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Ram Singh I of Kota Hunting Rhinoceros

Attributed to Kota Master A

Not on view

Although badly damaged, this hunting scene is one of the most dramatic known examples of the genre. The elephant as combatant was a favored subject in the court painting of Bundi, from which the Kota school evolved following the creation of that state by Shah Jahan in 1631. The subject of this painting, the elephant and two noble riders, are united as a single force, pitiless in pursuit of their prey. The Kota Master created one of the most powerful renderings of the hunt in Indian art, with skilled tonal modeling of the beasts and restrained use of color that is confined to the elephant’s harnessings and blankets. Stuart Cary Welch wrote of this work that such is its compelling energy that it makes us “feel the thud of feet and the lashing of ropes, and hear the clang of bells.”

About the Artist

Masters of Early Kota
Active ca. 1660–1740

Painting from Kota between the middle of the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth century is very poorly documented, yet there are a handful of pictures bearing artist names, including Niju or Shaykh Taju. Stuart Cary Welch assigned the pictures from Kota and Bundi, all of them very similar in both style and subject matter — generally hunting or battle scenes — to three artists: the Master of the Elephants, the Kota Master, and Shaykh Taju. Milo Beach’s recent research has resulted in a different set of attributions. He recognized the Hada Master (active in Bundi and subsequently in Kota) and three styles from Kota set by individual artists whom he refers to as Artists A, B, and C. The B group shows the influence of the artist Niju.

Artists like the Hada Master had a major influence on the development of painting in Kota, in both style and content. For example, motifs such as the lion climbing a tree in Ram Singh I of Kota hunting at Makundgarh were prefigured in the repertoire of Bundi painting. Yet the technique is different. Short brushstrokes predominate, notably in the foliage, and also wet washes, as seen in the bushes in the background. A most unusual technique was used to render the water splashing against the hunting platform; there, the pigments were sprayed onto the paper rather than brushed. The faces, by contrast, are formulaic, and they can be traced back to late works of the Hada Master. Instead of occupying the foreground, the actual hunting scene is embedded in a detailed landscape.

Ram Singh I of Kota Hunting Rhinoceros, Attributed to Kota Master  A, Opaque watercolor on paper, India (Kota, Rajasthan)

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