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Maharaja Ranjit Singh

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Lahore (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1835 - ca. 1840 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs L.M. Rivett-Carnac on behalf of the Van Cortlandt family

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Ranjit Singh was the first Sikh maharaja of the Panjab, the region in the far north of the Indian subcontinent whose Persian name refers to the five rivers flowing across the plains. He ruled from 1801 until his death in 1839. This painting shows Ranjit Singh riding through a flower-sprinkled landscape on a white stallion that is bedecked with gold chains and turban jewels. The maharaja is dressed in saffron-coloured clothes with a brocade short coat, his only jewels being long ropes of pearls and a bazuband, or ornament for the upper arm. He is surrounded by companions, many of whom carry insignia of royalty such as weapons wrapped in cloth. Most important of these is the parasol – the ancient emblem of kings – that shades Ranjit Singh’s head.

The painting was given to the V&A in 1955 by Mrs L.M. Rivett-Carnac on behalf of the Van Cortlandt family. According to family tradition, this was one of a pair of portraits made for Ranjit Singh by his court artist and presented by him to Mrs Rivett-Carnac’s grandfather, Colonel Henry Charles Van Cortlandt, the other copy being kept by the maharaja. Van Cortlandt (1814–1888) entered Ranjit Singh’s service in 1832, and after the first Anglo-Sikh War (1845–1846) commanded Sikh detachments under the British.

Physical description

Painting, in opaque watercolour on paper, Maharaja Ranjit Singh (r. 1801-1839) rides through a hilly landscape on a white horse, accompanied by attendants bearing insignia of royalty. The maharaja's head is framed by a halo of light, a convention borrowed from Mughal painting.

Place of Origin

Lahore (made)


ca. 1835 - ca. 1840 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour on paper


Height: 30.8 cm painted surface only, Width: 22.6 cm painting, Height: 39.8 cm including border, Width: 28.0 cm including border

Object history note

This portrait was said to have been presented by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to Colonel Henry Charles Van Cortlandt (1814-1888), who entered the Maharaja's service for a period of 8 years as a military commander in 1832. It was given to the museum on behalf of the Van Cortlandt family by Mrs L. M. Rivett-Carnac in 1955

Historical significance: Ranjit Singh was the first Sikh Maharaja of the Panjab.

Descriptive line

Painting, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, opaque watercolour on paper, Lahore, ca. 1835-1840

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

frontispiece and pp. 117-118.
Paintings of the Sikhs / W.G. Archer. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1966
Stronge, Susan, ed. The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms. London: V&A Publications, 1999. 60 p., ill. p. 220, cat. no. 91, ISBN 1851772618

Production Note



Opaque watercolour; Paper



Subjects depicted

Figures; Servants; Halo; Horse; Ruler


Images Online; Paintings; Royalty; Bonita Trust Indian Paintings Cataloguing Project


South & South East Asia Collection

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