Maharaja Sardar Singh of Bikaner


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 464

Maharaja Sardar Singh (r. 1851–72) is captured here in an extraordinary portrait whose creator was undoubtedly aware of the inroads photography was making among royal patrons. At first glance, the work seems one of almost photographic realism. However, Chotu has carefully manipulated the painting's elements to play two and three-dimensional forms against one another, achieving a slightly surreal effect that is heightened by the composition's commanding symmetry, even down to the cleft beard and the bosses on the shield. The regularity is offset by the asymmetry of the pleated shawl and garment and by the fantastical turban, which is like some postmodern assemblage crowning the brooding visage.

Maharaja Sardar Singh of Bikaner, Chotu, Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper , India (Rajasthan, Bikaner)

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