Art

Victoria Maharani with the Princess Royal

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Victoria Maharani with the Princess Royal, c. 1845
Alternate Title: Victoria with Princess Royal, Victoria Adelaide Marie Louise, nicknamed "Pussy"
Painting
Indian
,
19th century
Creation Place: Rajasthan, India
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
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.)
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.
, 1995.139
Department of Islamic & Later Indian Art
,
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.
Bibliography
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., ed. Elizabeth Finch 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