Payday loansPayday Loans

The Shah Jehan (Emperor’s) Album

The Shah Jahan Album, also known as the Emperor’s Album or Kevorkian Album, features fifty illustrated and calligraphy folios, forty-one of which belong to the Metropolitan Museum, and nine of which reside in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. This spectacular album, which contains intimate nature studies, portraits of the royal family and various dignitaries, and fine examples of illuminated folios of calligraphy by renowned calligraphers, offers a glimpse into the courtly life and diverse interests of its patrons.

Leaf of calligraphy: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal; calligraphy, ca. 1500; margin, early 17th century Sultan cAli Mashhadi (calligraphy), Possibly Daulat (illumination) Iran (calligraphy), India (illumination), Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

Leaf of calligraphy: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal; calligraphy, ca. 1500; margin, early 17th century Sultan cAli Mashhadi (calligraphy), Possibly Daulat (illumination) Iran (calligraphy), India (illumination), Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper. This richly illuminated folio of calligraphy features the work of the preeminent Timurid calligrapher, Sultan 'Ali Mashhadi. Patronized by the Timurid court, Mashhadi was a poet and a recognized master of the nastacliq script. In the following poem, composed by Khwaja Salman al-Savuji, he writes: Coil up in your own tress And then ask how I am, How those are whom the snare Of your affliction broke: You want to know how all Those broken lovers fare— Then ask me first, for I Am the most broken one. This love poem belongs to a larger tradition of mystical poetry in which the lover longs for the unattainable object of his affections. His lover's tresses ensnare him and, hopelessly caught, the poet mourns his plight.

 

This spectacular album, which contains intimate nature studies, portraits of the royal family and various dignitaries, and fine examples of illuminated folios of calligraphy by renowned calligraphers, offers a glimpse into the courtly life and diverse interests of its patrons.The album was initiated by the Mughal emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–27), and passed onto his son Shah Jahan (r. 1628–58), who added several paintings, illuminations, and calligraphy folios. It eventually came into the possession of Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707). Little is believed to have been added by this final imperial patron, but the presence of his seal on one folio confirms that he was once the owner. Finally, around 1820, eleven more folios were added and the album was rebound. The added pages were completed in a style imitative of the seventeenth-century Mughal paintings and are characterized by a degree of stiffness and flatness of form. Thus, the album as it stands today is a collection of folios produced from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.

Leaf of calligraphy: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal; calligraphy, ca. 1535–45; margin, 17th century Mir 'Ali of Herat (calligraphy)

As seen here, works of calligraphy and painting from earlier eras were commonly included in Mughal-era albums and reset within contemporary Mughal margins. In this case, the margin, as well as the illumination surrounding the calligraphy, probably date from the seventeenth century, and the decoration of the delicately rendered flowering plants and grazing animals accords with such a dating.

As seen in this album, the single-page painting attains prominence in Mughal art from the mid-sixteenth century onward. These, along with pages of illuminated calligraphy, were often collected and bound into compilations, referred to as “albums,” or muraqqas, a practice that originated in early fifteenth-century Iran. Under the Timurids (1389–1508), albums usually included existing works in the patron’s collection, as well as works created specifically for the album, such as paintings and drawings, folios from preparatory pattern books, and calligraphy specimens. The earliest written evidence of album production in the Mughal period is from the reign of Akbar, Jahangir’s father, though the earliest extant albums date from the reign of Jahangir. Unlike earlier paintings which illustrated an accompanying text, sensitive studies of nature and individualized portraits predominate in this album. The picture is no longer subordinated to the text, and the figures that people the pages of this album are rendered with an emotional sensitivity not seen before in the arts of Mughal India. Instead, we find paintings in which the aged Akbar leans on the hilt of his sword, holding a rosary in his right hand . His fleshy neck and the gentle folds above his eyes express the weight of his age.

Another folio depicts four high-ranking nobles of the Mughal court with highly individualized and naturalistic facial features, standing in highly formalized postures within a generic landscape. Features such as the majestic sloping nose of the courtier in the top right of the painting and the snub nose of the nobleman at the bottom left distinguish each figure. Nonetheless, highly idealized portraiture continued, epitomized by the painting of “Shah Jahan on Horseback,” (55.121.10.21) in which the ruler is elaborately adorned and haloed, seated on an imperial stallion. In its variety of styles and diversity of subjects, Mughal portraiture demonstrates the diversity of the Mughal court itself. In a portrait of Maharaja Bhim Kunwar , a Hindu and a favorite of Shah Jahan who had fought beside him in battle, the nobleman stands regally, depicted in profile, among flowers that seem to sway in the wind.

