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An Ideal King

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What things in this painting demonstrate this maharana’s strength, wealth, good nature, and superiority?

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Hover over the image to enlarge. Explore the details of the artwork to answer the questions above.

Portrait of Maharana Amar Singh
c. 1700
opaque watercolour on cloth
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
© V&A Images / Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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Portrait of Maharana Amar Singh

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This portrait is painted in the Indian miniature style. While called the miniature style, this portrait is actually almost life-sized. This style of painting is effective in demonstrating the attributes of the Maharaja, rather than showing exactly what he looks like. This portrait gives us an idea of the clothing, posture and appearance of Maharana Amar Singh and it also shows us the visual codes for representing the king: he is surrounded by beautiful objects, weapons that display his strength and symbols of good luck. The halo of light that surrounds his head shows his power and royal status. This image of the king in his finest is important to the Indian concept of darshan: seeing a person of great authority. This kind of image is beneficial to both the ruler and his subjects: the ruler’s power increases through the gaze of his subjects and his subjects gain good fortune by witnessing their leader.

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