Maharana Raj Singh observing an elephant fight

Within an arena, five vignettes convey the play-by-play action of an elephant contest. At the upper right, the elephants are introduced, then clash beneath the Rana’s balcony on the upper left, until one falls and sheds its mahouts. It is pursued, but turns on its attacker, which also spills its riders.

The many active minor figures are freshly if naively drawn and the action unusually overlaps into the margins. Above and aloof from the melee, the Rana sits facing his younger brother Arsi and son Gaj Singh, while Garibas sits behind.

Historical period(s)
ca. 1670-1675
School
Mewar school
Medium
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions
H x W (overall): 47 × 52.1 cm (18 1/2 × 20 1/2 in) H x W (framed): 92.7 × 71.1 cm (36 1/2 × 28 in)
Geography
India, Rajasthan state, Mewar
Credit Line
Purchase and partial gift from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection — funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
Collection
Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection
Accession Number
S2018.1.57
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Painting

Keywords
elephant, India, Ralph and Catherine Benkaim collection
Provenance

Royal Udaipur Collection [1]

To 2004
Vishnu Lal, New York, New York [2]

From 2004 to 2018
Catherine Glynn Benkaim, Beverly Hills, California, purchased from Vishnu Lal in New York, New York in 2004 [3]

From 2018
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, partial gift and purchase from Catherine Glynn Benkaim [4]

Notes:

[1] According to information from Andrew Topsfield, the painting was previously in the Royal Collection of Udaipur. He states, “I first saw this picture in 1976. It was then in Switzerland and belonged to a group of paintings formerly in the Mewar royal collection which I understood had come out of India a few years before, possibly 1969 but I am not sure.” See letter from Andrew Topsfield from Nov. 29, 2917, copy in object file, Collections Management Office.

[2] According to information from Catherine Glenn Benkaim, Vishnu Lal is the son of an Agra dealer, Ganeshi Lal. But he also had an office on 42nd street and 5th avenue right across the street from the Public Library. Ms. Benkaim does not know when the New York office opened because the Lal family had been in the business since the 19th century. The New York office is no longer open.

[3] See note 2.

[4] See Acquisition Justification Form, object file, Collections Management Office.

Previous Owner(s)

Royal Udaipur Collection
Vishnu M. Lal
Catherine Glynn Benkaim

Description

Within an arena, five vignettes convey the play-by-play action of an elephant contest. At the upper right, the elephants are introduced, then clash beneath the Rana's balcony on the upper left, until one falls and sheds its mahouts. It is pursued, but turns on its attacker, which also spills its riders.

The many active minor figures are freshly if naively drawn and the action unusually overlaps into the margins. Above and aloof from the melee, the Rana sits facing his younger brother Arsi and son Gaj Singh, while Garibas sits behind.

Inscription(s)

Verso in Rajasthani in devanagari script:
(on right, in a smaller hand) Hathi Jhalera Su Ladavya, Kali Kanti Ro Jhalerav
Elephant fight and the one with the black band is Jhalerav (meaning of Jhalerav unknown)

(in a larger hand) Shri Maharaja Dheraj Maharanoji Shri Raj Singhni Bada Bhatiyani Chovte Hathi Ladavaya Jate Sama Maharaja Arsiji Betha Maharaja GajSigh Ji Betha Husuriya Che. Prohit Garibdas Betha Hathi Sadasamand Bhuri Kanti Ro Hathi Bhalerav Kali Kanti Ro

During Shri Maharajadhiraj Maharana ji Shri Raj Singh’s [big/elder?] elephant fight in a field. Sitting in front is Maharaja Arsiji and Maharaja Shri Gaj Singh ji in service. The priest Garibdas ji is also sitting. As always the elephant has a brown [chain/throat/ neck band?] and [Bhalerav?] elephant has a black [chain/throat/ neck band]. 1.

1. Translated by Shahgufta Parekh. But DD needs to check this inscription again as another scholar noted that the text names the elephants: Sada Mand [the offspring of?] Bhurikanti; and Bhala Rao [the offspring of?] Kalikanti. These same elephants’ names are repeated in the smudged inscription at the top. In the second line the inscription states that the elephant fight takes place in Bhatiyani Chohta ('bhatyani covate'): this is still a street name in Udaipur, just below the Palace. (Chohata means crossroads).

Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum