The Court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, 1864

The Court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, 1864


Gouache heightened with gold and silver by Bishan Singh,
Amritsar or Lahore, Punjab

A3 (420 x 297 mm)
170 gsm illustration printing paper (specially chosen for its excellent anti-aging and anti-yellowing properties)
This print is a faithful reproduction of the original
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About the Print

European visitors to Maharaja Ranjit Singh's dominions often spoke of the splendour of his cosmopolitan court and in this single artwork, one can see that the artist has masterfully brought together over a hundred portraits in the setting of the Lahore Fort.

Bishan Singh (1836–c 1900) entered this work along with nine other paintings into the Punjab Exhibition of arts and crafts held at Lahore in 1864. His 'Durbars of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Maharaja Sher Singh, and the Municipal Committee of Amritsar' attracted the attention of the exhibition organiser, B. H. Baden-Powell. This British civil servant (and later Chief Court Judge in Lahore) regarded them as 'the most clever and truthful paintings' on display. He went on to say that ‘the perspective of the buildings is incorrect but the figure drawing is admirable. The colour is tasteful and rich, the likenesses are good and the expression of the faces is varied and truthful’. Bishan Singh took home the top prize in the paintings class.

Bishan Singh belonged to a family of skilled nineteenth-century carpenter-artists operating primarily in Lahore and Amritsar, but also in neighbouring princely states such as Kapurthala, Patiala and Nabha. Nearly all of his known works on paper are characterised by scenes of large gatherings of humanity expressed through an exuberance of colour combined with an exquisite attention to detail. The scale of each scene is often overwhelming, yet details abound in individualistic portraits and a delicacy of treatment is extended to the attire, accoutrements, furnishings and animals that play a supporting role.

Image credit: © Toor Collection

Print series: Empire of the Sikhs

Published in: In Pursuit of Empire: Treasures from the Toor Collection of Sikh Art by Davinder Toor with an introduction by William Dalrymple