Maharaja Serfoji II accompanied by his Minister

India, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

Not on view

This painted portrait of Maharaja Serfoji II (‘Sarabhoji’) (r. 1798-1832) of Thanjavur, South India, is a very rare grand-scaled picture in the late Thanjavur School style. The maharaja is rendered as youthful man in his mid-to-late twenties, sporting a handsome moustache. He is depicted standing in a formal interior treated in the manner of later eighteenth-century European portraiture, gazing directly at the viewer in a manner not traditionally encountered in Indian portraiture. The setting draws directly on European conventions, with heavy drapery with gold trim and tassels drawn back theatrically to frame the subject. Gilded side-tables, one displaying a rosewater bottle and the other a mantle clock, serve as the subject’s identifiers and evoke the quixotic world that Serfoji occupied: an Indian prince educated in English cultural mores by a Danish missionary tutor, governing his people under the watchful eye of the East India Company. A second version of this painting is known, having been gifted by Maharaja Serfoji II to Lady Henrietta Clive on her visit to Thanjavur Palace in 1800. It is now preserved in Powis Castle, Wales, the Clive’s ancestral home.

Maharaja Serfoji II accompanied by his Minister, Opaque watercolor with raised gold on paper, India, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

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