somewhat rustic graphic style was being developed, Mughal influence was still strong, especially in portraiture. Fine portraits such as that of Rathor Sonag Champawat recall the portrait of Jaswant Singh on horseback although in a more basic form with no background landscape. The subdued palette, the large scale of the mounted figure which almost fills the whole frame, and the careful drawing are typical of this group of portraits, and anticipate the more elaborate equestrian portraits that reached the peak of their popularity during the mid-18th century.

maharaja ajit singh with maharaja jai singh of amber. jodhpur, c.1719-20
Maharaja Ajit Singh with Maharaja Jai Singh of Amber. Jodhpur, c.1719-20. Kanoria collection, Patna.
sonag champawat of pali on horseback. jodhpur, c.1710-20
Sonag Champawat of Pali on horseback. Jodhpur, c.1710-20. Collection of the late Sangram Singh Nawalgarh.

The noble seated in a garden listening to musicians had also been introduced as a theme in the late 17th century, and it occurs again in a fine painting in a private collection. Just as in the Jaswant Singh painting, the floor coverings and the trees are brilliantly detailed, and the nobleman and his companions are drawn with precision, clearly from life. A closely related painting in the National Museum, although simpler in composition, shows a nobleman receiving a petitioner. This is probably by the same artist, and similarities between the two paintings are evident in the treatment of the trees and the floor-spread, as well as the composition itself with its white foreground and the central space between the two banks of trees.

A fine group portrait of Ajit Singh with his sons and attendant nobles shows the maharaja seated on a grand throne, rather than on a floor-spread. This lively painting bears an inscription on the reverse dating it to VS 1778/AD 1721, and stating that it was painted at the festival of Diwali in Ajmer. Ajit Singh's sons are identified by name as Abhai Singh, Bakhat Singh, Anand Singh, Kesor (Kishor) Singh and Raj Singh.

maharaja ajit singh with his sons.
Maharaja Ajit Singh with his sons. dated VS 1778/AD 1721. Jodhpur artist working at Ajmer. Harvard University Art Museum.
a rathor nobleman listening to musicians. jodhpur c.1700-10
A Rathor Nobleman Listening To Musicians. Jodhpur, C.1700-10. Private Collection

Closely related but simplified versions of these scenes of the seated ruler with his nobles were also produced. In a painting in the National Museum the portraiture of Ajit Singh and his companions is still competent, though less finely detailed, while the background has become very stark and simply defined. This painting appears to be the model for a later version, which is even further simplified by the omission of the canopy, the garden in the foreground and the seated attendant. While Ajit Singh and the attendant with the morchhal (peacock-feather fan) are still recognizably the same as in the National Museum painting, the young nobleman has been replaced by the venerable Durgadas kneeling before him.

Ajit Singh died in 1724, murdered by his second son Bakhat Singh, at the instigation of the eldest, Abhai Singh. For this deed, which Tod calls “the foulest crime in the annals of Rajasthan’, Bakhat Singh was promised the rulership of Nagaur, which Abhai Singh finally wrested from Indar Singh in 1725. Both Bakhat Singh at Nagaur and Abhai Singh in Jodhpur presided over sophisticated courts which produced some of the finest paintings done in Marwar.

maharaja ajit singh, durgadas and bhatti govinddas. jodhpur early 19th century
Maharaja Ajit Singh, Durgadas and Bhatti Govinddas. Jodhpur, early 19th century. By Simbu or Gangabaksh Jaipurwala, probably after an original of c.1720-25. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Maharaja Abhai Singh
(6.1702, r.1724-49)

Abhai Singh's rule was continually troubled by conflict with his many brothers, as well as with the Marathas, the rulers of Jaipur and Bikaner and, at times, the Mughal emperor. His relations with Emperor Muhammad Shah (r.1719-48) were good to begin with. Abhai Singh was at the Mughal court at the time of his father's murder, and the emperor himself performed the tilak ceremony to proclaim him maharaja. Abhai Singh's succession was not universally welcomed in Jodhpur. Two of his brothers, Anand Singh and Rai Singh, led a revolt against him which gained the support of many Jodhpur land-owners and the Marathas, and eventually of Maharana Sangram Singh of Mewar, who gave them shelter and the income from several villages around Idar. In 1728, another of Abhai Singh's brothers, Kishor Singh, rose against him, and this time it was Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur who sheltered the rebel.

In 1730, Abhai Singh was appointed subahdar (governor) of Gujarat, a post he held until 1737 although he only stayed in Gujarat until 1733. The Marathas were making severe inroads into Gujarat, and in 1734 they entered Rajasthan with the invasion of Bundi. In 1736 they reached Marwar, agreeing to retreat only after being paid off with large sums of money.

Abhai Singh's brother Bakhat Singh had now also started causing trouble by demanding more power than merely the rulership of Nagaur, and with the intention of seizing the throne of Jodhpur he formed an alliance against Abhai Singh with Maharaja Zorawar Singh of Bikaner. In retaliation, Abhai Singh invaded Bikaner in 1740. Bakhat Singh then sought to involve Jai Singh of Jaipur and to incite him to attack Abhai Singh's forces. Abhai Singh raised the siege of Bikaner in order to retaliate, and fullscale war was only averted by the intervention of Maharana Jagat Singh of Mewar.

maharaja abhai singh watching a dance performance(detail). jodhpur, c.1725

Bakhat Singh began increasingly to ingratiate himself with the Mughal emperor and joined forces with him to oppose the Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Durrani. Muhammad Shah's son and successor Ahmad Shah (r.1748-54) granted Bakhat Singh the subahdari of Gujarat and also of Ajmer, which at the time was theoretically under Abhai Singh's rule. Abhai Singh had the support of the Maratha Malharrao Holkar, and Bakhat Singh that of Maharaja Gaj Singh of Bikaner, but an uneasy reconciliation took place between the two brothers and the conflict that had appeared inevitable never took place. Abhai Singh Continued to be conscious of Bakhat Singh's increasing Power in Marwar, and on his deathbed urged his nobles to support his own son Ram Singh against Bakhat Singh in Je succession conflict that he knew would undoubtedly follow his death.

