Current Exhibitions


Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tanjore, Company Style, circa 1790 
Opaque water-based pigments with gold on board 
23 ½ x 17 ¼ in. (60 x 44 cm.) 

Given as a gift to Lady Henrietta Clive (1758-1830) in 1800 by the Maharaja Sarabhoji (r. 1798-1832).
Sophus Andreas Bergsøe , acquired in Aalborg, Denmark, ca. 1880; by descent in the family;
[ Kapoor Galleries Inc. , acquired in Copenhagen 2018; acquired by MMA, 2021]]

The maharaja, depicted as a heavily bejewelled figure with an elaborate turban and side-whiskers, stands formally facing outward with the index finger of his left hand pointing downward towards his ceremonial sword. A minister with pressed palms faces the maharaja awaiting instructions. The two stand in a dark drawing room, a billowing blue silk or velvet curtain with gold trim and tassels diagonally framing the scene in the manner of much European portraiture. The ornate gold-legged tables and mantle clock also evidence this inspiration, as the present portrait is painted in a style that developed in the mid-eighteenth century, which catered to the tastes of the British colonials. The raised gold is typical of Tanjore painting.

Maharaja Serfoji II of Tanjore (also known as ‘Sarabhoji,’ r. 1798-1832), the last ruler of the Maratha Bhonsle Dynasty of Tanjore, was installed by the British as the titular head of Thanjavur. He was the adopted son of Maharaja Thulajah. As a young man, he was entrusted to the care of a Danish missionary, Reverend Christian Freidrich Schwartz, who sent him to Madras for his formal education. He enjoyed an excellent relationship with the British after he acknowledged their administration of Tanjore and was then granted sovereignty over the lands surrounding the Fort of Thanjavur as well as a pension (see Archer, Rowell, and Skelton, Treasures from India: The Clive Collection at Powis Castle, London, 1987, p.124; and John Chu, Game of Thrones in an ‘Asiatic World’: Henrietta Clive and Anna Tonelli in British India, National Trust Historic Houses & Collections Annual, 2018, p. 40.).