Mirror case with portrait of Mumtaz Mahal

Detail of a pattern
Image 1 of 4

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At A Glance

  • Period

    portrait by Abid dated 1628; assembled late 17th century
  • Geography

    India or Iran
  • Material

    Lacquer over wood frame and papier-mache or pasteboard, opaque watercolor, gold and silver foil strips on paper
  • Dimension

    H x W x D (overall): 17.8 x 11.8 x 1.7 cm (7 x 4 5/8 x 11/16 in)
  • Accession Number



Object Details

  • Artist

  • Description

    The mirror case bears a half-length portrait of a nude woman within an oval on its interior. Its sensitive line and subtle shading, as well as the remarkably rendered hand grasping a perfume bottle or wine cup, reveal the hand of a master artist at the Mughal court.
    The Mughal portrait was set into a mirror case that can be attributed by style to 18th-century Iran. An x-ray of the cover's interior reveals that the glittering background and quince blossom branches extend only slightly beneath the oval, which indicates that the oval portrait's inclusion is contemporaneous with the case's production. The glittering background, which is seen in numerous 18th century lacquer objects from Iran, is here produced by the meticulous placement of minute strips of silver upon the surface; its surface appears golden because of the lacquer varnish. The thinner borders on the frames, adorned with flowers and dot patterns, are also consistent with 18th-century lacquer objects from Iran.
    The Mughal painting on the back cover depicts an idealized beauty standing amidst delicately flowering bushes. The fine portrait of a Mughal prince in a fur-collared robe and boots adorns the front cover.
  • Previous custodian or owner

    Mr. Owen
    Francesca Galloway
  • Provenance

    From at least 1951
    Mr. Owen, Aberystwyth, Wales, from at least 1951 [1]
    To 2005
    Francesca Galloway, London, to 2005
    From 2005
    Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Francesca Galloway in 2005
    [1] The object was in the collection of Mr. Owen of Aberystwyth, Wales as early as 1951. Francesca Galloway has provided copies of a letter (dated March 28, 1951) and an object report (dated March 20, 1951) in which an unknown art specialist (signature not legible) remarks to Mr. Owen that he was fortunate to have acquired "a museum piece and antique of this kind [in a sale of] odds and ends," (according to Curatorial Note 4, Debra Diamond, April 28, 2005, in the object record).
  • Origin

    India or Iran
  • Credit Line

    Purchase — funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
  • Type

  • Restrictions and Rights

    Usage Conditions Apply

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