Maharaja Ranjit Singh Seated on a Terrace


Maharaja Ranjit Singh Seated on a Terrace

Paintings / Other Asia

By the Sikh school

Place of production:India

Ca. mid-19th century

Opaque watercolor and gold on paper


In India, the art of “miniature painting” developed into its own special genre. These miniature paintings made use of elaborate brushwork and vibrant colors to depict a variety of themes, including Indian myths, Hindu gods such as Shiva and Vishnu, portraits of kings, scenes from history, and love stories. India’s rich history of cultural diversity led to the development of fascinating and distinct regional styles of miniature painting.

This miniature depicts Ranjit Singh, the first king of the Sikh empire.

The Sikh empire ruled over the northwestern region of India, centering on the Punjab region in the first half of the 19th century.

Ranjit Singh’s father was the leader of a small Sikh country in the Punjab region. Ranjit Singh was born in 1780 and succeeded his father around the year 1790. As the new leader, he began to unite the small Sikh countries of the Punjab region. Ranjit Singh used his power to secure stability in the region by expelling the Afghan forces that were invading at the time. In 1801, the Sikh empire was established in the Punjab region, and he became its king.
In this painting, you can see how the artist endeavored to accurately capture Ranjit Singh’s features, including his beard. If you look closely, you can see a halo of light around his head, like a deity, as if showing his dignity as a king.

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