Special Reports

Emperor Jahangir’s portrait auctioned in London

London: A magnificent portrait the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, who reigned from 1605 to 1627, attributed to Abu’l Hasan Nadir al-Zaman and dated 1026 AH/1617 CE, was sold here to a Middle Eastern museum for £1,420,000 at Bonhams Indian and Islamic Sale on 5 April. The picture is a political tour de force in which the Emperor lays claim to a world-wide ambition. This is achieved through its full life-size magnificence, use of precious items in its creation, and the words that accompany it, all make his all conquering ambition plain.

The portrait in gouache heightened with gold leaf on a fine woven cotton canvas shows the Emperor seated on a throne. His head is surrounded by a radiating nimbus and he is wearing an embroidered floral tunic over a patka and striped pyjama, with applied plaster jewellery. There is a circular pendant around the Emperor’s neck set with mica, with jade and glass vessels at his side and carpet under his feet. The border has 26 cartouches of fine nasta’liq inscription.

Previously shown in the National Portrait Gallery in an exhibition on the Indian Portrait in 2010, the Emperor is shown seated on a gold decorated throne holding a globe, wearing elaborate robes and jewellery. The surrounding Persian inscription states it was painted at Mandu in 1026 AH/1617 CE.

Alice Bailey, Head of Indian and Islamic Art at Bonhams comments: “This is one of the rarest and most desirable 17th century paintings ever to come to auction. There is no other work of its kind known and its importance cannot be underestimated. The extraordinary detail and complexity of the painting both fascinate and bewitch the viewer.”

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2011 on page no. 17

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