May 16, 2024 - Sale 2669

Sale 2669 - Lot 12

Price Realized: $ 875
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 800 - $ 1,200
A noble and four concubines. Printing-out paper print, the image measuring 10⅛x7⅜ inches (25.7x18.7 cm.), the sheet slightly larger, the mount 12x9 inches (30.5x22.9 cm.). Circa 1900

Provenance: Acquired at a shop in Bundi, Rajasthan, in 1977 by the Present Owner

This rare portrait of a noble posed with four of his concubines, each holding an alcoholic libation. It is unusual for a man of means to have himself photographed with his concubines, and in this image the concubines themselves appear rarer still. In many images, concubines, courtesans, and especially nautch girls look unprepossessing, at least to 21st-century Western eyes. But these young women account for the praise the explorer Richard Burton heaped on their sorority for their beauty and expertise in the art of love. The photograph attests even more vividly to the appalling 19th-century trade in women and girls, especially in the native states. According to experts, the man and his companions' clothing look as though they might be Punjabi or central Indian. The variations in the women's clothing also indicate that they may have come from different parts of India. It is also possible that despite the towering turban and the sword, the "noble," dressed in what appears to be a uniform, may have been a procurer for a royal house, which would actually make this image rarer still.