Stand alone portraits of elephants were initially depicted by the Mughals from the seventeenth century onwards. A number of named elephant portraits are in the Hodgkin collection (see ibid. nos.20-25).
This late lively painting of a running elephant is executed in the same vein as Kotah elephant paintings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The elephant is shown caparisoned with a brightly coloured saddlecloth, secured by trappings and bells that were not only decorative but were used "to warn passers-by and give them time to get out of the way; for when an elephant runs, or merely walks, he does not stop like a horse would." (Topsfield 2012, p.64). The elephant in the current lot is shown in his mast ('drunken, intoxicated') season, indicated by a thick dark discharge secreting from his crescent-shaped temporal gland. Depictions of elephants in their mast condition became a favoured subject of the Kotah artist as it represented the elephant at the peak of their strength. (ibid. pp.194-196). The heavily shaded contours and dynamic linear swirls around the eyes are indebted to the seventeenth century "Master of the Elephants", originally identified by Welch and reappraised by Beach (See Beach 2011, p.477).