Shah Jahan

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Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) with His Son Dara Shikoh: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal, period of Jahangir (1605–27), ca. 1620 By Nanha
India
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
This superbly painted image framed by a splendid border shows the future emperor admiring jewels with his favorite son. Holding a tray of emeralds and rubies, the father contemplates a ruby in his right hand, while the child grasps a peacock fan and a turban ornament. They are seated on a raised dais that is placed at an uncharacteristic angle to the picture plane. Both father and son are turned toward the viewer but, as with most Mughal portraits, their heads are seen in strict profile. The sumptuousness of court life is conveyed in the detailed depiction of the jewels, the gilded furniture, the textiles, and, most spectacularly, the large bolster with its designs of figures and plants. The asymmetry of the page and the naturalistic scene set against a large expanse of mostly undifferentiated background are especially strong design elements. In many ways these features relate to a traditional Rajput sensibility, which undoubtedly informs this work. The composition is further enhanced by the border, whose flora and fauna are unusually varied and freely disposed.

- The Shah Jahan Album, also known as the Emperor's Album or Kevorkian Album, features fifty illustrated and calligraphy folios, forty-one of which belong to the Metropolitan Museum, and nine of which reside in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. This spectacular album, which contains intimate nature studies, portraits of the royal family and various dignitaries, and fine examples of illuminated folios of calligraphy by renowned calligraphers, offers a glimpse into the courtly life and diverse interests of its patrons. The album was initiated by the Mughal emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–27), and passed onto his son Shah Jahan (r. 1628–58), who added several paintings, illuminations, and calligraphy folios. It...
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