When conceiving a portrait, an artist can choose to depict the sitter in any number of ways. Here the artist has decided to show the subject, an eighteenth-century governor of Bengal, listening to music in order to emphasize his cultured and refined side. The young man in front of him performs on the tanpura, a stringed, plucked instrument. It provides a continuous drone rather than a melody, so it usually accompanies singing or supports other instruments.
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