Painting Details

Raja Sher Singh

Standing next to a Nihang warrior, Maharaja Sher Singh is easily recognizable, being one of the first Sikhs at the royal court to tie up his beard in the Rajasthan style. In Schoefft’s painting Sher Singh is shown wearing a helmet rather than the traditional Sikh turban, This is not unusual and quite similar to a sketch of Sher Singh by W.G. Osborne based on his 1838 visit to the Sikh Empire, Osborne’s sketch may have been the basis for Schoefft’s depiction of the Maharaja with a helmet in this painting.

Raja Sher Singh, ca. 1838,
The Court and Camp of Runjeet Sing, W.G. Osborne, London, 1840

In Schoefft's painting Sher Singh is presented in a low-key manner. In Schoefft's other epic painting,  The Court at Lahore, the center focal point of that scene is the vibrant and dynamic Sher Singh on his horse, while Maharaja Ranjit Singh plays a secondary role as a distant figure in the background. In Schoefft's painting of Ranjit Singh at Darbar Sahib the roles are reversed. Here Maharaja Ranjit Singh is clearly the focal point of the painting with Sher Singh playing the role of a supporting character appearing in the background near the edge of the field of view.

During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the only one of the alleged sons attributed to him by various Ranis that he acknowledged was Sher Singh. Along with his true biological son and heir Raja Kharak Singh, Sher Singh was the only step-son allowed in the presence of Ranjit Singh.

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

Though reported to be the Maha Rajah's son, Sher Sing's father has never thoroughly acknowledged him, though his mother always insisted on his being so. A brother of Shere, by the same mother, has been even worse treated than himself, not being permitted to appear at court, and no office given him, either of profit or honour.
Five Years in India, Volume 1
Henry Edward Fane, London, 1842