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Ranjit Singh and Hira Singh

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Punjab Plain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1838 - ca. 1840 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by O. E. Dickinson

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This painting shows Ranjit Singh, the first Sikh maharaja of the Panjab (r.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.

Physical description

Painting, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Maharaja Ranjit Singh seated with Hira Singh. Ranjit Singh (left), in yellow turban, white shirt and dark green trousers, sits in a gold chair, with his legs tucked under him on the seat. Seated before him is his favourite companion, Hira Singh, in white jama, crimson coat and yellow turban and trousers. At the top is an orange blind edged with dark green. A frail tree with pink flowers grows against a backdrop of pale green.

Place of Origin

Punjab Plain (made)


ca. 1838 - ca. 1840 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Painted in opaque watercolour and gold on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Maharaja Runjit Singh & Raja Heera Singh'
This English inscription is in the same hand as that on IS 111-1953


Height: 201 mm painting only, Width: 139 mm painting only, Height: 283 mm with border, Width: 222 mm with border

Object history note

Formerly in the collection of Lord Auckland (Governor-General of India 1836-1842) and brought by him to England in 1842. It was given to the V&A by Auckland's great-nephew, O.E. Dickinson.

Historical context note

Hira Singh was introduced to Maharaja Ranjit Singh by his father, Dhian Singh, an influential Hindu courtier. The maharaja took favourably to the young boy and treated him with great generosity, eventually bestowing on him the title of Raja in 1828 and then proclaiming him "farzand-e khas", or "favoured son". After Ranjit Singh's death, Hira Singh became Prime Minister in 1843 but became increasingly unpopular and was murdered in December 1844.

Descriptive line

Painting, Ranjit Singh with Hira Singh, opaque watercolour and gold on paper, Sikh, Punjab Plain, ca. 1838-1840

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

Jaffer, A. Furniture from British India and Ceylon: a catalogue of the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2001. ISBN 1 85177 318 5. p.116, fig.47.
p. 129 and fig. 19.
Paintings of the Sikhs / W.G. Archer. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1966

Production Note



Opaque watercolour; Gold; Paper



Subjects depicted

Ruler; Chair


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


South & South East Asia Collection

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