Rao Ratan of Bundi Atop His Horse
Artist/maker unknown, Indian
Rajasthan is known for its proud martial spirit, epitomized in this commanding posthumous portrait of Rao Ratan of Bundi (reigned 1608-31). It has been attributed to an artist dubbed the "Kota Master," a virtuoso painter active between 1675 and 1735 at Kota, which was once part of neighboring Bundi. The painting is one of the earliest known Rajput equestrian portraits, and the formal lineup of king and attendants reflects the standard Mughal equestrian portrait type. However, instead of the cool green favored by the Mughals, the artist has warmed the background to a wonderful pea-soup green. Elements from the Deccan region to the south of Rajasthan, such as the front attendant's dress and dark skin and the white scarf held as an emblem of honor, refer to Rao Ratan having been sent by the Mughals to lead their army in the Deccan. Such economic, political, and social interactions occurred constantly among the courts of north India and the Deccan, allowing for the vibrant artistic borrowings and blendings that continually reinvigorated regional painting traditions.