Mirror case with portrait of Mumtaz Mahal

Artist: Abid
Historical period(s)
Reign of Shah Jahan, portrait by Abid dated 1628; assembled late 17th century
Lacquer over wood frame and papier-mache or pasteboard, opaque watercolor, gold and silver foil strips on paper
H x W x D (overall): 17.8 x 11.8 x 1.7 cm (7 x 4 5/8 x 11/16 in)
India or Iran
Credit Line
Purchase — funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Lacquer, Mirror

Mirror case

flower, India, Iran, portrait, Reign of Shah Jahan (1628 - 1658), wine, woman, WWII-era 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).

Previous Owner(s)

Francesca Galloway
Mr. Owen


Portraits of women at the Mughal court are rare, and this portrait's eroticism is unprecedented. Comparing the generic face of the beauty depicted on the back cover of the mirror case with this woman's somewhat pointed nose and smallish eyes, however, gives the sense that this is a specific person.

The portrait's exquisite refinement, the artist's renown, and the painting's date suggest that it was produced for Emperor Jahangir (1569- 1627) or his son Shah Jahan (1592-1666), the builder of the Taj Mahal. The small oval painting clearly was valued long after those who knew the woman had passed away. It was placed against the sparkling ground and set within the mirror case almost a century after its creation.

Published References
  • The St. Petersburg Muraqqa': Album of Indian and Persian Miniatures from the 16th through the 18th Century and Specimens of Persian Calligraphy by Imad al-Hasani. 2 vols., Milano. .
  • The New Cambridge History of India. 4 vols., New York and Cambridge. .
  • Nasser D. Khalili, B. W. Robinson, Tim Stanley. Lacquer of the Islamic Lands. Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, no. 22 London. .
  • Arts of Mughal India: Studies in Honour of Robert Skelton. London, Ahmedabad, and New York. .
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. King of the World: The Padshahnama: An Imperial Mughal Manuscript from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle. Exh. cat. London, 1997. .
  • Milo Cleveland Beach, Stuart Cary Welch, Glenn D. Lowry. The Grand Mogul: Imperial Painting in India 1600-1660. Williamstown, MA. .
  • John Seyller. Journal of the David Collection. vol. 3, Copenhagen. pp. 130-159, figs.12,13,15,16.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court., 2nd. Washington and Ahmedabad, India, 2012. cat. 56, p. 186.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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