Mian Kishan Singh of Reh (r. 1859-1879)
By Phagu, Nurpur or Reh, 1860
Opaque pigments with gold on paper
Image: 17.5 x 12.8 cm
Folio: 23.1 x 17.5 cm
Inscription: (front) shri mian sahib sri kishan singh ji tasveer hai ji. Chitere Phagu likhi ra hai ji shubh karam.
Translation: This is the portrait of exalted Mian Kishan Singh ji. It is painted by the painter Phagu. Bliss. (translated by Vijay Sharma)
Mian Kishan Singh, who is shown here against a rather vibrant sun drenched background, enjoying his hookah, was the greatgrandson of Raja Indar Singh, who relocated to Reh from Nurpur after marrying a Kangra princess. A portrait of his father, Mian Ishwari Singh of Reh, is also included in this exhibition (cat. 31). It is interesting to note that he seems to suffer from goiter, an ailment common in the hills at the time.
Portraiture in the hill states continued to flourish during the second half of the 19th century, with exciting examples being produced for patrons such as Raja Pratap Chand of Lambagraon, Raja Jai Singh and his son Raja Raghunath Singh of Guler and Raja Ranbir Singh of Jammu and Kashmir. Our picture appears to come from a late flowering of painting by a family of artists from Nurpur1 in a style that one typically associates with a slightly earlier period. Archer notes2 that two Nurpur artist families are known to have been active in the early nineteenth century, however, the painter Phagu is unrecorded.
1. Compare to a portrait of Raja Bir Singh of Nurpur (r. 1805-1846) Aijazuddin, Pahari Paintings & Sikh Portraits, Nurpur, 5. Also see catalog number 31.
2. Archer, Indian paintings from the Punjab Hills: A survey and history of Pahari miniature painting, V. I, Pg. 404.