Maharana Swarup Singh of Mewar at Holi
1851, attributed to Tara
Maharana Mewar Charitable Foundation
The V&A’s Maharaja exhibition was wonderful; an array of art, jewellery, furniture and a twenties motor car made the experience utterly absorbing of a culture and time. Colour prevails, emeralds are the size of pebbles and design is pain-stakingly intricate, from the silk-threaded rug that hung like a magic carpet from the ceiling to the paintings that remember every tiny detail. We can see this detail in Maharana Swarup Singh of Mewar at Holi; perfectly drawn people litter the square, popping up in windows and doorways, as one peers through the crowd like an Eastern Where’s Wally. The immense building in the background pops up like an architectural drawing, so faithfully captured that any sense of perspective is lost, the turrets of the palace on the right comically two- dimensional. Holi is the Festival of Colour, abundantly clear in the twirls of colour that erupt from the crowd — dye that people are throwing — bright and translucent shooting swirls that fly through the air. Vibrant colour is emphasised with the surrounding pureness of white buildings, the towers delicately articulated on the deep blue of the sky, also swirling – colour here is movement. Like Rousseau (postcard fifty-four) the painting has a childish sense of illustration, we are in the midst of a story as so much is going on. The medium of these paintings contributes to this narrative effect: the opaque watercolour always brilliantly bright and un-textured, perfectly capturing the glittering world it aims to reflect.