In spite of the peronal and political problems taht marred Abhai Singh's rule, it was a period that saw imortant development in court paintings, both at jodhpur itself and in the thikanas (local fiefdoms). Two factors contributed to this blossoming of painting in Marwar in the 18th century. the development of the local vernacular styles, as thikanas started to produce paintings of minor rulers engaged in courtly activities, and the presence in Jodhpur of artists trained at the Mughal court. It is well known that many artists were forced to leave the Mughal court during the reign of Aurangzeb to find work at provincial centres as a result of the pious emperor's antipathy to the arts, and even before that it seems certain that Mughal-trained artists were working at Jodhpur for Maharaja Jaswant Singh.

The most accomplished artist to come from Delhi to Jodhpur in the eighteenth century was undoubtedly Dalchand. Referred to as dilli ra chitara Dalchand ('the Delhi artist Dalchand') in inscriptions on the reverse of two paintings, his work at the Mughal court is known by paintings in the India Office Library, London, where there is also a later portrait of him by the Lucknow artist Mohan Singh. On the inscription on this painting, he is referred to by the honorific title Rai', but whether this was hereditary or bestowed for his merits as an artist is not known. His high standing as an artist is implied rather than stated in another inscription on a portrait sketch in the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is signed Maharai shagirdi Dalchand: Maharai, pupil of Dalchand'. Quite when Dalchand reached Jodhpur is not known, but he was certainly working there during the reign of Abhai Singh as several portraits of the maharaja inscribed with his name are known. Dalchand's father Bhawani Das was a well-known artist at the court of Kishangarh, where he is reported to have moved from Delhi in 1719, and Dalchand is also known to have worked there.

Two portraits by Dalchand of Abhai Singh, which are still in the Jodhpur collection, were exhibited at the 1947 Burlington House exhibition in London, as was the processional painting of Abhai Singh's predecessor, Ajit Singh. Comparisons between the works commissioned for father and son reveal major differences in terms of technical skill and refinement. However lively and innovative the Ajit Singh painting may be, those done by Dalchand for Abhai Singh show.consummate mastery of the late Mughal style. Controlled, aloof, and highly detailed, they would be very cold pictures were it not for their areas of glowing colour. One of them shows the young maharaja Abhai Singh watching a performance by dancing girls and female musicians, and bears a 19th-century stocktaking inscription on the reverse dated VS 1886 (AD 1829). As well as the expected mention of the store-room in which the painting was kept - the dholiya re kotar or drum store - the inscription names Dalchand as the artist (chitaro dalchand dilli ra ri kalam: 'the work of the artist Dalchand of Delhi').

This is one of the most ambitious paintings to have been produced in Jodhpur - the procession of Ajit Singh may include as many figures, and several later paintings are certainly larger, more busy, or more action-packed, but the supreme attention to detail and delicacy of drawing and colouring that are characteristic of Dalchand's work make this a superior work. Abbai Singh was a young man of 22 when he came to the throne in 1724, and to judge from his appearance in this painting it must have been done not long afterwards.

maharaja abhai singh watching a dance performance. jodhpur, c.1725.
Maharaja Abhai Singh watching a dance performance. Jodhpur, c.1725. By Dalchand. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
maharaja abhai singh on horseback. jodhpur, c.1725. by dalchand.
Maharaja Abhai Singh on horseback. Jodhpur, c.1725. By Dalchand. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

The other major work by Dalchand still in Jodhpur showe Abhai Singh on horseback, accompanied by four attenda. Here, Dalchand again indulges his taste for finely detailed textile patterns and coolly elegant colours. It is inscribed on the reverse chitara dalchand ra hath ro: by the hand of the artist Dalchand', and the artist's name also appears in tiny writing on the belt of the man on the right Elements in both of these paintings recall the formalized and elegant aesthetic of the Kishangarh style with which Dalchand must have become familiar through first-hand experience: the slender horse with its arching neck and tiny head and ankles; the dancing girls and handmaids with the up-curving eyes of Kishangarh Radhas.

Two further portraits of Abhai Singh confirm Dalchand's cool perfection of technique while presenting us with rather more enigmatic subjects. One, in the National Museum, New Delhi, shows the maharaja standing on a terrace with a nobleman. The ruler holds in his hand a document or plaque which is inscribed sri prithi nathji salamat dalchand uparni sajas furmaya saja. (The precise reading of the inscription, apart from the names of Prithi Nath and Dalchand, is unclear and is as yet not fully deciphered.) At the top of the painting is another inscription: chavan prithi rajji ne chand bhat. The man called Prithi or Prithvi Raj (or here Prithi Nath) depicted in the painting was a bard of the Sandhu sept, who was the author of the Abhai Vilas 31 extolling Abhai Singh's reign, and the painting probably represents the presentation of the finished work to its patron. The upper inscription, confusingly, refers to the 12th-century Hindu king of Delhi, Chauhan Prithviraj, whose exploits were extolled in verse by the bard (bhat) Chand in his long poem, Prithviraj Raso. Presumably the inscription is intended to link or compare Abhai Singh and his bard Prithvinath to the illustrious Prithviraj and his poet Chand. Abhai Singh is not identified by an inscription, although it is certainly he. There is an almost invisible inscription in white paint on the central part of the white balustrade, which remains undeciphered.

A companion picture to this one is in the David collection, Copenhagen. Here, the maharaja, identically depicted and identified by his name inscribed above him, offers a jewelled pendant to the same man, Prithvi Raj (although he is unidentified), presumably as a reward for the finished Abhai Vilas. Again Dalchand has used the unorthodox trick of inscribing the painting in white paint along the white balustrade. This inscription is better preserved, and reads, in part (along the top of the balustrade) lekhat chitrakar dalchand sa. 1784 jeth süd 1, i.e. The artist Dalchand painted [it] in the year 170 CAD 1727) on the first day of the bright half of the month Chait' [May 10th]. The date, only three years after Abhai's accession, confirms a dating in the 1720s for the two portraits in Jodhpur, apparently contemporary with this one.

maharaja abhai singh presenting the bard prithvi raj with a necklace. jodhpur
Maharaja Abhai Singh Presenting the bard Prithvi Raj with a necklace. Jodhpur, dated VS 1784/AD 1727. By Dalchand. David Collection, Copenhagen.
maharaja abhai singh presenting the bard prithvi raj. jodhpur
Maharaja Abhai Singh Presenting the bard Prithvi Raj with a necklace. Jodhpur, c.1727. By Dalchand. National Museum, New Delhi.

