Archives

Maharaja Jam Vibhaji with His Son Kumar Jaswantji Vibhaji

Maharaja Jam Vibhaji (1827, r.1852-1895)
with His Son Kumar Jaswantji Vibhaji (1882, r.1895-1906)
Nawanagar, 1890

Opaque pigments with gold on paper
Image: 41 x 31.3 cm
Folio: 44.5 x 36 cm

Inscription: (front) L to R – ……… Puthan, Maharaj Kumarsaheb Shri Jaswantsingh ji Saheb, Maharaja Jam Shri 7 Vibhaji Saheb 16

Vibhaji was the only one of his father’s seven sons to outlive him. He would succeed his father, Ranmalji, in 1852. The relative peace of his father’s reign did not continue into his. Soon after his accession, the Waghers of Okhamandal would rise up against the Marathas of Baroda, who were unable to quell the rebellion. The Waghers, successful in their battles against the Marathas of Baroda, and the British who had come to help would soon set their sights on Jamnagar. In the battle that took place, Vibhaji and his men managed to defeat the Waghers.

It is said that Vibhaji once spotted a Sidi woman by the name of Dhanbai in the local marketplace and asked her to join his harem. She agreed on the condition that he makes her his wife and that her three sisters were allowed to join her in his harem. Very soon afterward, in 1856, a young boy by the name of Kalobha was born. His birth occurred so soon after the two were married that people began to question if Vibhaji was actually the boy’s father. Kalobha was raised as the heir until 1877 when poison was found in Vibhaji’s food and an investigation found that Kalobha was the one that was behind the attempted poisoning.

At this point, Vibhaji thought it best to adopt. So he turned to his cousin, Jhalam Singh Ji who offered Vibhaji one of his four sons. It was not long after the adoption that the boy was found dead. Many believed that Dhanbai had him poisoned. Another boy was adopted, again from Jhalam Singh Ji. This time it was his grandson Ranjit Singh Ji. Ranjit was raised away from Jamnagar to prevent him from suffering a similar fate as his uncle.

Around the same time another boy, Jaswant Ji, who is shown seated with his father in our portrait, was born to one of Dhanbai’s sisters. The sisters pleaded with Vibhaji to have the Bombay government recognize Jaswant Ji as the legitimate heir of Jamnagar. Lord Ripon, the Viceroy of India, who held Vibhaji in high regard, agreed to his demands. Jam Jaswant Singh Ji died at the age of 24, without an heir. Six months later the adopted son, Ranjit Singh, who had attended boarding school in Cambridge and become a world class cricketer, would return to India and succeed as the Maharaja of Jamnagar.

Vibhaji presented a rhinoceros hide shield, or dhal, to King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, during his tour of India in 1875-761. In 1877, the year of the attempt on his life, Jam Vibhaji attended the Imperial Assemblage at Delhi where he received a banner from His Excellency the Viceroy and Governor General, and his salute was increased from eleven to fifteen guns. In January 1878 the Jam Sahib was made K.C.S.I, which can be seen in the following picture (cat. 51).

An equestrian portrait of Vibhaji in his youth was recently offered on the London Market2 and a portrait of Vibhaji enjoying a nautch performance by the same artist is in the Louvre Abu Dhabi3. Another portrait showing him very much as he appears in our pictures was recently exhibited in London4.

1. Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 11458.
2. Bonhams, Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art, 9/18/2013, Lot 164.
3. Losty, Indian Miniatures from the James Ivory Collection, Cat. 15.
4. Christie’s, The Collection of Paul F. Walter Online, 21 -28 September 2017, LOT 629.

Nawab Sikandar Begum Sahiba

Nawab Sikandar Begum Sahiba (1817, r. 1860-68)
North India, 1880

Opaque pigments with gold on paper
Image: 19.5 x 12.5 cm
Folio: 35.5 x 27.5 cm

After a photograph by James Waterhouse, ‘Her Highness the Nawab Secunder Begum, K.S.I.’ (Bhopal, November 1862)

Inscription: (front) Portrait of Sikandar Begum of Bhopal; (back) She was born in Bhopal in 1816 AD. Her father was Afghani Pathan. She was married to her cousin brother Jehangir. She died in 1868 AD.

Upon the death of Sikandar Begum’s husband, Nawab Jahangir Mohammad Khan, in 1844, Shah Jahan Begum (cat. 42), their only surviving child, was recognized as ruler of Bhopal. Since her daughter was a child of only 6 at the time, Sikandar Begum acted as regent and wielded executive powers of the state. The British would recognize Sikandar as the Nawab of Bhopal in 1860. She supported the British during the Mutiny of 1857 and was awarded Knight Grand Commander in 1961 for her efforts.

Sikandar is remembered fondly as a woman of great vision. During her reign, a number of reforms were made in Bhopal including improvements in defense, administration, and revenue. She built railways, hospitals, schools, and an infrastructure for water and gas lighting. Sikandar was also the first Indian monarch to perform Hajj in 1863. She died 5 years later and was succeeded by her daughter Shah Jahan Begum.

Sambhaji Rao Angre

Sambhaji Rao Angre (d. 1848)
By Muhammad Baksh, Gwalior, 1876

Opaque pigments with gold on paper pasted on cloth
Image: 79 x 62.5 cm
Folio: 83 x 68 cm

Inscription: (front) Ba Qalam Muhammad Baksh Musawar, samvat 1932

Sambhaji Rao Angre was a descendant of legendary Maratha Navy chief Kanhogi Angre, who fought against British, Dutch and Portuguese naval interests in the Arabian Sea with great success during the 18th century. The Angre family was originally from Alibag, in present day Maharashtra. In search of opportunity, Sambhaji’s father, Mawji and his uncle, Baboo, moved to Gwalior to live with their sister, Mena Bai, who was the mother of Maharaja Daulat Scindia.