Portrait of Maharaja Bhim Kunwar: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal, period of Jahangir (1605–27), ca. 1615 By Nanha India Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

Portrait of Maharaja Bhim Kunwar: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal, period of Jahangir (1605–27), ca. 1615 By Nanha India Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper. Maharaja Bhim Kunwar wears a diaphanous jama tied to the left, an ornately decorated patka, or sash, and a sword hanging from his waist. He is set against a cyan background, typical of portraiture of the early seventeenth century. Bhim Kunwar, son of the Rajput ruler of Mewar, Rana Amar Singh, was given the title of maharaja by Shah Jahan, and was a staunch supporter and ally of the Mughal house. As demonstrated by the inclusion of his portrait in the Shah Jahan Album, Hindu nobility featured prominently in the ranks of the Mughal empire; Shah Jahan himself was the son of a Rathor Rajput princess.

As portraiture flourished in the arts of seventeenth-century Mughal India, so did pictorial studies of nature, particularly those of Jahangir’s favored painter, Mansur. For example, in a rendering of a nilgai in a landscape, the animal dominates the field and becomes the focus of the painting; while in Red-Headed Vulture and Long-Billed Vulture  the scavengers are shown in profile, offering a view of their exquisitely detailed plumage. The subtle shading at the borders of the birds’ feathers gives the illusion of recession of space and volume. Using pictorial techniques imported from European art, such as modeling and perspective, artists like Mansur were able to render the nilgai and the vultures with greater naturalism.

Red-Headed Vulture and Long-Billed Vulture: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal, period of Jahangir (1605–27), ca. 1615–20 By Mansur India Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

Red-Headed Vulture and Long-Billed Vulture: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal, period of Jahangir (1605–27), ca. 1615–20 By Mansur India Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper .A red-headed vulture, set in profile, is perched on a craggy outcropping. Beside it stands the long-billed vulture, seemingly floating against a wash of brown. Both loom large against a conventional background of rocks and sky. Bands of calligraphy set in cloud like cartouches span the top and bottom of the painting, which is set within a sumptuous turquoise margin with delicately rendered, swaying golden flowers.

Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) with His Son Dara Shikoh:

Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) with His Son Dara Shikoh:

Illumination in the margins of the folios and pages of calligraphy show a similar penchant for the depiction of the natural world. The painting Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) with His Son Dara Shikoh, by Nanha  features a quiet moment between the ruler and his son. The haloed Shah Jahan faces his young son, who plays with a turban ornament and peacock feather. Surrounding the father and son, peacocks, pea fowl, chukor partridges, and various flowers inhabit the margins. In a folio of calligraphy, sheep and deer graze among the lines ofnasta’liq script and flowering plants enliven the verse. Each bird is positioned distinctively, and each flower delicately rendered, demonstrating the attention lavished on the depiction of flora and fauna in seventeenth-century Hindustan.

Though new styles and subjects of painting enjoyed unprecedented patronage during this period, the inclusion of pages of opulent illumination attest to the continued patronage of more traditional forms of book art. The album now exists as separate leaves, but the bound original would have opened to a shamsa, or sunburst vignette carrying the imperial cipher of Aurangzeb (55.121.10.39). The sunburst is surrounded by marginal decorations punctuated bymythical animals, elegant arabesques, and delicate foliage in gold leaf. The feathers of the tail of the simurgh, which are rendered in minute detail, swirl above and below the shamsa, reflecting the continued presence of the Persianate styles fostered by Shah Jahan and Jahangir’s predecessors.

Rosette (shamsa) bearing the name and titles of Emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1628–58), Mughal, 17th century

Rosette (shamsa) bearing the name and titles of Emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1628–58), Mughal, 17th century. This shamsa is an exquisite example of the art of illumination in the Mughal period. The profusion and gem-like detail of the floral decoration of the rosette, set along scrolling vines, can be traced to the illumination of the late Timurid period. Known as the international Timurid style, this style features veritable gardens of flowers in its illumination. It spread as far as Ottoman lands, epitomized by the sukufe floral style of Ottoman illumination. Gold and lapis lazuli are used to rich effect here, also echoing earlier Timurid and Safavid illumination techniques. Under Jahangir and his successor, Shah Jahan, the number of manuscripts produced by the imperial atelier was greatly reduced, resulting in fewer, and generally more elaborate, designs and manuscripts such as this.