Two highly accomplished portraits of Abhai Singh and his father Ajit Singh in the Jodhpur collection bear the imprint of Dalchand's refined style. Both maharajas are standing, nimbate and splendidly attired, against Dalchand's preferred background: an empty terrace with white balustrade, although in these cases there is no inscription on the balustrade. Abhai Singh appears somewhat older than in the equestrian and court scenes, suggesting a date for the paintings, which are obviously a pair, of about 1730-5. In view of the circumstances of Ajit Singh's death and Abhai Singh's subsequent succession, it may seem surprising that the latter should commission a posthumous portrait of the father whom he had murdered, but such scruples were not to be taken seriously at the Rajput courts. Ajit Singh is depicted with his head raised, looking skyward, a pose in which he is seen in several portraits.

posthumous portrait of maharaja ajit singh jodhpur, c.1730-35
Posthumous Portrait of Maharaja Ajit Singh Jodhpur, c.1730-35. Attributed to Dalchand. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur
standing portrait of maharaja abhai singh jodhpur, c.1730-35
Standing Portrait of Maharaja Abhai Singh(mislabelled Ajit Singh). Jodhpur, c.1730-35. Attributed to Dalchand. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur

Dalchand's influence can be seen in a painting of about 1730 in which Abhai Singh is shown seated on a terrace with a lady, attended by a maid. While the portrait of the maharaja adheres closely to the Mughal-style prototype laid down by Dalchand, the setting, especially the treatment of the trees, indicates a local style that had been evolving since the late 17th century, combining the decorative elements of paintings, with the classic 'seated raja' theme which goes back to Jaswant Singh's reign.

A group of lively and distinctive paintings that show much The Mughal influence can also be dated to Abhai Singh's reign. They are notable for their earthy tones, predominantly olive green, brown and yellow, which recall the 17th-century ragamala paintings that stand at the beginning of the evolution of the Marwar style.

This local style seems to favour an unusually sharply-defined facial type, with a predominance of severe-looking men with angular side-whiskers and long noses, characteristic features which may have originated in portraits of Ajit Singh.

These paintings are mostly of lesser nobles and thakurs rather than the maharaja himself, and many were done not in Jodhpur but in smaller thikanas (fiefdoms) of Marwar.

maharaja abhai singh with lady on a terrace. jodhpur, c.1730.
Maharaja Abhai Singh with a lady on a terrace. Jodhpur, c.1730. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur
a rathor noble being carried in a palanquin. marwar thikana, c.1720
A Rathor noble being carried in a palanquin. Marwar thikana, c.1720. Victoria & albert Museum, London.

One of the most sophisticated of this group is a painting of a dignitary being carried in a palanquin. An inscription on the reverse seems to identify the sternlooking noble as sri jasot singhji, and this has been taken to refer to Maharawal Jaswant Singh of Jaisalmer (r.1702-7). As Basil Gray noted, the man in the palanquin is much closer in appearance to Jaswant Singh's predecessor, Rawal Amar Singh (r.1661-1702), and it may be that the inscription linking the painting with Jaswant Singh is the result of a confused memory of the two Jaisalmer rulers. However, also bears a notable resemblance to Bhandari Girdhar Das, in a painting formerly in the Sangram Singh collection, in which this high-ranking official is shown at the feet of Maharaja Abhai Singh. This picture is unlikely to have been painted after 1730, as Girdhar Das fell out of favour with Abhai Singh in that year by spreading baseless rumours about a former diwan (prime minister) of the state. While the palanquin-borne gentleman may not be either Girdhar Das or the Rawal of Jaisalmer, it is worth noting that this facial type recurs in several paintings of the second quarter of the 18th century.

maharaja abhai singh and companions hunting boar and lion. jodhpur, c.1730
Maharaja Abhai Singh and companions hunting boar and lion. Jodhpur, c.1730. San Diego Museum of Art.
maharaja abhai singh receiving bhandari girdhar das. jodhpur, c.1725-30
Maharaja Abhai Singh receiving Bhandari Girdhar Das. Jodhpur, c.1725-30. Private Collection.

The same stern features and earthy colours, enhanced with a bright yellow floor spread, can be seen in a painting formerly in the J.C.French collection and now in the British Museum. The sharply-drawn lines of the turbans, side-whiskers and profiles are all characteristic of this style and are seen again in a painting of two Rathor nobles and their attendants in a private collection. The attention paid to the representation of the floor spreads and costumes again recalls Mughal and Deccani-influenced works such as Jaswant Singh in the garden and this elaboration of pattern and colour became even more marked throughout the 18th century.

Far more unusual than the conventional darbar scene, but still within the same stylistic grouping, is a splendid painting of a Rathor noble and his son visiting a gosain (holy man) and his acolyte. Again, the colour scheme is dominated by olive green, with a pale pink used for the rocky landscape lightened by the white of the noblemen's jamas and the yogis' ash-smeared bodies. An elegant black dog in the foreground makes an unexpectedly strong focal point, and the unusually elaborate hugga from which the gosain is smoking adds another unconventional detail. The stylized trees in the background were later to become essential elements of Marwar paintings, and the idiosyncratic character of this painting, which in effect satirizes the courtly darbar scene, is part of a theme of rather whimsical and enigmatic group portraits that continued throughout the 18th century.

two rathore noble and attendants. jodhpur, c.1725-30.
Two Rathor Nobles and attendants. Jodhpur, c.1725-30. British Museum, London.
two rathor nobles in darbar. jodhpur, c.1725
Two Rathor nobles in darbar. Jodhpur, c.1725. Private Collection.
a rathor noble and his son visiting a gosain. Jodhpur or Marwar thikana
A Rathor noble and his son visiting a gosain. Jodhpur or Marwar thikana, c.1720-30. Private Collection.

The elegant and well-known painting in the Prince of Wales Museum of a Rathor noble with a tame buck is perhaps too refined in its execution to be included in this group. but the angular drawing and muted color scheme are certainly link it aesthetically to them. Although by this time horses are quite frequently found in Marwar portraits, it is very unusual to find such a detailed portrait of an animal as this buck, which is directly comparable with 17th-century Mughal examples. The courtier is much more as we would expect: dark-skinned, with an angular profile. The detail of the red rope looped over his arm is an elegant variation, and makes a striking contrast to the dull green-brown of the background of the painting. A 19th-century version of this painting is in Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur, and depicts Thakur Harnath Singh of Khimsar with a tame buck.

