Maharana Bhim Singh of Mewar at a palace window

Workshop of Chokha, ca. 1810–20
Opaque watercolor and gold on cotton
147 × 110.8 cm
Gift of Terence McInerney
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, S1996.33

High Moon

Enthroned on a balcony of the City Palace, Bhim Singh glows in the light of a crescent moon. Its placement near the maharana’s forehead likens him to the great god Shiva, who wears the crescent moon in his hair. Crescents and dynamic curves repeat in the king’s powerful body, dazzling jewelry, and textiles. They crescendo in the maharana’s towering turban; its ornament bends under teardrop emeralds, while enameled peacocks bow their elegant necks over a diamond coronet.
—Elizabeth Clancy, graduate student, NYU

Awe and Moonlight

The artist who painted this glowing portrait of Maharana Bhim Singh delighted in the rhythmic curves of his body, adornment, and textiles.


A scalloped arch frames the haloed king in white marble against an ultramarine sky. The curves of his black shield and cushioned throne broaden his powerful shoulders and emphasize the weapon’s sharp contours.


Curves crescendo in the maharana’s towering headdress. His turban ornament bends under teardrop emeralds, while enameled peacocks bow their elegant necks over a diamond coronet. The king’s royal red turban rises in a crescent, a silhouette quickly adopted by loyal courtiers. A jeweled heron plume nods above.


A skilled hand traces the elegant lines of the maharana’s grave features. Bow shapes, S curves, and waves delineate his handsome profile, sculpted beard, and reverent eye.


Adornment amplifies the king’s allure. Luminous pearls flow over his broad chest, accented with streams of rubies and emeralds. The dark beads may be rudraksha seeds, sacred to Shiva.

Astral Squares

A closer look at his turban reveals swooping rows of small squares that shimmer across the red field like stars. Representing hours of skilled labor, this traditional Rajasthani pattern is created by hand tying cloth and dipping it into successive dye baths.

A Million Flowers

A carpet, perhaps pashmina, blooms with vibrant flowers, an embroidered throne twinkles with twining vines, and rows of blossoming teardrop-shaped designs nudge over the maharana’s silk-brocade robe.

Lordly Moods

A small, unfinished painting of Shiva, done in the same style as the large cloth portrait, provides an illuminating counterpoint. The maharana and the deity share palace settings with scalloped arches, curled sideburns, and auspicious forehead marks. Lustrous pearls drape their moon-shaped bodies. The bend of the king’s feather plume echoes the flow of the Ganges River streaming from the Shiva’s topknot. The similarities endow the maharana’s portrait with heroic majesty.

Dazzling Artistry

Framed by an arched window of the grand City Palace, under the gaze of gods and mortals, the king embodies the treasures of natural and human creation, fulfilling his sacred duty to subjects, state, and cosmos.

Authored by Elizabeth Clancy

Authored by
Elizabeth Clancy