Shah Jahan with Asaf Khan from the Late Shah Jahan Album

Artist: Bichitr (active between ca. 1615 -1640)
Historical period(s)
Mughal dynasty, Reign of Shah Jahan, ca. 1640
Mughal Court
Mughal School
Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper mounted on paperboard
H x W (overall): 36.9 x 25.3 cm (14 1/2 x 9 15/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Detached manuscript folio

angel, Asaf Khan, bird, God the Father, halo, Henri Vever collection, India, lute, Mughal dynasty (1526 - 1858), portrait, Reign of Shah Jahan (1628 - 1658)

From at least 1910
Georges Demotte (1877-1923), Paris, from at least 1910 [1]

To 1942
Henri Vever (1854-1942), Paris and Noyers, France, to 1942 [2]

From 1942 to 1986
Family member, Paris and Boulogne, France, by inheritance from Henri Vever, Paris and Noyers, France [3]

From 1986
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, purchased from a family member, Paris and Boulogne, France [4]


[1] The object is documented as having appeared in the collection of Georges Demotte by at least October 9, 1910. See Susan Nemazee, "Appendix 7: Chart of Recent Provenance" in An Annotated and Illustrated Checklist of the Vever Collection, Glenn D. Lowry et al (Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1988), p. 410.

[2] See Glenn D. Lowry et al., An Annotated and Illustrated Checklist of the Vever Collection (Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1988), pp. 286-287, no. 337.

[3] See the Agreement for the Purchase and Sale of the Henri Vever Collection of January 9, 1986, Collections Management Office.

[4] See note 3.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Henri Vever 1854-1942
Georges Demotte 1877-1923
Francois Mautin 1907-2003


Every element of this imperial portrait was calculated to assert the political legitimacy and authority of the Indian emperor, Shah Jahan (1592-1666). The artist Bichitr layered symbols of kingship with exquisitely rendered portraits that endow the image with the authority of the real. Bichitr subtly conveyed the emperor's superior rank by depicting him slightly taller and more sumptuously adorned than his father-in-law, the powerful vizier Asaf Khan. Heavenly figures and sanctifying light, motifs adapted from European prints, as well as Shah Jahan's luminous halo, convey that he is divinely favored.

The painting also reveals the display of splendour that was central to Mughal kingship. Shah Jahan's personal passion for gems is apparent not only in the painting's subject-the gift of a ruby-but also in its jewel-like surface and the flowers on the border that appear to be fashioned from gems set within gold.

Published References
  • Valerie Gonzalez. Aesthetic Hybridity in Mughal Painting, 1526-1658. United Kingdom. .
  • Ivan Stchoukine. Les miniatures indiennes de l'époque des grands moghols au Musée du Louvre. Études d'Art et d'Archeologie Paris. pl. XXXIX.
  • Orientations. Vol. 51, No. 5. Hong Kong, September/October 2020. p. 75, fig. 12.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court., 2nd ed. Washington and Ahmedabad, India, 2012. cat. 22H, pp. 120-1.
  • Michael Brand. The Vision of Kings: Art and Experience in India. Exh. cat. Canberra. cat. 97, p. 139.
  • Glenn D. Lowry, Susan Nemanzee. A Jeweler's Eye: Islamic Arts of the Book from the Vever Collection. Washington and Seattle. cat. 55, pp. 174-175.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. p. 188, fig. 1.
  • A. Azfar Moin. The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship & Sainthood in Islam. p. 232.
  • Glenn D. Lowry, Milo Cleveland Beach, Elisabeth West FitzHugh, Susan Nemanzee, Janet Snyder. An Annotated and Illustrated Checklist of the Vever Collection. Washington and Seattle. cat. 337, pp. 286-287.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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