The princess has painted the prince in a long white ‘choga’ – a gown descending down the feet with full sleeves, tight-fitted breast-part and flared skirt, but seems not to approve this colourless whiteness of the prince’s ensemble, perhaps not finding in it the intensity of emotions that reveals in colours. The prince’s likeness : his face, figure and costume, has been represented and the portrait is almost complete but the princess is still holding her brush over it, close to the painted figure’s heart, as if meditating how this formless, colourless white be transformed into the love’s colours and kindle into his heart the same intensity of love as she has for him. After the burst of Vallabha’s Pushtimarga cult in Rajasthan most of the princes not only had Krishna as their principal deity but many chose to style themselves like Krishna painting them in blue, wearing symbolic ‘pitambara’ – yellow garment and even peacock feather cresting their crowns. However, not merely in pursuance to this cult, the princess seems to have styled the figure of the prince like Lord Krishna to see in him similar intense passion of love as Krishna had for Radha.
The princess, engaged in rendering the portrait of her loving prince, has been represented as seated inside a large window fabricated with beautifully carved pilasters and arching slabs worked elegantly with gold. As suggests marble trellises the window has a trellised balcony beyond it. The window has over it a maroon curtain printed with gold which hung folded on its upper side. It is overlooking a lush green garden with a large variety of trees : plantains, a number of varieties of Sapta-parni, cypresses, and a few shrubs. Far beyond is the blue sky with bottom covered with orange-red-yellow clouds. The princess is seated over a carpet laid along the floor with an exceptionally huge bolster supporting her figure. Besides supporting her figure on it she is using the bolster also as the table for her canvas. Close to the bolster are lying on a side table two golden jars and on the floor a pot with water and some trays of colours.
The painting has been rendered using Kishangarh art idiom of Rajasthani painting as it evolved around mid-eighteenth century when with its great magnificence, stylistic maturity, iconographic perfection, aesthetic beauty and rare lustre it influenced all art styles in Rajasthan and even beyond. Kishangarh was a late style of Rajasthani miniature painting but under the patronage of one like king Sawant Singh, in the hands of artists like Nihal Chand and a model of beauty like Bani-thani it soon touched all-times heights and emerged as the most fascinating art style anywhere in India. The artist of this masterpiece has rendered his figure of the princess pursuing the same model of beauty as Nihal Chand had created in the portrait of Bani-thani : tall slim fish like eyes, upwards slanting eyebrows, a tiny lock of hair curling down the ears, sharp pointed nose, small thin delicate lips, a mildly projecting chin, thick black hair falling on shoulders and a neck with a mild curve, besides a slender figure and thoughtful face. She is wearing a ‘choli’ – breast-wear, ‘odhini’
– upper wear, largely transparent, and ‘lehenga’ – the entire set characteristically Rajasthani.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.
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