Balwant Singh Hunts a Tiger

Attributed to Nainsukh Indian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 692

The meaning of this panoramic colored drawing is unclear. Ostensibly it is a straightforward depiction of a royal hunt in the Mughal mode, but the portentous size of the prey, a majestic tiger, and the fact that it is surrounded by diminutively scaled and symmetrically arrayed equestrian hunters raises many questions. Nainsukh was the premier painter of the Guler court in the Punjab Hills in the mid-eighteenth century, and the painting features the artist’s lifelong patron, Raja Balwant Singh (r. 1723–63), seen dressed in hunting green. Although it was customary for court artists to accompany their patrons on such ventures and record their achievements, the curious construction suggests that this picture was not made from direct observation but, rather, may reflect an internal world, perhaps a dream that the raja recounted and wanted to record.

Balwant Singh Hunts a Tiger, Attributed to Nainsukh (active ca. 1735–78), Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, India, Himachal Pradesh, Guler

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