A street scene with Ranjit Singh, 1838, watercolour
Lot 349
Sikh interest: Maharajah Ranjit Singh (reg. 1780-1839) in procession riding on an elephant through a bazaar, passing a jeweller's shop and a Jain monk in the foreground Company School, North India, circa 1840
Sold for £60,000 (US$ 100,849) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Sikh interest: Maharajah Ranjit Singh (reg. 1780-1839) in procession riding on an elephant through a bazaar, passing a jeweller's shop and a Jain monk in the foreground
Company School, North India, circa 1840
gouache on paper, inscribed lower left in French Souvenir a [...], framed
180 x 210 mm.

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Private collection, Paris.

    This may be an early work by Binasa Singh (see Eyre and Hobhouse Ltd., Company Painting, London 1982, no. 46 (illus); Hartnoll & Eyre Ltd., Indian Painting during the British Period 1770-1880, London, n.d., nos. 7-8 (illus.)).

    Ranjit Singh, the 'Lion of the Punjab', often compared with the great Mughal emperor Akbar (1542-1607), was a hugely charismatic and effective leader who was able to unite the Punjab during his reign. He was partly paralysed and blinded in one eye through smallpox during his early childhood, but was a fine example of an old Indian proverb that believes a one-eyed man is more knowing. He succeeded his father at the age of twelve and was anointed Maharaja in 1801. Ranjit Singh, although a devout Sikh, welcomed, as did Akbar, other faiths to his court and was reported to have said that 'God wanted me to look upon all religions with one eye, that is why he took away the light from the other'.

    Emily Eden, sister of Lord Auckland, the Governor-General, who met Ranjit Singh in 1838, was fascinated by the court and wrote in her memoirs that Ranjit Singh had a favourite drink, a mixture of corn liquor, opium, musk, and the juice of raw meat, 'a drink of liquid fire of which no European can touch a drop.'

    For further references to Ranjit Singh, see:
    S. C. Welch, Room for Wonder: Indian Painting during the British Period 1760-1880, New York 1978, no. 54.
    K. Singh, N. Poovaya-Smith and K. Ponnapa, Warm, Rich and Fearless: a brief survey of Sikh culture, Bradford 1991.
    S. Stronge, 'The Arts of the Court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh'; and F. S. Aijazuddin, 'European Views of the Punjab', in S. Stronge (ed.), The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms, London 1999.
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