Abhai Singh's reign was the first in which local thakurs really became interested in commissioning paintings for themselves. An example of this trend is a painting in the Victoria & Albert Museum of a group of seated nobles. The earthy colours and sparse decoration of the scene place it firmly in the thikana group just discussed. The painting has traditionally been described as showing Maharaja Ajit Singh with his sons and grandsons, but in spite of the angular features and facial hair common to so many portraits at this period, the main character does not resemble Ajit Singh closely enough to support this identification. Furthermore, the style of turban worn by all the nobles is of a type quite different to that worn by Ajit the securely identifiable portraits of him.

a group of nobles. marwar thikana, c.1720
A group of nobles. Marwar thikana, c.1720. Victoria & Alber Museum, London.
a rathor noble with a tame buck. jodhpur, c. 1720
A Rathor noble with a tame buck. Jodhpur, c. 1720. Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai.
thakur pratap singh of ghanerao with nobles. ghanerao, c.1715-20
Thakur Pratap Singh of Ghanerao with nobles. Ghanerao, c.1715-20. Harvard University Art Museum.

Among the most active patrons were the thakurs of ghanerao. Ghanerao is a small thikana on the borders of forwar and Mewar, whose thakurs belong to the Mertia Rathors. It was founded by Rao Jodha's son Duda a 1515), but no paintings are known to have been for its rulers until the time of Thakur Pratap Singh 1714-20). So far, only one securely identifiable portrait of Pratap Singh has come to light: a stately and finely executed darbar scene that previously bore an inscription misidentifying the central figure as a much later Chanerao noble, Krishna Das, and dating the painting to the equivalent of 1771, which is incompatible with its style and quality. The original inscription, naming Pratap Singh of Ghanerao, was revealed with the removal of one of the later superimposed inscriptions. The style of the painting is entirely appropriate for a date of around 1715-20, and is comparable with elegant garden scenes such as that in fig.

Pratap Singh's successor Padam Singh (r.1720-42) is better represented in painting, and several portraits of him are known. Perhaps the finest is a darbar scene in the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai that shows Padam Singh scated on a terrace surrounded by nobles, two attendants and two children. The painting is ascribed on the reverse to the artist Chhajju and dated VS 1782/AD 1725.

The composition and style of drawing show strong affinities with contemporary Jodhpur paintings and the inscription states that the artist is a resident (vas) of Jodhpur Another painting by Chhajju, in the National Museum, shows Padam Singh standing with one of his nobles, Rathor Ram Singh. The painting is inscribed with the same date as the Prince of Wales picture, VS 1782/AD 1725 and is also inscribed with Chhajju's name. An undated painting of the same ruler with a child and two attendants is in the Sangram Singh collection.

A more obviously ‘provincial painting of Padam Singh with nobles is in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The stark lines and earthy colours of this painting contrast strongly with Chhajju's more fluid and sophisticated style. The V&A painting is signed by an artist named Manna or Manno and is dated VS 1778/AD 1721. The inscription states that the painting was done in Ajmer, which at that time was under Jodhpur rule, and the artist in all probability came from Ajmer. The main nobles, those facing Padam Singh, are named as Ram Singh and Charan Singh.

thakur padam singh of ghanerao in darbar. ghanerao, by chhajju
Thakur Padam Singh of Ghanerao in darbar. Ghanerao, dated VS 1782/AD 1725. By Chhajju. Prince of wales Museum, Mumbai.

Padam Singh's successor was Viram Dev (r.1743-78), who continued his grandfather's patronage of artists. A picture in the V&A of the thakur worshipping at a Shiva shrine is comparable to the V&A's Padam Singh picture in its bold lines and earth tones. Viram Dev sits dressed in a jama and turban outside the shrine, while two priests attend the five-headed lingam. Apart from a simple identification of the subject on the front, the painting is not inscribed, but probably dates from about 1745. Paintings of Viram Dev occur at sparse intervals throughout his reign: one in the Sangram Singh collection shows him seated with the Jodhpur Maharaja Bijay Singh at Ghanerao Fort, and is ascribed to the Bikaner artist Husain and dated VS 1821/AD 1764. Another Bikaner artist, Sahibdin, painted an equestrian portrait of Viram Dev in 1770, and he also painted him in 1774 with his son and successor Durjan Singh (r.1778-99).

Following this fifty-year period of considerable artistic activity at Ghanerao, patronage in the thikanas seems to have diminished sharply for a time. Apart from a few isolated pictures known to us, such as a reported portrait of Durjan Singh by a Mewar artist called Narayan dated 1778, and a beautiful painting of about the same date by a Bikaneri artist of Durjan Singh carrying a bow and arrows, painting in Ghanerao remained dormant until the rule of Thakur Ajit Singh (r.1800-56).

thakur padam singh of ghanerao with nobles. ajmer by manno, a ghanerao artist.
Thakur Padam Singh of Ghanerao with nobles. Ajmer, dated VS 1778/ AD 1721. By Manno, a Ghanerao artist. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
thakur viram dev of ghanerao worshipping at a shiva shrine.
Thakur Viram Dev of Ghanerao worshipping at a Shiva shrine. Ghanerao, c. 1745. Victoria & Alber Museum, London.
a rathor noble in procession. jodhpur, c.1760.
A Rathor noble in procession. Jodhpur, c.1760. San Diego Museum of Art.
a rathor noble in darbar. jodhpur, c.1760.
A Rathor noble in darbar. Jodhpur, c.1760. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

While the thikanas were developing their own style, even at the court in Jodhpur itself a much more relaxed inventiveness was in evidence. In darbars and processional scenes, bold lines of turbans and swords are placed dramatically against strongly coloured backgrounds. In a relatively formal portrait such as that of Abhai Singh, the conventional stance and composition of the ruler is still retained, but the addition of a tiny, almost symbolic, child adds a delightful individuality to an otherwise dull picture. Another formal setting, once again of a ruler in a garden with ladies, forms the basis of a painting signed by the artist Bhatti Natha.

