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Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent

CAT. NO. 20

Rai Rai Singh Mughal, c.1610–30

Fol. 41v from an album of Mughal portraits and calligraphy (see cat. no. 15) | Painting in opaque watercolour including gold and silver metallic paint and decorative incising on paper; set into composite margins of dyed and plain papers with opaque watercolour and gold metallic ornament with ink inscription | 29.8 × 20.6 cm (folio); 13.6 × 7.2 cm (image) | RCIN

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Rai Rai Singh (d. 1612) was a Rajput nobleman and general in the Mughal army. In 1586, his daughter became the third Hindu wife of Prince Salim who, after his accession to the throne, as Jahangir, promoted his father-in-law to high rank.[62] This portrait depicts Rai Rai Singh leaning on a staff as if attending a durbar ceremony and was probably used as a model to be copied for paintings of large court scenes.

The nobleman’s clothing and accessories are all precisely recorded. He ties his muslin jama under his left arm rather than the right to indicate his Hindu religion. It is held together at his waist by two sashes (patkas): one made of metal thread in elegant patterns, the other of plain strong cotton to protect the more precious material from abrasion. The patka functioned as a belt but was also useful for hanging things from: here a thin dagger in a velvet sheath and two archer’s rings. An embroidered leather falconry glove tucked in the front further hints at his favoured pastime. His velvet shoes are of the fashionable salimshahi type, introduced when Jahangir was a prince, open at the back and curved upwards at the front, embellished with embroidery and tassels. He wears gold rings, a gold bracelet, gold prayer beads, a gold earring and a gold turban ornament.

Rai Rai Singh lost the approval of both Emperors Akbar and Jahangir for shirking official duties in favour of spending time in his home province of Bikaner in Rajasthan. Between 1589 and 1593 he built a Mughal-style fort in Bikaner, and it was through Rajput courtiers such as him that artists and styles were brought from the Mughal courts to Rajasthan, where they had a major impact on the arts.[63]

  • ray raysing[h] / Rai Rai Singh

  • [62] For Rai Rai Singh see Ma’asir al-Umara, vol. II, pp. 566–71.

    [63] For the Mughal influence on Rajput art see Glynn 2008. 

  • From an album thought to have been presented to George IV by Ghazi al-Din Haider, Nawab of Awadh, c.1828