Who is the Prince in This Painting?
An oil on canvas titled 'Portrait of a Prince' (circa 1795) was sold for Rs. 4,000,000 at Pundoles Auction House in Mumbai. According to the description provided, this portrait is of a son of Tipu Sultan, attributed to the renowned British artist Robert Home, who is also known for his world-famous artwork, 'The Reception of the Mysorean Hostage Princes by Marquis Cornwallis'.
This painting depicts a young prince dressed in regal attire, wearing a turban of South Indian style characteristic of the court of Mysore. The style and treatment of both the figure and the background suggests that the painting was created by an artist trained in the British academic style of the late 18th century. The prince is adorned with rich clothing, a ceremonial dagger, and a double string of large pearls around his neck, all of which identify him as part of a princely family from South India. These elements, combined with the striking features of the young boy, suggest that the painting is likely to depict one of the sons of Tipu Sultan, who became popular subjects for British artists working in India during the Mysore wars.
Here is a close-up shoot of the same painting.
Now, what is the truth? Following is the artwork painted by Robert Home, an eye-witness of the reception of the Mysorean hostage princes. As you can see, there are stark contrasts between the princes in these two pictures.
Below is a painting of Raja Raj Krishna Deb (1782-1823), son of Raja Naba Krishna Deb, founder of Sovabazar Rajbari (Shobhabazar Royal Palace) in Calcutta.
As the prince was born in 1782, he must be 12-13 years old in 1795. The artist of this piece remains unknown. Raj Krishna Deb's father, Raja Naba Krishna Deb, was the Diwan of Lord Clive and Persian Munshi to the East India Company.
Interestingly, the seller of this painting used Tipu Sultan's labels to make it more marketable!