Although an inscription states that the noble is Ajit Singh, he bears little resemblance to the maharaja of that name and the painting is of a much later date than that of Ajit Singh's reign. In this painting, the colour scheme has been broadened considerably to include brighter colours, and the fanciful trees are decorated in the way they appear in later 18thcentury paintings such as those in the Bhagavata Purana commissioned for Bijay Singh. Its rather stark vigour recalls the earlier ragamala paintings as much as formal Mughal-inspired darbar scenes.

a rathor noble and ladies. jodhpur, c.1740. by bhatti natha.
A Rathor noble and Ladies. Jodhpur, c.1740. By Bhatti Natha. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
maharaja abhai singh with a child. jodhpur, c.1740
Maharaja Abhai Singh with a child. Jodhpur, c.1740. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Maharaja Ram Singh
(b.1730, r.1749-51)

When Abhai Singh died from natural causes in June 174 his nineteen year-old son Ram Singh succeeded him A arrogant and impetuous youth, 'totally incapacitated through his ungovernable passions for sovereign swav Ram Singh soon antagonized the most powerful chiefe the Rathor clans by his rudeness, with the result that the Champawats, Kumpawats, Udawats and Karamsots all went to side with Bakhat Singh at Nagaur. The Mertia clan. under Sher Singh of Riyan, remained loyal to Ram Singh. Bakhat Singh and his newly acquired followers made an attack on Ram Singh's territories, and the battle of Merta in 1751 spelled the end of Ram Singh's brief reign. Here. practically the entire male line of the Mertia clan, including Sher Singh, was wiped out, and Ram Singh fled for safety to the Maratha chief Jai Apa Sindhia at Ujjain.

In Ram Singh's brief reign, many stereotypical but accomplished portraits of him and of his most important nobles were produced. Closely similar versions of the same subject - Ram Singh in his tall turban, mounted on a horse and attended by foot-servants and standard-bearers - were produced in considerable numbers and may have been based on Bikaneri prototypes. Finer versions of the equestrian portrait in which bear the characteristic detail of Bikaneri work are in the Sangram Singh collection (unpublished) and in a private collection. Portraits in this idiom were also adapted to portray Ram Singh's nobles, and some employ a curious 'floating ente where the feet of the horse or the servants do not touch painted earth. Other subjects in the same basic composition include Ram Singh's stalwart supporter Sher Singh of Riyan, of whom several highly accomplished portraits survive, and nobles such as Thakur Shyam Singh of Balunda.

But pictures that transcended the norm also appeared, and Bikaneri artists seem to have played an important role in the production of splendid court scenes at this time. A stately portrait of Ram Singh with an attendant is signed by the Bikaner artist Shihab ud-din ibn 'Abdullah Usta, and here the treatment of the faces and the decorative details are identifiable as the work of a Bikaneri artist. Another impressive painting of Ram Singh with Sher Singh and other courtiers also bears the stamp of Bikaneri workmanship, and although the inscription on the reverse identifies the main subjects, the name of the artist is not given.

maharaja ram singh on horseback. jodhpur, c.1750
Maharaja Ram Singh on horseback. Jodhpur, c. 1750. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
thakur sher singh sardarshinghot mertia of riyan.
Thakur Sher Singh Sardarshinghot Mertia of Riyan. Jodhpur, c.1750. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
maharaja ram singh with a companion at diwali. jodhpur, c.1750
Maharaja Ram Singh with a companion at Diwali. Jodhpur, c.1750. By the Bikaner artist Shihab ud-din, son of 'Abdullah Usta. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

At the same time as these refined courtly paintings were being produced, the thikanas were also continuing to produce lively and distinctive portraiture. The painting of Lakhdir Singh of Alniyawas with his sons and grandsons is the work of a Jodhpur artist who is fully aware of the conventions of courtly portraiture, although the painting bears strong traces of the slightly earlier, more austere style of the thikana artists.

The artist of the painting of Kr Fateh Singh of Raipur hunting, on the other hand, has absorbed some elements of the more elaborate Bikaneri style, resulting in a more curvilinear outline, a greater use of pattern and a dramatic landscape on the left side of the painting.

The practice of commissioning paintings that drew on the more traditional repertoire of subjects, such as the ragamala or barahmasa themes, continued alongside this fashion for portraiture. The mid-18th century saw the production of a number of such series, with the barahmasa (twelve months) theme particularly favoured.

The barahmasa tradition, in which characteristics of the months are depicted and linked to the behaviour of lovers, seems to have arisen from the more ancient one of the ragamala, as several ragas (for example Vasant and Meghmallar) are based on the characteristics of the seasons. The barahmasa, however, seems only to have acquired a pictorial form in the 18th century:

Bikaner in particular seems to have been a major centre for barahmasa painting in the mid-18th century, and it may be that the idiom came to Jodhpur with visiting Bikaneri artists during Ram Singh's reign. A charming barabmasa series in the late Kr Sangram Singh's collection displays the characteristics of mid-18th century portraiture adapted to the symbolic context of the behaviour of lovers during the different months.

A contemporary or slightly later barahmasa in the National Museum is similar in concept but considerably less sophisticated in design and execution.

After his defeat at the hands of his uncle, Ram Singh continued to campaign against Bakhat Singh, and later his son Bijay Singh, for the return of his throne, and he joined forces with Jai Apa Sindhia to this end. The Maratha chief was murdered by soldiers in the pay of Bijay Singh in 1759, and Ram Singh thereby lost one of his main allies.

The other, Iswari Singh of Jaipur, died in 1760, and Ram Singh had to abandon the fight for Jodhpur. He lived the rest of his life in Jaipur territory, and died in exile there in 1773.

the month of bhadra. from a barahmasa series. jodhpur, c.1750-60
The month of Bhadra. from a barahmasa series. Jodhpur, c.1750-60. Collection of the late Sangram Singh Nawalgarh.
thakur lakhdir singhji sevsinghot of alniyawas with his sons and grandsons.
Thakur Lakhdir Singhji Sevsinghot of Alniyawas with his sons and grandsons. Jodhpur, c.1740-50. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
kr fateh singh kesrisinghot of raipur shooting boar. jodhpur, c.1750-60.
Kr Fateh Singh Kesrisinghot of Raipur shooting boar. Jodhpur, c.1750-60. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Maharaja Bakhat Singh
(b.1706, r.1751-2)

Bakhat Singh only lived to take advantage of the Jodhpur throne for one year, after which he was murdered: poisoned, according to Tod, by a coat given to him by the widow of Iswari Singh of Jaipur. Paintings from Bakhat Singh's reign tend to be bold, large-scale and often highly decorated. They include two very large full-length portraits, one of Bakhat Singh alone, and the other of Bakhat Singh with his brother Abhai Singh. Similar in scale, but confined to the head and shoulders, is an imposing portrait of Bakhat Singh in the Goenka collection, which consciously recalls the Mughal jharokha portraits of his greatgrandfather Gaj Singh . Another similar portrait is in the Howard Hodgkin collection,57 and a later painting of Maharaja Bijay Singh is also based closely on it.

