The Deogarh School was a breakaway from the major Mewar School in Udaipur. A saturation of artists in the capital encouraged some of them to strike out on their own in search of new patrons. In Deogarh, as in all of Rajasthan, their work was dominated by scenes from the private lives and court ceremonies of the ruling Rawats, with occasional sorties into territory such as the Krishna Lila for light relief.
Inscriptions on the back of many of the Deogarh painting have enabled the majority to be identified with one particular family of artists – Bagta who painted the miniature of Anop Singh referred to above (active in Deogarh around 1769-1820); his son, Chokha to whom the miniature of Gokuldas II mentioned above is attributed (1770-1830) and Chokha’s son, Baijnath (1800-1845). Stylistic evidence suggests that the same artists may also have worked on some of the wall paintings outside and inside Rooms 210 and 228.
A narrow staircase to the left of the Bar leads to an upper terrace and at the left hand end of this stands the Bada Mahal (literally “Big Palace”). It was the original “mardana” or men’s section of the palace and probably dates from the late 17th century. The windows in the central area – now a delightful sitting room – were originally open to the front courtyard far below. They were glazed much later by Bijay Singh, in the early twentieth century.
Through the doorway on the left is the dazzling Sheesh Mahal or Mirror Palace. The blaze of multi-coloured light from the stained glass windows is bounced from mirrored wall to mirrored wall with such exuberance that you might almost miss the more subtle presence of some miniature paintings from the Deogarh Painting School, set into frames of yet more tinted glass.
One of these miniatures is a portrait of Anop Singh, the son of Raghodas (see Room 215). Anopji died before he could inherit the throne himself but he is shown here hunting wild boar on horseback – an activity that the Rajput aristocracy regarded as both excellent sport and an essential exercise for attaining equestrian proficiency.
Another Deogarh painting shows the man who did succeed Raghodas – Anopji’s own son, Gokuldasji II (see Room 210) – hunting sambhar deer at night. Gokuldasji II was not only one of Deogarh’s greatest patrons. He was also one of its most enthusiastic portrait sitters. But then, he does seem to have had a particularly striking presence. Colonel Tod was a first-hand witness and described him vividly in his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan: “I knew him well. He stood six feet six inches, and was bulky in proportion. His limbs rivalled those of the Hercules Farnese. His father was nearly seven feet, and died at the early age of twenty-two, in a vain attempt to keep down, by regimen and medicine, his enormous bulk.”