Unidentified Ruler, Kangra

Opaque pigment on paper heightened with gold

Image 19.7 x 12.5 cm. ; folio 24 x 16.8 cm. Early 19th Century

The substantial figure stands smoking a hookah and supports a hawk on his right hand. Dressed in voluminous saffron tunic and a thick orange shawl finished with simple flower decoration at each end, with the attendant figure behind carrying his silver hookah base. The group is set against a pale yellow background and a streaked red, white and blue sky. Despite the curious inscription on the reverse that would suggest that the portrait is of a storekeeper, the painting is most certainly of a noble from the courts of the Punjab Hills. The portly figure is almost identical in facial features and distinct shape of turban and beard as the unidentified figure in a durbar portrait of Sansar Chand, circa 1800. A closely related portrait depicting Bir Singh of Nurpur from the James Ivory Collection shows a similar composition and use of colour with a streaked sky.