A pose in which several maharajas liked to be painted was at archery practice. Like the hunt, this was a symbolic representation of their mastery of the warrior's skills that were indispensable for running the kingdom. Although this subject had been in vogue for some time, Bakhat Singh seems to have been the first Jodhpur ruler to indulge this pictorial taste, with other later nobles also copying the convention.

Bakhat Singh had ruled Nagaur from 1725 until he finally acceded to the Jodhpur throne in 1751, and paintings were undoubtedly made there under his patronage, as they had been, probably more sporadically, since the 17th century. It is difficult, if possible at all, to distinguish paintings done for Bakhat Singh at Nagaur from those done when he was ruler of Jodhpur. He certainly had murals painted in the fort at Nagaur, but these seem to be in the conventional Jodhpur culeol and do not hint at a distinctive local painting idiom, least of all one that conforms to the idea of the Nagaur style' that has arisen in recent years. It has become a practice to ascribe to Nagaur any paintings that do not quite fit the perceived Jodhpur mould, but these have been of such widely differing styles that it is impossible that they could all have originated there. A style that is a favoured candidate for a Nagaur attribution is the ‘angular style which is seen, correctly, as a divergence from the mainstream Jodhpur court style, but which is more likely to have been widespread throughout Marwar than isolated at Nagaur. . Above all, there is no reason to believe that paintings done at Nagaur should have been any less sophisticated than those at the Jodhpur court: Bakhat Singh was an influential ruler who would certainly have attracted competent artists.

A type of painting that does seem to have a case for an origin in Nagaur is exemplified by a picture in the Goenka collection. It is of courtly quality, but has a slightly richer palette than that of the Jodhpur court style. It dates from about 1740, when Bakhat Singh was still ruling in Nagaur, and is probably typical of the paintings done for him there.

jharokha portrait of maharaja bakhat singh. jodhpur, c.1740.
Jharokha portrait of Mahraja Bakhat Singh. Jodhpur, c.1740. Goneka collection.
maharaja bakhat singh at archery practice. jodhpur, c.1751-2. private collection.
Maharaja Bakhat Singh at archery practice. Jodhpur, c.1751-2. private collection.
maharaja bakhat singh with a minister. probably nagaur, c.1740. goenka collection.
Maharaja Bakhat Singh with a minister. Probably Nagaur, c.1740. Goenka Collection.
maharaja bakhat singh and maharaja abhai singh. jodhpur, c.1751. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.
Maharaja Bakhat Singh and Maharaja Abhai Singh. Jodhpur, c.1751. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Another painting of about the same date which could also have been painted in Nagaur, is a lively portrait of Bakhat Singh watching a dance performance against a backdrop of trees inhabited by monkeys and flying peris. The basis of this scene seems to be a court portrait not of Bakhat Singh but of the father whom he murdered, Singh: he was often painted seated on a throne like this one, and it is his features rather than Bakhat Singh's that are recognizable in the portrait of the main figure. The style of the painting, however, suggests that it must have been painted considerably later than Ajit Singh's reign (1707-24), and the addition of the exuberant trees, monkeys, and dancing girls to a conventional throne portrait point to a date around the 1740s.

An interesting group of paintings may be attributed to artists from Nagaur (or possibly Jodhpur) who accompanied Bakhat Singh while he was still ruler of Nagaur on a visit to the court of Rao Lakhpatji of Kutch (r.1741-60). Others from this group of darbar scenes have been published elsewhere, and all are characterized by a wildly exuberant use of colour and pattern. Two large-scale jharokha portraits of Lakhpatji and his late father Rao Desalji I (r.1718-41) bear strong similarities to those done of Bakhat Singh, and would also appear to have been done by Bakhat Singh's artists, presumably on the same visit to Kutch. Goswamy and Dallapiccola are of the opinion that the whole group was painted by local Kutchi artists working under Jodhpur influence, but the treatment of the cloudy sky, the textile Patterns and the backdrop of lush trees and vegetation in the darbar scenes, and the distinctive and imposing scale of the Jharokha portraits, strongly suggest a Nagaur artist. The lone painting of the group to have returned to the Jodhpur collection seems unequivocally Marwari in execution.

maharaja bakhat singh with rao lakhpatiji of kutch. c.1740-50. by a nagaur or jodhpur artist in kutch. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.
Maharaja Bakhat Singh with Rao Lakhpatiji of Kutch. c.1740-50. by a Nagaur or Jodhpur artist in Kutch. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Maharaja Bijay Singh
(b.1729, r.1752-93)

on Bakhat Singh's sudden death, his son Bijay Singh was recognized as ruler. His was one of the longest reign, any Jodhpur maharaja, lasting over forty years until 1702 although Bijay Singh cannot be said to have been a successful ruler. Much of his reign was preoccupied with defending Marwar from the Marathas under the French general de Boigne, and Tod relates that under his rule the crownlands were diminished, the tenantry dispersed; commerce had diminished, owing to insecurity and the licentious habits of the nobles”. Nevertheless, his rule was apparently sufficiently stable to allow the painting to flourish and new styles to emerge.

As well as the standard equestrian portraits, many unusual and lively pictures of Bijay Singh and his nobles were painted. An accomplished painting of Bijay Singh listening to musicians on a terrace is inscribed Kalam Nagaur se chitara Kayam: “the work of the painter Kayam from Nagaur, which suggests that artists had followed Bijay Singh's predecessor Bakhat Singh to Jodhpur. Certainly the use of a background of trees is closely comparable, which was probably done for Bakhat Singh at Nagaur. An artist named Udai Ram, the father of Man Singh's artist Bhatti Shiv Das, painted some imaginative scenes such as those of Bijay Singh worshipping at a Krishna shrine in a garden and in a temple. These were probably done after Bijay Singh's death though they may have been based on contemporary works.

