The courtesan Bani Thani, mistress of Maharajah Savant Singh (reg. 1748-64) Kishangarh, circa 1770

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Lot 102
The courtesan Bani Thani, mistress of Maharajah Savant Singh (reg. 1748-64)
Kishangarh, circa 1770

£ 6,000 - 8,000
US$ 7,800 - 10,000
The courtesan Bani Thani, mistress of Maharajah Savant Singh (reg. 1748-64)
Kishangarh, circa 1770
gouache and gold on paper
260 x 180 cm.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Spink and Son, London, 1997.
    Private UK Collection.

    'Bani Thani was not her real name, but a reference to her delicate form, tall and svelte, and fair of complexion. There has been much difference of opinion about her role, even whether a person like her existed at all, but her name comes up each time that one speaks of Kishangarh painting. That aquiline nose, the thrust-out chin, the thin lips, the high arched eyebrows; but, above all, those lotus-bud like eyes that sweep across the face: starting from near the ridge of the nose, they take an upward curve, and end up almost close to the ear. These marked the courtesan's face as much as Radha's whenever we see her in paintings of this period from Kishangarh'. (B. N. Goswamy, The Spirit of Indian Painting: Close Encounters with 101 Great Works 1100-1900, 2014, pp. 452-454).

    If she did in fact exist in reality, her striking features would have been observed, captured, stylised to a heightened degree and exaggerated by the master painter Nihal Chand who was born around 1705-1710 and died in 1782; he was active at Kishangarh over the reign of several rulers during a very long period of circa 1725 to 1782. Our painting is later in date than the famous iconic image of Radha from circa 1740, attributed to Nihal Chand by most scholars and presumably inspired by the features of Bani Thani during its creation. This is in the Kishangarh Durbar Collection and widely published, most recently in Navina Haidar, "Nihal Chand" in Milo C. Beach, Eberhard Fischer and B. N. Goswamy (eds.), Masters of Indian Painting II: 1650-1900, 2011, p. 602, fig. 6. The features here are sharper and more pronounced in every way, with the jutting chin and almond eyes attenuated to a heightened degree of impossible elegance. The more naturalist rendering and softening of features of our painting, though clearly derived from the iconic image, suggest to us the later date of circa 1770.
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