A PORTRAIT OF MAHARAJA MADHO SINGH ATTRIBUTED TO SAHIB RAM
- A PORTRAIT OF MAHARAJA MADHO SINGH
ATTRIBUTED TO SAHIB RAM
- Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper
Multiple necklaces of white pearls and emeralds flow over his sheer semi-transparent mauve and gold jama. His finely trimmed upturned mustachio forming an abstract curving interplay with his stippled ax-blade sideburn and shadowlike hint of a beard. A mauve and gold pagri (turban) with highly ornamented aigrette contains strands of large emeralds and gold. Depicted bust length with his right arm flexed over a white and gold embroidered coverlet over a window ledge.
The artist Sahib Ram is perhaps best known to us through two large pinpricked (pounced for transfer) cartoon drawings on paper, originally published by Coomaraswamy in 1912, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art "A Female Dancer in the Role of Krishna" (accession no. 18.85.2) and "Singer and Sarangi Player" (accession no. 18.85.4) both firmly attributed to Sahib Ram, the principal artist of the painting workshop of Jaipur. That Sahib Ram was held in high esteem by his patrons is evidenced by the 50 Bighas awarded to him in 1789 (Pratap 1988) and his numerous servants and assistants.
Little is known personally about the artist other than his name - associated with the royal suratkhana (workshop) active during the reigns of Maharaja Madho Singh I and his son Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh (r. 1778-1803) and that he was likely the atelier master. His studio appears quite prolific - with numerous portraits and drawings extant - likely employing a number of artist colleagues and subordinates including Ramji Das, Sitaram and several others, who worked in close proximity and style to each other.
However as suggested by Aitken (2011) idiosyncracies found in some Jaipur paintings from the period may help serve as a link to the Coomaraswamy drawings and thus to the hand of Sahib Ram himself. For example the abstracted nub in the inside of the eye (sometimes tinged with a hint of red - as in the present painting), the subtle shading under the chin, the curves and folds of the ear and nose, the abstracted curves of the hair and overall clarity of execution all appear to be consistant stylistic markers of Sahib Ram and are all features discernable in our painting.
A painting fragment from the Ross-Coomaraswamy Collection in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (accession no. 17.3080) depicting "a woman's hands with a flask" includes a similarly flexed elbow with fleshy hands and mauve with gold patterning in the window coverlet - very likely by the same brush as the present portrait, is from a group of drawings attributed to Sahib Ram and the royal workshop of Jaipur.
Refer to Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Rajput Painting, New York, 1912, pl. IX and pl. X; A. K. Das, "Activities of the Jaipur Suratkhana 1750-68" in John Guy (ed.) Indian Art and Connoisseurship, New Delhi, 1995; Rita Pratap, The Organization of Suratkhana of Jaipur and Its Celebrated Artist Sahibram, Shodak, 1988, pp. 27-35; and V.S. Srivastava (ed.), Cultural Contours of India: Dr. Satya Prakash Felicitation Volume, 1981, A.K. Das (essay) pp. 317-318.
For further discussion about the artist see Molly Emma Aitken (essay), "Sahib Ram" pp. 623-640 in M.C. Beach, E. Fischer, B. N. Goswamy, Masters of Indian Painting 1650-1900, Artibus Asiae Sup 48 I/II, 2011.