A large jharokha portrait of Bijay Singh, based on that of Bakhat Singh is signed by an artist named Ajmat, but it does not have the vigor of the earlier painting. Although we know of very few paintings by this artist, another painting by him, apparently of Bakhat Singh, 18 dated VS 1802/AD 1745. One of the finest court scenes of Bijay Singh's reign is unsigned. It is a darba scene which shows the assembled nobles seated on an extraordinary pink carpet with blue floral arabesques, on either side of the maharaja, seated on a boldly contrasting yellow floor spread. This exuberant mood and bold of backgrounds like trees or carpets is reminiscent of the Kutch group of paintings as well as other darbar scenes of the 18th century, and continued to DC feature, somewhat toned down, of paintings of the carry 19th century.

maharaja bijay singh listening to musicians on a terrace. jodhpur, c.1755. by kayam. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.
Maharaja Bijay Singh listening to musicians on a terrace. Jodhpur, c.1755. By Kayam. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur. 
maharaja bijay singh worshipping at a krishna shrine in a garden. jodhpur, c.1795. by Udai Ram, perhaps after an earlier version of c. 1770. umaid bhavan palace, jodhpur.
Maharaja Bijay Singh worshipping at a Krishna shrine in a garden. Jodhpur, c.1795. By Udai Ram, perhaps after an earlier version of c. 1770. Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur.

Pictures of less formal activities also start to appear at this time, such as Bijay Singh playing polo. Interior scenes appear crowded with figures and patches of his colour: a painting of Thakur Hari Singh of Chandawal in the British Museum shows the typical crowded setting and pleasing confusion of colours and patterns. Another port of Hari Singh with Kunwar Hindu Singh is in the National Museum, New Delhi. A portrait of a prince visiting a purohit (priest)?l is dated VS 1839/AD 1782 and is inscribed with the name of the artist Akhaji. At present, this is the only example of his work that has come to light, and it is probably the case that Akhaji was working for a local patron rather than a member of the Jodhpur court. Compared to the imaginativeness of, for example, the pictures of Hari Singh this painting appears quite stiff and unsophisticated.

maharaja bijay singh and nobles playing polo. jodhpur, c.1770. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.
Maharaja Bijay Singh and nobles playing polo. Jodhpur, c.1770. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
hari singh of chandawal and hindu singh of patiakot with courtiers. jodhpur, c.1760-70. national museum, new delhi.
Hari Singh of Chandawal and Hindu Singh of Patiakot with courtiers. Jodhpur, c.1760-70. National Museum, New Delhi.

Another outwardly conventional darbar scene that suggests a thikana origin rather than the Jodhpur court is a painting of Amar Singh of Idar with nobles and three children. While obviously closely based on mainstream court scenes, the flat colours and angular lines suggest an artist working at a somewhat lower level of patronage. A similar feeling of angularity, coupled with the use of subdued colours, lends something of the same air to an unusual portrait of a thakur, Bhatti Sujan Singh of Lavera, at worship. The earthy palette recalls somewhat earlier thikana paintings, such as the noble visiting a holy man or the man with the buck. This painting is unusual in Marwar painting in its detailed depiction of the accoutrements of Krishna worship: although Bijay Singh had several portraits painted of himself performing puja at a Krishna shrine, they concentrate on a broader picture of the whole area, rather than the intimate scene of the thakur and pujari (priest) seen here.

An interesting group of paintings dating from around 1760 show various thakurs and their companions smoking huqqas, visiting yogis, or hunting. Although several of these paintings bear inscriptions identifying the sitters by name, none has so far identified the place where the painting was done. Drawn in a bold graphic style, this group, done in what may be broadly termed the thikana style, uses yellows and greens to great effect. Obviously in a direct line of descent from the angular paintings of the 1720s and '30s , some of the group are remarkably crudely drawn and painted and yet have a strong graphic presence.

bhatti sujan singh of lavera performing puja at a krishna shrine. marwar thikana, c.1760-70. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.
Bhatti Sujan Singh of Lavera performing puja at a Krishna shrine. Marwar thikana, c.1760-70. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
amar singh of idar in darbar. marwar thikana, c.1760-70. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.
Amar Singh of Idar in darbar. Marwar thikana, c.1760-70. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
a ruler smoking a huqqa with nobles and female musicians. marwar thikana, c.1760. private collection.
A ruler smoking a huqqa with nobles and female musicians. Marwar thikana, c.1760. Private Collection.

Others in the same broad group of thikana paintings include a striking double portrait of a Rathor noble visiting a naked vogi outside a Krishna shrine. The depiction of the holy man as fat, naked and hairless immediately brings to mind portraits of Baba Atmaram, Maharaja Bijay Singh's guru, who is frequently represented with precisely these characteristics, and it may be that this is the same man. The visiting noble does not appear to be Bijay Singh, however: the style of his splendid tie-dyed turban is unlike that worn by Bijay Singh; this noble has Shaivite marks on his forehead (in spite of his visit to a Vaishnavite shrine), whereas Bijay Singh is frequently portrayed in his role as avid devotee of Krishna .

Bijay Singh was apparently the only maharaja in the 18th century to commission a major illustrated religious work. This was the Bhagavata Purana, a series of illustrated folios telling the story of Krishna's youth. The paintings are done on two different sizes of paper, the first nine being considerably smaller than the remainder. The paintings themselves vary considerably in style and quality, but many of the less refined paintings are very lively and charming, with the treatment of animals and trees being particularly effective. Bikaneri influence is noticeable in many of the paintings, although we have no direct evidence of the continued presence of Bikaneri artists working at Jodhpur. In spite of the religious subject matter, some of the paintings are based on conventional court scenes, such as one in which Maharaja Bijay Singh pays homage to Shiva and Parvati in a pavilion beside a garden tank.

