A Princess Applying Kajal

Kangra, India, 19th Century

Opaque pigment on paper heightened with gold

Lost in the beauty of her own reflection smoking a hookah, a voluptuous princess is attended to by several young maidens. Her long thick black hair tapers down her back as an attendant combs it. Seated against gold embroidered bolsters wearing a delicate saffron yellow sari, she is adorned with elaborate gem-set gold ear ornaments, armbands, bracelets and necklaces. In the courtyard attendants prepare for the arrival of her lover. This painting follows the format of numerous paintings where a princess is compared to Radha preparing for the arrival of her lover Krishna. The verse on the reverse narrates how she has anticipated his arrival in her dreams. The final line may even identify the lady as Nanda Kumar wife of Thakur but part of the text remains indecipherable. Compare with a closely related early version of a ‘Lady Applying kajal’ in the National Museum, New Delhi (59.148/2) in R.C. Sharma et al., Alamkara: 500 Years of Indian Art, Singapore, 1994, no. 66, p. 110. Also see a very closely related compositions in W.G. Archer, Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills, London, 1973, vol.II, nos. 55, 59 and 60 pp. 224 and 226. The latter also painted in an oval format.