Portrait of a Sikh
Place of Origin: North India
Date: 18th-19th Century
Diameter: 204mm x 137mm (8 x 5.4 inches)
From the foothills of the Punjab, an intriguing 18th or 19th century Pahari portrait in opaque pigments on paper. It portrays a Sikh man, represented in a fashion that became popular in this period to depict Sikh chiefs, seated on a blue and white rug, placed upon a terrace. Bearded and moustachioed, the subject is shown wearing a very fetching pink turban and a simple white jama secured with a cummerbund, the ends draped on one side. A chaddar, bearing a checked pattern hangs loosely over both shoulders. In his left hand there is a recurved bow, which the subject tucks under his right arm, and in his left hand, he gracefully holds up a single arrow between his thumb and index finger. On his left hip sits a sword, which would be secured to his body with a belt, it is only partially visible.
A very closely-related painting of the Sikh Chief ‘Bhag Singh Alhuwalia’ ca. 1785, is kept in the Government Museum and Art Gallery in Chandigarh and is attributed to the family workshop of Purkhu of Kangra. Both the subjects in our painting, and the Chandigarh painting, sit on identical carpets, wearing almost identical clothing, and both hold a bow and arrow—albeit in different hands. The backdrop is different, but more significantly, the turban style is different, and the blue-grey skin tone of our subject is quite unusual. Another difference is that the subject of our painting is sitting in bir-asan (warrior pose) which is probably a nod to his martial prowess.
 Goswamy, Smith, I See No Stranger: Early Sikh Art and Devotion, 2006, p.174-175, cat.no.5.5