A Prince Smoking a Huqqa

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Jammu and Kashmir, India, Asia
Possibly made in Mankot, Jammu and Kashmir, India, Asia

c. 1700-1725

Opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper

Image: 7 11/16 × 6 3/16 inches (19.5 × 15.7 cm) Sheet: 8 13/16 × 7 3/8 inches (22.4 × 18.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Alvin O. Bellak Collection, 2004

Social Tags [?]

There are currently no user tags associated with this object.

[Add Your Own Tags]

In this portrait from the foothills of the Himalayas, a woven cotton textile, rather than a wool pile carpet, provides the rich floral ground on which a prince kneels while smoking tobacco from a huqqa. The royal figure occupies the central fields of both the textile and the painting, while the two servants are relegated to the borders.

Additional information:
  • PublicationIntimate Worlds: Indian Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection

    Much like the portrait of Dhrab Dev (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-36) in format, here a prince is placed against a deep brown sky tinged with clouds, kneeling on a red-checked carpet bordered in blue with a bold floral scroll. He leans against a huge orange bolster and smokes a silver huqqa, deeply carved with overlapping acanthus-type leaves, that rests on a silver tray in front of him. In his other hand he holds a bundled cloth. He is attended by a servant, who supports the stem of the huqqa and gazes upward at the prince. The tools of huqqa smoking--a bowl for tobacco and pincers--rest nearby. Behind him stands a second servant, in a gray-striped jama with striped pajama pants. He holds a red peacock-feather fan, the prince’s sword wrapped in an elaborate floral textile sheath, a thrusting dagger, and a rumal (handkerchief). The prince himself wears a white jama ornamented with delicate green foliage, his underarms shaded by a yellowish wash and darker flecks. He also wears a gold court sash tied below his pot belly. The turbans of all three men are small and flat, the prince’s with floral strands hanging from the back. All are beardless; the prince has long side curls, indicating his youth. Double horizontal red marks with a dot below on his forehead show his Shakta (Goddess) affiliation.

    Although representing a leisurely scene, this is a formal court portrait. The prince stares straight ahead, frozen with the huqqa mouthpiece poised at his lips. This image falls within a long tradition of formal princely portraiture from not only the Panjab Hills but across India (see Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-45). Just who this ruler is, however, remains speculative. A flyleaf originally attached to this painting was said to have been inscribed with the name of Dhota Dev, who ruled at Mankot from c. 1680/90 to 1710.1 However, a portrait of Dhota Dev in middle age, dating to c. 1690, depicts a paunchy man in a very similar format and somewhat earlier style,2 which would suggest a date of not earlier than c. 1700 for the Bellak painting. However, because this image shows a much younger man, if it were indeed Dhota Dev before his accession, a date no later than c. 1660–70 would be indicated, although this is not supported by the stylistic evidence. An alternate identification, suggested by B. N. Goswamy, is that he is Udai Singh of Chamba (reigned c. 1690–1720). Indeed, the beardless young man with ringlets, high forehead, and pot belly certainly resembles a well-known painting of that ruler in the National Museum in New Delhi.3 This apparent likeness, however, may be only the result of the two using common characteristics for depicting young men. Darielle Mason, from Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection (2001), pp. 102-103.

    1. Terence McInerney (Indian Painting, 1525 - 1825. Exh. cat. London: David Carritt Limited, 1982, p. 72, no. 31) used the inscription to identify the subject as “Dotha [sic] Dev.” It is possible that the flyleaf was misread, and perhaps actually said “Dothain,” which means “second in order of succession,” instead of “Dhota Dev.” However, if this were the case, it would argue against an identification of the subject as Udai Singh (see text below), who was the first-born of Raja Chattar Singh.
    2. W. G. Archer. (Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills: A Survey and History of Pahari Miniature Painting. 2 vols. London: Sotheby Parke Bernet; Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1973, vol. 2, p. 286, Mankot no. 11) dates this work, now in the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai, to c. 1690.
    3. ibid., vol. 2, p. 51, Chamba no. 4.