A genre that had risen to popularity during the eighteenth century was that of portraits of idealized ladies which were often presented as nazar (ceremonial gifts) to the maharaja on auspicious occasions such as his birthday, Holi or Diwali. The ladies were depicted indulging in decorous pastimes such as playing with yoyos, riding, playing the vina or flying kites. Countless examples of these small, attractive paintings are scattered in private and public collections, and they were also done in considerable quantities in Bikaner. The vogue for this type of nazar painting continued during the 19th century, but the treatment of the female subjects underwent quite radical changes.

a rathore noble visiting a holy man, probably baba atmaram. marwar thikhana, c.1760-70. present whereabouts unknown.
A Rathore noble visiting a holy man, probably Baba Atmaram. Marwar thikhana, c.1760-70. Present whereabouts unknown.
illustration to the bhagavata purana.. jodhpur, c.1770-80. mehrangarh museum trust, jodhpur.
Illustration to the Bhagavata Purana.. Jodhpur, c.1770-80. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
a lady calling a bird. jodhpur, dated VS 1821/ AD 1764. Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. Gift of Dr William K. Ehrenfeld.
A lady calling a bird. Jodhpur, dated VS 1821/ AD 1764. Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. Gift of Dr William K. Ehrenfeld.
four ladies on a hawking expedition. jodhpur, c.1790-1800. collection of the late sangram singh nawalgarh.
Four ladies on a hawking expedition. Jodhpur, c.1790-1800. Collection of the late Sangram Singh Nawalgarh.

Maharaja Bhim Singh
(b.1766, r.1793-1803)

Bijay Singh died in 1793, in the midst of a rebellion against him, and especially his influential mistress, by his nobles. His grandson Bhim Singh rushed to usurp the throne in place of Bijay Singh's eldest son Zalam Singh. Support for Bhim Singh was strong, and Zalam was quickly despatched from Jodhpur and forced to flee to Udaipur where he passed the rest of his days in literary pursuits'. In order to ensure security of his place on the throne, Bhim Singh ordered the murders of his two uncles Sher Singh and Sardar Singh, who had a stronger claim than he to power, and also of his cousin Sur Singh, who had been a favourite of Bijay Singh. The only remaining contender for the throne was Man Singh, who had taken refuge in Jalor Fort.

An imposing standing portrait of Bhim Singh is in the British Museum. It shows the ruthless monarch benignly sniffing a rose with one hand while he holds a sword with the other. A rather less conventional painting done for Bhim Singh shows an unusual scene in which the ruler and his nobles, drawn to a disproportionately large scale, attend an elephant fight. This painting is inscribed on the reverse with the name of the artist Amra, also later called Amar Das, who was to become one of the most prolific artists of Bhim Singh's successor, Man Singh. A darbar of Bhim Singh in Bharat Kala Bhavan, Danaras is a conventional and rather dull composition,parently painted under Bikaneri influence or by a Bikaneri artist, which has reverted from the lively individuality of so many 18th-century darbars.

A more imaginative scene, showing Bhim Singh meeting Maharaja Pratap Singh of Jaipur, has a much more lively use of colour and pattern. Bhim Singh's sister married Pratap Singh in 1801, and it is possible that this painting was done at that time. The use of heavy shading around the maharaja's features, presumably to add presence and dignity to the main figure, may be a precursor of Amar Das? experiments with exaggerated shading effects later in the 19th century. The same effect is used in the standing portrait of Bhim Singh, and although neither of these pictures are signed, they may be attributable to Amar Das.

maharaja bhim singh. jodhpur, c.1795. british museum, london.
Maharaja Bhim Singh. Jodhpur, c.1795. British Museum, London.
maharaja bhim singh and nobles attending an elephant fight. jodhpur, c.1795-1800. By Amra. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
Maharaja Bhim Singh and nobles attending an elephant fight. Jodhpur, c.1795-1800. By Amra. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
Maharaja Bhim Singh gretting Maharaja Pratap Singh of Jaipur. Jodhpur, c.1801. Private Collection.
Maharaja Bhim Singh gretting Maharaja Pratap Singh of Jaipur. Jodhpur, c.1801. Private Collection.

Typical of the increasing stiffness that was to become apparent in Jodhpur painting in the 19th century, another portrait of Bhim Singh listening to female musicians on a terrace has somthing of the static elegance that was to become associated with Man singh's artists. Compared to the earlier Nagaur artists' reditions of similar scenes, works like this epitomize the decline of Marwar painting from the imaginative peak of the early and middle 18th century toward the dry, static works of the mid 19th century.

Maharaja Bhim Singh listening to music on a terrace by a lake. Jodhpur, c.1795. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
Maharaja Bhim Singh listening to music on a terrace by a lake. Jodhpur, c.1795. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Several paintings using the now conventional pose of the haraja at archery practice” also prefigure the stiffness of the later 19th century. One of the more interesting of the intings done during Bhim Singh's reign is a hunt scene that shows some of the imaginativeness of the thibana artists who were experimenting with composition and portraiture during the 18th century.

Kunwar Bhim Singh shooting boar. Jodhpur, c.1790. By Amar Das. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
Kunwar Bhim Singh shooting boar. Jodhpur, c.1790. By Amar Das. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

Two of the finest portraits of Bhim Singh's reign are not of the maharaja himself but of his ally, Shimbhudanji of Kalyanpur. In both, he is shown taking his ease with ladies in a palace setting against a backdrop of trees and birds. One is a finished painting, and the other is a sketch for a painting, perhaps done about five years later if we are to judge by Shimbhudanji's appearance. A finished painting based on the sketch is also in Umaid Bhavan Palace, 80 and it bears an incorrect identification of the sitter as Maharaja Ram Singh.

The eighteenth century was the most artistically productive period in Marwar's history, and a great range of painting styles developed, both at Jodhpur itself and in the thikanas, ranging from classic Mughal-influenced darbars to unrefined, idiosyncratic, but powerful images of local nobility. Apart from signed paintings done for the court at Jodhpur, there is very little data to help in identifying the various painting styles, and with the dispersal of local thikana collections, this task is becoming increasingly difficult. Apart from exceptionally well-documented local work such as those of Ghanerao, most minor schools of painting in Marwar have still to be grouped together under usfactorily vague general thikana' heading.

Shimbhudanji of Kalyanpur with Ladies. Jodhpur, c. 1795. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.
Shimbhudanji of Kalyanpur with Ladies. Jodhpur, c. 1795. Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur.

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