Since Independence, the princes and regional rulers of India have mostly been seen as anachronistic figures, too closely associated with the former colonial government, and often a byword for extravagance, sybaritic lifestyles, and mild despotism. When they were stripped of their privy purses in 1971, there were more protests in Britain than in India. No serious efforts have been made to put these men, and a few women, in a pictorial context, to analyze the differing styles of portraiture favoured by them, and the motives behind the pictures.
Portraits in Princely India examine the rulers at war, at play, in the durbar, visiting shrines, temples, and mosques, and receiving ambassadors. The stories behind the portraits: why they were commissioned, who commissioned them, what the rulers wished to say, are also examined. The arrival of European painters in the late 18th century presented a new opportunity for Indian rulers to commission self-portraits of a different kind, and also led indigenous artists to experiment in new styles and mediums.
Photography brought further opportunities for the princes to have their portraits taken in different situations. Here is a wealth of paintings and photographs- especially lesser-known provincial pictures-that are subjected to modern, critical analysis while presenting handsome images to the reader.
About the Author:
Rosie Llewellyn-Jones is an independent scholar specializing in 18th and 19th century India, and the editor and author of a number of books on the subject.