This painting illustrates Nainsukh's extraordinary skill. Raja Balwant Dev Singh with Musicians in the Rainy Season depicts the prince standing to the right, holding a huqqa and facing a woman holding a tanpura and gesturing towards the king. Both wear traditional costume of the period rendered in minute detail, including the golden brocade pattern on his slippers and the delicate chevron pattern on her golden gauze-like oudhni. In a departure from convention, Nainsukh has moved the architectural setting to the right so that the singer, not the prince, is at the center of the composition. Her prominent positioning likely indicates that she was a singer held in great esteem. She is identified in a related composition inscribed with her name Ladbai; see B.N. Goswamy, Nainsukh of Guler, 1997, p. 128f., cat. no. 40. Her facial features, position of the tanpura, and extended left hand are rendered in close correspondance.
Only two other works by the hand of Nainsukh incorporating a self-portrait are known: 'Self-Portrait', circa 1730, at the Indian Museum Culcutta; and 'Balwant Singh Seeing a Painting with Nainsukh', circa 1745-50, at the Museum Rietberg Zurich, see Goswamy, cat. nos. 1 and 39.
The present painting is also of extraordinary large size and has a remarkable provenance. It is inscribed on the reverse "Raja Balwant Singh the J[?] in a rainy season," "A12," and a price is stated in English pounds. The hand and inscriptions are similar to those found on the back of Balwant Singh Seeing a Painting with Nainsukh. It further bears the aniline dye stamp of "(Sd.) D. J. Tata." According to Goswamy (p. 254-57) the stamp indicates this painting, along with several others of Balwant Singh by Nainsukh, were once in the private collection of Sir Dorab J. Tata, an ancestor of the present-day Mumbai industrialist family. In 1921, Tata offered his art collection to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum (formerly Prince of Wales Museum) in Mumbai, whose Trustees selected a few works, including several but not all of his Nainsukh paitings. They were offered on 14 December 1931 in a sale at Sotheby's London, which included a section of "oriental manuscripts and miniatures," in which "The Property of Sir D. J. Tata" was included as lots 470 to 480. While many of the lots have been traced to known Nainsukh paintings in present-day collections, the whereabouts of lot 476, listed as "Another of the Rajah [sic] standing under an umbrella listening to a singing girl accompanied by musicians", has now been reestablished. This description, combined with the stamps and inscriptions on the verso, unquestionably identifies the present example.
The reappearance of a work by Pandit Nainsukh incorporating a self-portrait of the artist is a major discovery for the field. It is dated to his high period, is larger than any of its comparables and is in very good condition.