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Unknown | India | Equestrian portrait of Rathor Udai Bhanji c.1760-80 | Opaque watercolour with gold on paper | 32 x 21.5cm | Purchased 2011. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Equestrian portrait of Rathor Udai Bhanji c.1760-80

Equestrian portrait of Rathor Udai Bhanjiis characteristic of royal portraiture in Indian miniature painting. From the Rathor clan of Marwar (Jodphur region) in Rajasthan, known for their great heroism, Udai Bhanji was the brave warrior who fought for his Maharaja against Emperor Aurangzeb (ruled 1658-1707), one of the most powerful Mughal rulers, and as a reward was brought into the royal family by marrying the Maharana’s niece.

Such princely images abound in Indian miniature painting, a tradition that brought esteemed artists from Persia for employment in the royal Mughal courts of northern and central India in the mid sixteenth century. Courtly scenes, romance, military conquests and hunting expeditions were the subjects for miniaturists of the Islamic Mughal courts. The form developing into a vehicle to illustrate Hindu legends and epochs after being embraced by the Rajput rulers in the late sixteenth century, with royal portraiture remaining an important mode of representation and a key instrument in depicting significant historical figures.

Appearing proud and resolute while astride his rearing horse, Udai Bhanji is portrayed in a manner that conveys distinction. His princely attire of an elaborate turban and gown of gold accentuated by delicate lavender flowers affirms his refined taste and status, the figure rendered on a flat monochrome background drawing attention to his importance. Although unassuming of a fearless warrior, his appearance asserts all the luxury of the court, providing a proud and dignified profile fit for the Rajput aristocracy.