Objects in Focus, January 2021
Prince Bhawani Singh of Sitamau (r. 1867-1885) with his escort out hunting during the reign of his grandfather Maharaja Raj Singh
Sitamau, Madhya Pradesh, dated V.S. 1912/1855 A.D.
Gouache on paper with gold
14 3/8 by 18 ½ in.; 36.5 by 47 cm. painting
SOLD TO THE MINNEAPOLIS INSTITUTE OF ART, 2010
In this large and vibrant processional scene, the young prince Bhawani Singh, heir apparent of Sitamau state, rides his imperious charger at a vigorous trot, head high and seated well back in his saddle. Returning from a hunting expedition as indicated by the two hounds and their keeper, his stallion wears impressive armour and he is wearing a mail suit and steel helmet whilst brandishing a sword, a painted shield at his side.
Other attendants and courtiers are identified but he only other person wearing mail, an indication of status, is Maharaja Bhopal Singh, who appears in the lower right-hand corner.
When first discovered in the 1970s, the few known paintings depicting the ruling family of Sitamau were originally attributed to Ratlam or Indore. They provide a revealing picture of the extent to which the traditional values of Rajput courtly life were still vigorously maintained, in spite of British rule, well into the mid-nineteenth century.
The central Indian state of Sitamau was founded in 1701 by Raja Keshav Singh, younger son of Raja Ram Singh of Ratlam and grandson of Raja Ratan Singh, the founder of Ratlam state also in Madhya Pradesh.
Little or nothing survives of Sitamau painting until the very end of the 18th century. This painting belongs to a small series variously dated between 1825 and 1855. Four are now in the Binny Collection at the San Diego Museum of Art and a fifth, signed by the artist Pyara Chand, is in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Two further Sitamau portraits, formerly in the Ehrenfeld Collection are by the same artist and can be dated to about 1847 when they were presented at court.
Sotheby's, Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures, London, 10th December 1974, lot 86
Galerie Soustiel, Paris, 1974-1983: Soustiel, J. and M.-C. David, Miniatures Orientales de l’Inde III, Paris, 1983, p.107, no. 127
Dtr. R.S., Paris, 1983-2007: Peschetearu-Badin, Dessins et Tableau, Miniatures Indiennes et Persanes, Paris, 12.XII.07, lot 95