The lady in this portrait is Bani Thani, and has an interesting story behind
King Sawant Singh (1748-1764), the seventh ruler of Kishangarh, was an
accomplished poet and artist in his own right. It so transpired that his
stepmother employed a young girl as a singer in her palace. She came to the
notice of Sawant Singh who fell in love with her. Her real name is not
known, but she came to be called Bani Thani, which means smart and
well-dressed. She was a beautiful girl who also professed interest in Hindi
poetry. She became Sawant Singh's mistress. It is conjectured that the bloom
of her youth and beauty not only roused unholy thoughts in the hearts of men
who saw her, but also provided inspiration to the Kishangarh artists to whom
credit is given for the invention of the Kishangarh facial formula.
Bani Thani here is portrayed with an elongated face, arched eyebrows,
lotus-like eyes tinged with pink, a sharp nose and a pointed chin.
Obviously, it is an idealization, for no woman would have such eyes, here we
notice a resemblance with the technique of the Kangra painters. It is not
the beauty of a single person, but the ideal beauty which the artist paints.
It is based on the ideal type given in the Sanskrit love poetry, viz.
'Padmakshi' or lotus-eyed. It represents the Rajput ideal of feminine beauty
at its best. Those who delight in parallels call her the Indian Mona Lisa.
Her face is delicate and refined, more like that of a courtesan. Her
eyebrows are curved like a bow. Her neck is decorated with necklaces of
pearls and precious stones. She has draped herself in a transparent wrap
which greatly enhances her charm. Which woman of today would not envy her
dreamy eyes, her shapely nose, her fastidious lips, the glamour of her
clothes and ornaments, and, above all, her seductive charm?
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