Painting Details

Maharaja Ranjit Singh & Attendants

Maharaja Ranjit Singh sitting on a large red cushion is the focal point of Schoefft's painting. Although Schoefft never met Ranjit Singh, having arrived at the Sikh Empire two years after his death, Schoefft had the opportunity to study existing paintings and make sketches of the Maharaja that he then used for this painting years later on his return to Europe.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh is portrayed in the painting as wearing a string of jewels in his turban as well as a jewel armband. The armband is likely holding the legendary Kohinoor diamond, at 186 carats, the ‘Mountain of Light’ was the largest diamond in the world.

Cross-legged in a golden chair, dressed in simple white, wearing no ornaments but a single string of enormous pearls round the waist, and the celebrated Koh-y-nur, or mountain of light on his arm, (the jewel rivalled if not surpassed, in brilliancy by the glance of fire which every now and then shot from his single eye as it wandered restlessly round the circle,) - sat the lion of Lahore.
The Court and Camp of Runjeet Sing
W.G. Osborne, London, 1840

Camp Ferozepore, Nov. 30, 1838
He is exactly like an old mouse, with grey whiskers and one eye..Runjeet had no jewels on whatever, nothing but the commonest red silk dress...Next to him sat Heera Singh, a very handsome boy, who is Runjeet's favourite, and was loaded with emeralds and pearls.

Up the Country
Emily Eden, London, 1866

Sitting to the immediate left of the Maharaja is a figure covered with a robe but without any jewelry. Raja Kharakh Singh, the Maharaja’s son and heir apparent would likely be wearing jewels as he is depicted in Schoefft's other painting, The Court of Lahore. Given the lack of jewelry, the figure is likely one of Ranjit Singh’s Giani’s (religious leaders). Osborne mentions that the Maharaja’s religious guides would sometimes be given the honor of being seated next to him and given the nature of the religious scene depicted in the painting; this is likely the case here.

Rajah Sher Sing was seated on his right hand, and Rajah Heera Sing, his minister's son, upon his left, the only two individuals who are allowed a seat in his presence on public occasions, with the exception of his son and heir, Kurruck Sing, though in private that privilege is sometimes accorded to the three Gooroos, or priests, who act as his spiritual advisers.
The Court and Camp of Runjeet Sing
W.G. Osborne, London, 1840

Standing directly behind the Maharaja and waving what appears to be a pot of incense on a chain is another prominent religious leader Bhai Gurmukh Singh. Bhai Gurmukh Singh also appears in Schoefft's other painting of The Court of Lahore. A prominent religious figure and advisor to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Bhai Gurmukh Singh continued his role during the reign of Maharaja Sher Singh. In fact Dr. Honigberger in his account of Schoefft's visit to Darbar Sahib mentions that Maharaja Sher Singh requested Schoefft to paint a portrait of Bhai Gurmukh Singh and was very impressed by the results. Bhai Gurmukh Singh acted as Schoefft and Honingbergers chief host and protector during their visit to Darbar Sahib.

Two attendants wearing beautiful red shawls can be seen standing beside the Maharaja. One with an umbrella canopy and another waving a fly whisk called a chaur over the Maharaja. The chaur and the umbrella were traditional symbols of royalty used by Maharaja’s. The canopy and chaur fly whisk are also used wherever the Guru Granth Sahib is present by Sikhs as symbols of the Sikh Scriptures Royal Authority as head of the religion. Chaur attendants can be seen on the right side of the painting as well with the attendant to the extreme right also depicted holding an umbrella canopy.