Painting Pacho’s ponies
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When Padmanabh Singh, the stylish, polo-playing Maharajah of Jaipur, extended an invitation to British equestrian painter Madeleine Bunbury to paint portraits of his favourite polo ponies, it was a dream commission.
Madeleine, who completed her classical Old Master training at Charles Cecil School in Florence,has long cherished an ambition to record 80 horse breeds around the world. At the Maharaja’s palace in Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, she would have free rein to paint not only the Maharajah’s ponies but also the indigenous Marwari horse.
As a star polo player, Padmanabh – known to many simply as Pacho – leads a glamorous international life steeped in culture, fashion and sport. He studied art history in Rome, wears fabulous designer clothes, and counts among his friends Princes William and Harry, whom he often joins for matches at Guards Polo Club.
Dhruv Raj Singh, Pacho’s friend and mentor who is the son of Colonel Bhawani Singh, former Commandant of the 61st Cavalry and coach to the Indian World Cup polo team,shares his interest in contemporary art.
‘My family has an equine tradition,’ says Dhruv,‘and I have been following close to 100 artists globally since 2019/2020. Looking at their quality of work, their audience, value and potential future value, Madeleine Bunbury topped every metric over this period of research. A dear friend even called her “a modern-day George Stubbs”.’
As someone who would ‘fit the culture and environment of Jaipur’, Madeleine won the seal of approval, and it was decided to invite her to Jaipur to undertake several commissions. She would stay in the City Palace private polo yard.
Her visit was planned to coincide with the Spring Festival of Holi, on March 18 this year, and she was included in all the festivities. Having grown up on the party island of Mustique, Madeleine believed she knew all about partying.‘I was wrong,’ she muses.‘The Indians take it to a new level.’
Among the spectacles that greetedher were ‘hundreds and thousands of marigold petals’ lining the ancient palace corridors, ‘a sea of tea lights’ lighting every courtyard, as well as camels, elephants and,‘best of all, the Marwari horses with their pink hooves’ which paraded at the entrance to the palace.
Despite all the revelry, Madeleine did find time and energy to paint. Among the four commissioned portraits she completed was one of Music, one of the Maharajah’s best performing ponies, a beautiful bay thorough bred with a sock on her hind leg. The artist also painted a life size Marwari horse for her collection, ‘Around the world in 80 horses’, hiring out a Nukra horse, which is the white mare traditionally used for wedding ceremonies, which the groom rides in on.
Madeleine is currently travelling the world to paint equestrian portraits of 80 different breeds, and will be exhibiting her work in October 2022 at the Osborne Studio Gallery, Belgravia.
Artist: Madeleine Bunbury
Dates:11th till 29th October 2022
Location: Osborne Studio Gallery
2 Motcomb St, Belgravia
Entry: Free admission to the gallery