Victoria Maharani With The Princess Royal
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1995.139
People
Unknown Artist
Title
Victoria Maharani with the Princess Royal
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Victoria with Princess Royal, Victoria Adelaide Marie Louise, nicknamed "Pussy"
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
c. 1845
Places
Creation Place: South Asia, India, Rajasthan
Culture
Indian
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Dimensions
26.1 x 20.5 cm (10 1/4 x 8 1/16 in.)
framed: 60.01 x 43.5 x 2.22 cm (23 5/8 x 17 1/8 x 7/8 in.)
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift in gratitude to John Coolidge, Gift of Leslie Cheek, Jr., Anonymous Fund in memory of Henry Berg, Louise Haskell Daly, Alpheus Hyatt, Richard Norton Memorial Funds and through the generosity of Albert H. Gordon and Emily Rauh Pulitzer; formerly in the collection of Stuart Cary Welch, Jr.
Accession Year
1995
Object Number
1995.139
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Commentary
Label text from exhibition “Company to Crown: Perceptions and Reactions in British India,” April 8–October 15, 2011, curated by Maliha Noorani, 2009–11 Norma Jean Calderwood Curatorial Fellow, Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art, Harvard Art Museums:

Victoria Maharani with the Princess Royal
Rajasthan, India, c. 1845
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift in gratitude to John Coolidge, Gift of Leslie Cheek, Jr., Anonymous Fund in memory of Henry Berg, Louise Haskell Daly, Alpheus Hyatt, Richard Norton Memorial Funds and through the generosity of Albert H. Gordon and Emily Rauh Pulitzer; formerly in the collection of Stuart Cary Welch, Jr., 1995.139

This unique portrait depicts the “Maharani” (Hindi for empress) Queen Victoria (r. 1837–1901), bare-breasted and cuddling Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise under her mantle. It evokes both the Madonna and Child of Western culture and Yashodhra, the adoptive mother of the god Krishna, nursing her child—an image that can be traced back to first-century Hindu paintings.
The flatness of the queen’s forehead and her awkward three-quarter profile suggest that the Indian painter was grappling with Western concepts of volume and perspective. In Indian eyes Victoria’s daughter would be proof of continued lineage. We can only imagine how her dishabille, which symbolized fertility to Indians, might have affected the Victorian sense of propriety.

Label Text: Poignant, Picturesque, and Berserk Northern Indian Paintings and Objects of the Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries, written 1992
Queen Victoria with the Princess Royal, Victoria Adelaide Marie Louise, nicknamed "Pussy"
Inscribed: "Victoria Maharini"
India, Rajasthan, ca. 1845
Opaque watercolor on paper
Private collection
708.1983

What would the Queen Empress have thought of this intimate peep at royal motherhood? Would she have shared our and its Rajput patron's­ amusement?

Label Text: Sahibs, Memsahibs, and Maharajas: Indian Art under the British, 1765-1880, written 1989
Queen Victoria with the Princess Royal
Inscribed Victoria Maharanee in Devanagari script
North India, Rajput, Rajasthan, ca. 1845
Private collection
708.1983

Did the Indian painter of this miniature confuse the queen with a Madonna? Despite the metaphorical beauty of her peepul-leaf shaped eyes and her ears spun into “seashells,” Queen Victoria might not have taken pleasure in this characterization, with a décolletage so daring that even Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise (“Pussy”) averts her glance.

Label Text: Image and Empire: Picturing India during the Colonial Era, written 2003
Victoria Maharani with the Princess Royal
India, Rajasthan, c. 1845
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Gift in gratitude to John Coolidge, Gift of Leslie Cheek, Jr., Anonymous Fund in memory of Henry Berg, Louise Haskell Daly, Alpheus Hyatt, Richard Norton Memorial Funds and through the generosity of Albert H. Gordon and Emily Rauh Pulitzer; formerly in the collection of Stuart Cary Welch, Jr.
1995.139

This rather shocking painting demonstrates a fascinating conjunction of Indian and Western figural styles, portraiture, and symbolism. The subject, Queen Victoria, cuddles her daughter, Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise, under her ermine cloak and against her bosom. This subject certainly recalls Madonna and Child imagery, which must have been familiar to some court ateliers. This painting likely also refers to a specific print depicting Victoria and her daughter.
There are also long-standing examples of mother and child imagery in India, ranging from sculpted icons of the matrkas (mothers), often holding children, dating from as early as the first centuries C.E., to Hindu paintings of Yashodhara, the adoptive mother of the god Krishna, nursing her beautiful divine child. By abstracting their features and boldly flattening their form, this artist used an Indian visual language to render Victoria, the princess’s mother and queen of England. In this portrayal, the queen’s jewelry and garments suggest her royal status, her bared breasts symbolize her fertility, and her daughter is proof of the continuation of the imperial lineage: Victoria embodies the ideal maharani, or great queen, in an Indian worldview. [first proof]

Label Text: Re-View: S231 (Islamic rotation: 7) Company to Crown, written 2011
Victoria Maharani with the Princess Royal
Rajasthan, India, c. 1845
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift in gratitude to John Coolidge, Gift of Leslie Cheek, Jr.,
Anonymous Fund in memory of Henry Berg, Louise Haskell Daly, Alpheus Hyatt,
Richard Norton Memorial Funds and through the generosity of Albert H. Gordon and
Emily Rauh Pulitzer; formerly in the collection of Stuart Cary Welch, Jr., 1995.139

This unique portrait depicts the “Maharani” (Hindi for empress) Queen Victoria (r. 1837–1901), bare-breasted and
cuddling Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise under her mantle. It evokes both the Madonna and Child of Western culture and Yashodhra, the adoptive mother of the god Krishna, nursing her child—an image that can be traced back to first-century Hindu paintings.
The flatness of the queen’s forehead and her awkward three-quarter profile suggest that the Indian painter was
grappling with Western concepts of volume and perspective. In Indian eyes Victoria’s daughter would be proof of
continued lineage. We can only imagine how her dishabille, which symbolized fertility to Indians, might have affected the Victorian sense of propriety.

Publication History

Stuart Cary Welch, Room for wonder : Indian Painting During the British Period, 1760-1880, exh. cat., American Federation of Arts (New York, NY, 1978), Page 140-141/Figure 62

Elizabeth Finch, ed., Rajasthani Miniatures: The Welch Collection from the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, exh. cat., The Drawing Center (New York, NY, 1997), page 38

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 151

Exhibition History

Poignant, Picturesque, and Berserk Northern Indian Paintings and Objects of the Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/08/1992 - 10/04/1992

Rajasthani Miniatures: The Welch Collection at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University, The Drawing Center, New York, 04/16/1997 - 06/07/1997

Re-View: S231 (Islamic rotation: 7) Company to Crown, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/08/2011 - 10/15/2011

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted