Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Punjab Plains, India
Museum no. IS.114-1953
This painting shows Ranjit Singh, the first Sikh maharaja of the Panjab (ruled 1801–1839), seated on a western-style chair with his legs tucked underneath him, the manner in which he was often seen by European visitors to the court. He is shown with Hira Singh (1816-1844), who was introduced to the maharaja by his father, Dhian Singh, an influential Hindu courtier. Ranjit Singh gave the boy the title of raja in 1828 and then proclaimed him ‘Farzand-i khas’ – ‘the favoured son’.
The painting was formerly in the collection of Lord Auckland, Governor-General of India from 1836 to 1842, who went to the court of Ranjit Singh in 1838. The painting was brought by him to England in 1842 and given to the V&A in 1953 by Auckland’s great-nephew, O E Dickinson.