The shamsa may have then been followed by the unwan, or illuminated double-page frontispiece. These works are peerless examples of the artistry of the illuminator in early seventeenth-century Mughal India. They bear the characteristic tripartite composition, with broad friezes above and below the narrow central calligraphed panel.

Unwan: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal, period of Shah Jahan (1628–58), ca. 1630–40 India

Unwan: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal, period of Shah Jahan (1628–58), ca. 1630–40 India. This folio features six lines of calligraphy in cloud-shaped outlines. Set within the characteristic tripartite composition of this period, the calligraphy is sandwiched between two broad horizontal panels, and flanked by two narrow vertical panels. This folio is half of a double-page frontispiece, a device commonly used in Mughal manuscripts, referred to as an unwan. The unwan typically consists of a central panel containing text, surrounded by rich geometric and floral decoration. The other half of this unwan, 55.121.10.38, features a nearly identical format, with a central panel of text surrounded by panels and ornate illumination. The decoration seen here, of delicately outlined flowers and arabesques, is common to this period, and stands as testament to the virtuosity of the illuminator in seventeenth-century Mughal India.

Shah Jahan on Horseback: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, period of Shah Jahan (1628–58) Attributed to Payag

Shah Jahan on Horseback: Leaf from the Shah Jahan Album, period of Shah Jahan (1628–58) Attributed to Payag

Calligraphy continued to be a venerated art, and as with the unwan, numbers of poems and word plays executed in an elegant nasta’liq script grace the pages of this album. One folio features the work of Sultan ‘Ali Mashhadi (fl. 1453–1520), a venerated calligrapher of the Timurid court. His fluid script is encased in cloud-shaped compartments and set at an angle on the page, with each line separated by scrolling floriated vines. This intricate arrangement of calligraphy and illumination is characteristic of Mughal albums, and repeated time and again in the display of calligraphic specimens. Notably, numbers of Timurid-era works are included in this and other Mughal albums, evidencing the value accorded to Timurid art by the patrons of the Shah Jahan album.

The Shah Jahan Album, augmented and changed since its first incarnation under Jahangir, is considered a true masterpiece of Mughal art. What began as a private collection for the emperor Jahangir wended its way through aDelhi art dealership in the nineteenth century, to an obscure antique shop in Scotland in the first decades of the twentieth century, ultimately arriving in New York to become a gem of the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Source: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/empe/hd_empe.htm

Rashmi Viswanathan
Department of Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Further Reading
  • Beach, Milo Cleveland. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court. Washington, D.C.: Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1981.
  • Beach, Milo Cleveland, and Ebba Koch. King of the World: The Padshahnama: An Imperial Mughal Manuscript from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle. Washington, D.C.: Sackler Gallery, 1997.
  • Crill, Rosemary, Susan Stronge, and Andrew Topsfield, eds. Arts of Mughal India: Studies in Honour of Robert Skelton. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2004.
  • Welch, Stuart Cary, Annemarie Schimmel, Marie L. Swietochowski, and Wheeler M. Thackston. The Emperors’ Album: Images of Mughal India. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987.
  • Wright, Elaine Julia. Muraqqa’: Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. Alexandria, Va.: Art Services International, 2008.

  • art and architecture under shah jahan
  • mughals art and architecture
  • Shah Jahan Album
  • mughal art borders

About the Author
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded on April 13, 1870, in the City of New York. The Museum's collection of Islamic art ranges in date from the seventh to the nineteenth century. Its nearly twelve thousand objects reflect the great diversity and range of the cultural traditions of Islam, with works from as far westward as Spain and Morocco and as far eastward as Central Asia and India. Comprising sacred and secular objects, the collection reveals the mutual influence of artistic practices such as calligraphy, and the exchange of motifs such as vegetal ornament (the arabesque) and geometric patterning in both realms.
Submit your comment

Please enter your name

Your name is required

Please enter a valid email address

An email address is required

Please enter your message

Please note that discussion here on our site will be moderated. Your comments will be greatly appreciated, however we expect participants to treat each other with respect.


 

Islamic Arts and Architecture © 2017 All Rights Reserved

Edited and Managed by

FA Bhatti