'Painting in Bikaner followed a course that kept more
closely to the Mughal tradition. Muslim artists had settled here
during the seventeenth century, and the delicate and highly refined
Mughal style that they brought with them dominated Bikaner painting,
even when illustrating traditional Hindu texts such as the Bhagavata
Purana. Deccani paintings brought back from military service
also contributed a distinctive use of colour. As in Jodhpur, painting
in Bikaner began to develop a more Rajasthan character during the
eighteenth century, although it never acquired the flamboyance or
eccentricity of the later Jodhpur portraits'- John
Guy and Deborah Swallow, victoria and Albert Museum, London
One of the most peculiar features of Rajasthani schools of portraiture
was that they depicted a personage rather conceptually than realistically.
The portraits were more iconographic, showing in detail the characteristic
features of the person - his moustache, style of turban, manner
of clothing or general physiognomy - but the essential depiction
was highly stylised.
The portraits of the rulers of Bikaner displayed here were all painted
in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century and not during
their lifetime. In many cases, the same ruler is shown at different
stages of his life. Being iconographic, they all appear to have
been derived from an idealised stock images of Bikaner ruler.
Majority of Bikaner painters were Muslim and in all probability
belonged to the Usta community, who even today, are engaged in painting