Chatter Singh of Chamba Smoking a Huqqa (Primary Title)
This traditional royal portrait depicts Chattar Singh, a giant of a man, who ruled the state of Chamba in the Punjab Hills from 1664 to 1690. Isolated in an abstracted setting with a solid background and striped carpet, he sits cross-legged, leaning against a pillow rendered as a plain rectangle, and smokes a water pipe (huqqa). His distinctive facial features—a bristling beard and crushed nose—are emphasized, but the rest of the composition is formulaic. Chattar Singh was famous in Chamba for resisting Mughal domination, and in particular for defying Emperor Aurangzeb’s command to demolish Hindu temples throughout his state. Not only did he protect theses shrines, but he ordered them plated in silver and gold. It is difficult to be certain whether this portrait is contemporary with the ruler or, given his fame, painted later.
Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, Gift of Paul Mellon
Dye, Joseph M. The Arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. London: Philipp Wilson, 2001. (cat. no. 138, pp. 334-335)
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