Sambhaji’s uncle, Baboo, went on to become an important member of Maharaja Daulat Scindia’s court, serving as Vazir. He was gifted Bhowrasa, Neori and Panbihar in jagir for his services. Since Baboo Angre was childless, he adopted his brother son, Sambhaji. Right away, Sambhaji earned a reputation for curbing the widespread banditry in Malwa. He would go on to serve as Vazir for Maharaaj Jankoji Rao Scindia II and Maharaja Jayajirao Scindia (cat. 46).

Sambhaji was very much responsible for Jayajirao becoming Maharaja. It is said that as Jankoji lay on his death bed, with no male heir to succeed him, Sambhaji road out to find a child from the extended family for Jankoji to adopt so that the British couldn’t evoke the doctrine of lapse. He stopped upon a group of young boys playing marbles and noticed one of them making a particularly difficult shot from an extended distance. Sambhaji took it as a sign and grabbed the eight-year-old boy and hurried him to the palace so that the Pandits could perform the adoption rituals. The process was completed on February 7th of 1843, shortly before Jankoji passed away.

While the artist of this large posthumous portrait, Muhammad Bakhsh, has not previously been recorded, he may be related to the celebrated 19th century Gwalior court artist, Imam Bakhsh. Our artist’s selective incorporation of shadows, here applied to the muhnal (mouth-piece) of Sambhaji’s hookah, is a feature also found in the work of Imam Bakhsh. A similar portrait of Sambhaji Rao Angre, which is certainly by the same artist, was published in C.B. Burrows, 1901, Representative Men of Central India. Sambhaji Rao Angre’s palatial home, Sambhaji Vilas, in the old town of Gwalior, still stands and is currently being operated as a guesthouse by his descendants.

Baba Shree Padma Pant

Baba Shree Padma Pant
by Bhairav
Gwalior, 1874

Opaque pigments with gold on paper
Image: 33 x 24.6 cm

Inscription: (back) Baba Shri Padma Pant Tasubanjana, Tasdik Aghan vid 14 Shanivaar 1831, dastakhat Bhairav.

The handsomely caparisoned horse with its regal feathered plum might lead one to believe that the sitter in our portrait was a royal figure, however the inscription on the verso informs us that he is a well learned and respected elder courtier. He must have been, judging from his clothing and the general style of the painting, a member of Jayaji Rao Sindhia (cat. 46), the Maharaja of Gwalior’s inner circle. Padma is shown here wearing his angarkha untied to help combat the scorching summer heat. A slightly earlier portrait of Jayaji Rao Sindhia in the Binney Collection at the SDMA depicts a young Jayaji Rao Sindhia preparing for a hunt1. The style of the SDMA picture, which is signed by the leading Gwalior artist of the time, Imam Bakhsh, is fairly similar to our portrait. One notices the peculiar and highly decorative manner in which the horse’s mane is braided in both pictures.

1. 1990.1023.

Maharaja Jayajirao Scindia

Maharaja Jayajirao Scindia (1834, r. 1843-1886)
Probably Gwalior, 1870-75

Opaque pigments on paper
Image: 18.5 x 12.2 cm

This portrait of Maharaja Jayajirao Scindia is very similar to an engraving that appeared in the Illustrated London News in 1875 accompanying a story on the Prince of Wales’s visit to India in that year. The following was written of Scindia there:

It has been observed on a former occasion when speaking of the Maharajah Holkar of Indore, that these Maharatta potentates of Western India are now valuable allies of the British Government. Scindia was overthrown in the Sepoy War of 1858, by a rebellion headed by Tantia Topee and the Dowager Princess of Jhansi, at the instigation of the Nana Sahib. He was restored by the British force under Sir Hugh Rose, now Lord Strathnairn, who stormed the rock-fortress of Gwalior. The Mahrattas, till their defeat by Lord Lake and other British commanders, at the beginning of this century, possessed the greater part of the Deccan, and Poonah was the capital of their dominion.

Unlike his ancestors, Scindia was on good terms with the British and in 1861 he was created a Knight Grand Commander of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of the Indian Empire. He is seen here wearing the Insignia of the Star of India on his black toga.

A Bengali Man Seated in a Chair

A Bengali Man Seated in a Chair
Jaipur, 1860-80

Opaque pigments with gold on paper
Image: 18.5 x 12.4 cm
Folio: 21.3 x 15.7 cm

A Bengali man is shown seated in a European style wooden chair with a red shawl draped around his shoulders. His turban is of a sort that was considered fashionable in Bengal during the 19th century. A crudely drawn blue and red curtain hangs above. While the subject of our portrait is luxuriously dressed and finely jeweled, there is little offered here to point towards his identity. Bengali renaissance leaders Ram Mohan Roy and Dwarkanath Tagore come to mind, however, in the absence of inscriptional evidence, one cannot be sure.

Raja Shamsher Prakash

Raja Shamsher Prakash (1846, r. 1856-1898) with His Wife and Child
Simur, 1869

Opaque pigments with gold on paper
Image: 20 x 24 cm
Folio: 26.4 x 30.2 cm

The eerily symmetric interior and border decoration featured in this composition create the perfect frame for the three subjects of this elegant family portrait. The man, who was identified by an English inscription on the original frame of the work as Raja Shamsher Prakash, smokes from his hookah, while his wife holds their young child, Surendra Prakash. The child has just dropped his rattle, perhaps more interested in the apple in his father’s hand.

The small state of Simur is known to have had an active painting tradition throughout the first half of the 19th century, however no paintings as late as the present example have so far come to light. The young Surendra Prakash could be no older than two years of age here allowing us to date the work to around 1869.

Mian Kishan Singh of Reh

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.