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Kunvar Anop Singh Hawking

Attributed to Bagta

Not on view

This portrait of Kunvar Anop Singh on horseback, holding his hunting falcon in a gloved hand and with a kill in the foreground, is a study in opulence; witness the prince’s bejeweled turban and other finery. It is also a study in obesity; the horse appears to visibly bow under his master’s mighty form. Bagta played with the rider’s corpulence, making rider and horse seem exaggerated almost to the point of caricature. Anop Singh’s formal attire is a reminder that hawking served as a status indicator in the later Rajput world, as it had done previously in Iranian and Mughal court culture. This portrait was painted shortly before the subject’s untimely death at age twenty-two.

About the Artist

Active ca. 1761–1814, first at the court in Udaipur up to ca. 1769 during the reign of Ari Singh (r. 1761–73) then at Devgarh under Rawat Jaswant Singh (r. 1737–76), Rawat Ragho Das (r. 1776–86), and Rawat Gokul Das II (r. 1786–1821), father of Chokha and Kavala

Mewar painting from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries featured large format works with well established formulaic compositions and defined conventions for rendering figure types and architectural settings, and these left relatively little room for individual artistic innovation. Bagta underwent his training in the large ateliers in Udaipur, and he must have recognized early in his career that this environment left him little scope for pictorial inventions of his own. It is apparent that at the court workshop an artist’s personal interests were subordinated to a well-defined house style. Based on Bagta’s early dated work, it appears that in 1769, he left Udaipur and settled in Devgarh to the north, where his style suddenly underwent a drastic change, as if no longer constricted as it was at Udaipur.

His portraits of Anop Singh, his first major patron and a prince known for his extreme corpulence, are so individualized that they have almost become caricatures. These works exhibit sharply contrasting colors and are characterized by frequent reworking of the principal figures and a minimalist simplication of the surrounding details that focuses attention on the principal subject. In one of the artist’s larger scale pictures, Rawat Gokul Das at Singh Sagar Lake Palace, the landscape dominates in a manner most uncharacteristic of Indian painting. This work provides an oblique and aerial view of lake and surrounding landscape, with the human presence marginalized. The topographical treatment suggests Bagta is in part evoking the European cartographic tradition. In this majestic landscape, Gokul Das is portrayed a number of times, shooting waterbirds or lounging in the lake palace. The composition is both daring and convincingly executed, incorporating expressively painted rocks and trees and such details as horses bathing in the lake.

Bagta also painted hunting and court audience scenes that are more expressive in coloring and attest to his range. This extraordinary artist produced his last dated work in 1814. His son Chokha had become the main artist painting in Devgarh around 1811, after having undergone training, as his father had, in Udaipur.

Kunvar Anop Singh Hawking, Attributed to Bagta (active ca. 1761–1814), Opaque watercolor on paper, India (Devgarh, Mewar, Rajasthan)

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