The Emperor Humayun

Historical period(s)
Mughal dynasty, Reign of Shah Jahan, 1610
Mughal Court
Mughal School
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper
H x W: 18.1 x 11.9 cm (7 1/8 x 4 11/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Album folio with painting

carpet, emperor, illumination, India, Mughal dynasty (1526 - 1858), Reign of Shah Jahan (1628 - 1658), sword, throne, umbrella, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

This portrait represents Humayun, the second ruler of the Mughal house, who reigned between 1530 and 1556. According to the inscription on the left, the painting was made in 1610, over one-half of a century after the death of the emperor. Ancestral portraits were popular in the Mughal court and many representations of the founders of the dynasty were made for the imperial albums years after their death.

Humayun's reign was troubled by political disturbances; he was forced to flee from the invading afghans and lived in exile for fifteen years (1540-55). During this time he took refuge in Iran and stayed at the Safavid court in Tabriz. Here he became interested in the works of Iranian painters and invited several artists to join his court. These artists were highly influential in the development of Mughal painting and established the imperial studios when Humayun regained his empire.

Published References
  • Sotheby's (London). Catalogues of Valuable Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures, Comprising a series of very important Indian drawings by the court painters of the great Moghul emperors, Shah Jahan and Aurangzib, the property of a gentleman. London, December 12-13, 1929. no. 119.
  • Freer Gallery of Art. Gallery Book IV: Exhibition of May 22nd, 1940. Washington, D.C. .
  • Smithsonian Institution. Report of the Secretary, 1940. Washington. p. 45, pl. 2.
  • Alvan Clark Eastman. Four Mughal Emperor Portraits in the City Art Museum of St. Louis. vol. 15, no. 2 Chicago, April 1956. pp. 65-92, fig. 2.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court. Exh. cat. Washington, 1981. cat. 18e, pp. 179, 188-189.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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