A Mounted Marwari Bridegroom and Three Attendants

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Marwar Region, India, Asia

c. 1715-1720

Opaque watercolor, gold, and silver-colored paint on paper

Sheet: 13 × 8 3/4 inches (33 × 22.2 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 [?]

wedding [x]  

[Add Your Own Tags]

The attire of court noblemen and their attendants is often symbolic of family, clan, court, or religion. All four men depicted in this equestrian portrait wear turbans tied in a distinctive shape, identifying them as members of the Marwar court, a North Indian dynasty. Atop the horse sits a dignified nobleman, distinguished from his attendants by his abundant jewels. The long stick of flowers held in his right hand shows that he is a newly married man. He is probably on his way to the house of his wife’s family where, after feasting, the couple will playfully hit at each other with their flower kebabs, a ritual distinct to the region where this painting was made.

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

    Astride a painted, beribboned white horse, an elegant Marwari aristocrat holds a chhari (a long stick covered with flowers arranged in stripes) and is accompanied by three footmen bearing a small bouquet, assorted weapons and shield, and a white vessel slung over a shoulder on a stick. The chhari reveals that the mounted man is newly married. He is on his way, four days after the wedding, to his bride’s family’s residence. There, after feasting, the couple will playfully beat each other with chharis. The turbans indicate that the men in the painting are from Jodhpur during the first quarter of the eighteenth century.1 The method by which a turban is tied into its distinctive shape is specific to family, clan, court, religion, and/or ethnic group. The type of turban on the men in the painting--swept back, wrapped around the crown of the head with loops falling back into a snood-like roll--is seen only in paintings from the middle of the reign of Maharaja Ajit Singh (1707-24; see Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-47).

    However, the main figure is not Ajit Singh, as there are a number of contemporary inscribed paintings of him that look nothing like the Bellak gallant.2 Ajit Singh had a sharply hooked nose and a backward tilt to his head. From the amount of jewelry the man with the flower kebab wears, and from the quality of the painting, one can conclude that he is one of Ajit Singh’s sons or brothers.

    The painting is in the exquisite, finely worked Jodhpur style of Ajit Singh’s reign, when Mughal influence was great, no doubt partly due to the migration of Mughal artists from the imperial workshop to the smaller courts (see Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004-149-42). The concept of equestrian portraiture derives from seventeenthcentury imperial Mughal paintings, which often include clouds above and occasionally have no ground line.3 The meticulous rendering of textile patterns, drape, and texture seen here also derives from Mughal painting. The Marwari artist of this painting has rendered the brocaded floral designs on the ends of the sashes so realistically that the type of weaving can be recognized as a triple-weave with a gold ground.4 The yellow jama and the trousers of the nobleman are likewise printed with a cypress-tree pattern known from early eighteenth-century textiles.55

    While the textiles, profiles, and skin tones are carefully observed and precisely rendered, the painting is quite flat, with shading applied only to model the jaws of men and beast, and to make the beast’s left rear leg recede slightly. Some notion of space is created by the overlapping figures, but distance is conveyed only by the roiling black clouds. Because the edges of the Bellak painting are gone, one cannot tell if there was once a ground line. Ellen Smart, from Intimate Worlds: Indian Painting from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection (2001), pp. 128-129.

    1. For the same turban type, see Rosemary Crill. Marwar Painting: A History of the Jodhpur Style. Mumbai: India Book House Limited, 1999, p. 78, fig. 50.
    2. Ibid., figs. 29, 32, 34, and especially 36.
    3. See, for instance, Raymond Head, Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, and Busts in the Collection of the Royal Asiatic Society (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1991), p. 144, no. 053.001; plate XIX; and dust jacket; and B. W. Robinson et al. Islamic Painting and the Arts of the Book: The Keir Collection. Edited by B. W. Robinson. London: Faber and Faber, 1976, pp. 260–61, no. v.71, plate 128.
    4. See Chandramani Singh, Textiles and Costumes from the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum (Jaipur: Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum Trust, 1979), plate 35B; M. H. Kahlenberg, “A Study of the Development and Use of the Mughal Patka (Sash) with Reference to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection,” in Pratapaditya Pal, ed. Aspects of Indian Art: Papers Presented in a Symposium at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October, 1970. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972, pp. 153–66, especially plate XCIV.
    5. For one example, see Mattiebelle Gittinger, Master Dyers to the World: Technique and Trade in Early Indian Dyed Cotton Textiles (Washington, D.C.: Textile Museum, 1982), p. 71, no. 60.