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22 January 2010
Portrait of Mewar



Portrait of Mewar ruler Maharana Karan Singh I (1620-1678). Unknown artist, Rajput / Mewar style.
Udaipur, circa 1680
Photograph. Original painting on cotton cloth, backed with wood. 196 x 142 cm
© Trustees of the British Museum
1991, 0131.0.1



The Rajput portrait style of full figure largely in profile, in realistic detail and with the use of perspective, followed that of the Mughal court. This contrasts with the confrontal (or forward-facing) style favoured in popular Hinduism for accessing the divine in darshan, the mutual exchange of gazes with a religious image.


But the profile format was not so much a religious matter (otherwise local elites would hardly have embraced non-Hindu European confrontalism so enthusiastically later) as an ultimately political separation, through a refusal of formalised empathy, between depicted rulers and their largely undepicted followers. This was achieved by maintaining strict profile in head and face while the body turned slightly for a three-quarter view. By the time this image was painted, local artists had probably been familiar with the art of perspective for the up to a century since the idea and technique is thought to have been introduced to the Mughal court in 1580 by Jesuits invited by the Emperor Akbar.






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