Phyl G

Phyl G

Posted on 07/20/2013

Photo taken on February  6, 2010

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Royal Ontario Museum
Indian Art
Ranjit Singh
Mahraja Ranjit Singh

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Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Maharaja Ranjit Singh
From a “Kings of the Punjab” display at the Royal Ontario Museum, June 2010.

Background description:

At the turn of the 19th century, when the territories of northern India had declined, the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) rose to power by consolidating a fractured political landscape through a series of military and diplomatic victories. His empire comprised almost 200,000 sq. miles of what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern India and the Himalayan kingdoms. His rule was secular and admired for its civil justice, political shrewdness and flourishing artistic patronage.

After Ranjit Singh's death, the empire fell on the shoulders of his sons, the last being the Maharajah Duleep Singh (1838-1892) who was crowned at age five and deposed six years later in 1849 when the British annexed the territory. The British isolated the young prince from his family, converted him to Christianity, and exiled him to England in 1854 where most of the spoils of the Sikh empire and his grave remain today.

Manu Kaur Saluja's portraits of father and son seen here commemorate the two iconic Sikh kings, combining congtemporary vision with historical detail.

Manu Kaur Saluja (b. 1971)
New York, 2005

Description for this particular painting:

Ranjit Singh, by age 19, was by all accounts a fierce and revered conquerer. Yet existing portraits of him often depict a humble, white beared sovereign in modest dress. By contrast, this painting portrays a youthful Ranjit Singh with the gaze and potent posture of a warrior king who earned the title 'The Lion of the Punjab' (Sher-e-Punjab). Manu Kaur Saluja's extensive research brought her to England where she was given rare access to the artifacts depicted in the painting. The Maharaja wears a helmet designed to accommodate the unshorn hair that identifies a Sikh. His shield contains miniature portraits of him, his sons, generals and advisors all identified by Persian inscriptions. Seated on his octagonal Golden Throne in full dress armour, he wears the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond (shown in its original setting) on his right arm. The result is a tour-de-force of colours, textures, and allegorical detail.

(On loan by the artist, Manu Kaur Saluja)