Siva (Indian, active 18th century)
Ari Singh with Courtiers, 1762
Colors and gilding on paper 7 3/8 in. x 9 1/4 in. (18.73 cm x 23.5 cm)
Crocker Art Museum Purchase with funds from the Spencer Joe Fund2007.12
By the 18th century, the sultanates of the Deccan and the Hindu rulers of the northwestern areas of the Punjab Hills and Rajasthan had become patrons of the arts. Though their courts never supported the large number of artists that a ruler such as the Mughal Akbar (r. 1556–1605) had in his entourage, distinctive art styles nevertheless developed in each of these courts. While earlier Rajput artists had painted religious texts, beginning in the 1660s, more court activities and portraits appeared. These portraits relied closely enough on the patron’s actual features that many figures are identifiable.
The Rajasthani state of Mewar was one of the last courts to develop portrait painting. Artists there chose instead to continue painting religious and literary subject matter of the preMughal period. Portraits tended to be formulaic, evoking the virility of the ruler or his dominance over his subjects. Still, artists often adhered to a true likeness of the ruler, as in this painting, where one can recognize the features of Ari Singh (r. 1761–1773) that appear in other portraits of that ruler.
Ari Singh and his two young sons are seated on a gilded lion throne with courtiers in attendance; a servant holds a hookah for him. The minimalist interior, with only the throne marking the space, is typical of Rajput painting. Delicate, sheer over-garments, the embossed jewels adorning Ari Singh, and the gilding on sashes and robes denote opulence. The painting is dated and signed by the artist, Siva.