From at least 1951
Mr. Owen, Aberystwyth, Wales, from at least 1951 
Francesca Galloway, London, to 2005
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Francesca Galloway in 2005
 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) and Custodian(s)
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.
1. (Debra Diamond, 28 April 2005, From acquisition justification report)
The gold inscription ascribes the painting to 'Abid, a painter at the courts of the emperors Jahangir [r.1605-1627] and Shah Jahan [r.1628-1658].
He is The God. Her manner of elegance [was such] that the weight of color broke the flower stem. On the first day of the month of Ramadan, 1037 [May 5, 1628].
He is The God. Drawn by the most humble of [all] born at the court, 'Abid [son of] Aqa Reza' [in the service of] Shah Jahan. It was written in the city of Agra. (translated by Robert Skelton)
A small gold inscription on the back cover ascribes the mirror case to Manohar.
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. .
- Elizabeth B. Moynihan. The New Cambridge History of India. 4 vols., New York and Cambridge. Part 1, vol. 3.
- 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, Massachusetts. .
- 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 ed. 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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