The Elderly Shahjahan, from the Late Shahjahan Album

Historical period(s)
Mughal dynasty, Reign of Shah Jahan, 1640-1660
Mughal Court
Mughal School
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper mounted on paperboard
H x W (overall): 37 x 25.3 cm (14 9/16 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, flower, halo, Henri Vever collection, holy man, India, lion, Mughal dynasty (1526 - 1858), Reign of Shah Jahan (1628 - 1658), WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

The powerful ruler Shahjahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, reigned from 1628 to 1658. The confidence and serenity rendered in this portrait emphasize the glory attained by the aged emperor during the last years of his reign. The inclusion of three Muslim holy men depicted in the right border sanctifies Shahjahan's imperial authority, while the resting lion and lioness at the bottom are probably allusions to the ruler's twilight years.

Asaf Khan (died 1641), the elderly man depicted on the right, gives a gem to Emperor Shahjahan, his nephew and son-in-law, who was a connoisseur of precious stones. As the chief minister, Asaf Khan held an unsurpassed position among the nobility of the court, which is acknowledged by the inclusion of his portrait with that of the emperor. Such powerful nobles served as intermediaries between the exalted emperor and his subjects.

Published References
  • Rene Grousset. The Civilizations of the East. 4 vols., New York and London, 1931-1934. vol. 1: p. 319, fig. 201.
  • 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. 338, p. 287.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Worlds within Worlds: Imperial Paintings from India and Iran
Google Cultural Institute
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