Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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"Jahangir and his Father, Akbar", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album

Artist:
Painting by Balachand (active 1595–ca. 1650)
Calligrapher:
Mir 'Ali Haravi (d. ca. 1550)
Object Name:
Album leaf
Date:
verso: ca. 1630; recto: ca.1540–50
Geography:
Attributed to India
Medium:
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions:
H. 15 3/8 in. (39 cm) W. 10 3/8 in. (26.3 cm)
Classification:
Codices
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund and The Kevorkian Foundation Gift, 1955
Accession Number:
55.121.10.19
Not on view
MMA 55.121.10.19 verso–Jahangir and his Father, Akbar.

Born in 1542, Jalaluddin Akbar succeeded his father, Humayun, as the third Mughal emperor in 1556. During his long reign (1556–1605), and especially during his minority under the regency of Bayram Khan (1556–61), the Mughal empire took the shape it was to retain through the end of the seventeenth century.

In his memoirs Jahangir writes of his father with the warmest filial affection even though he, like his own son Shahjahan, rebelled against his father while a prince. Of the emperor's appearance and manner he says: "My father very often conversed with learned men of every sect and religion, especially with the pundits and wise men of India. Even though he was illiterate, because he had associated so much with learned men in discourses, it was impossible to discover from his manner that he was illiterate, and he understood the minutiae of poetry and prose better than can possibly be imagined."

"In stature he was of medium tall build, was wheaten of complexion, and had black eyes and eyebrows. In his countenance refinement preponderated over beauty; and he had the body of a lion, broad in the chest and long of arm. On his left nostril he had an extremely attractive fleshy mole the size of half a pea, and those with expertise in physiognomy held that this mole indicated great prosperity and good fortune. His august voice was loud, and he had an especially nice way of speaking. In his manner and bearing he was not like the people of
this world, for in him a divine aura was evident."[1]

Of Akbar's tolerance of religion, a practice followed in large measure by Jahangir, he writes: "There was room in the expanse of my exalted father's peerless realm for practitioners of various sects–unlike other nations in the world, for in Iran there is room for only Shiites and in Turkey, Transoxiana, and Hindustan for only Sunnis. Just as within the vast circle of divine mercy are encompassed all sects and creeds, inasmuch as the Shadow [of God, the king] must be like the [Divine] Essence, in his well-protected realm, the borders of which extend to the great salty ocean, there was room for practitioners of various sects and beliefs, both true and imperfect, and strife and altercation were not allowed. Sunni and Shiite both worshipped in one mosque, and European and Jew in one church. Universal harmony was his rule, and he conversed with the good and pious of every sect, creed, and religion and attended all according to their condition and understanding.''[2]


Wheeler M. Thackston in [Welch et al. 1987]

Bathed in heavenly light, Akbar (right) stands before his son Jahangir in this double portrait by Balchand. If Jahangir gestures imploringly, and Akbar responds by leaning toward his successor, they do so with good reason. As was so often the case in the Mughal imperial house, father and son were rarely in harmony. Toward the end of Akbar's reign, Jahangir proclaimed himself emperor at Allahabad, where he set up his own court; had not his brothers Murad and Danyal predeceased his father, Jahangir might not have come to the throne. The inscription in the lower margin, written by the picture's patron, Shahjahan, introduces another presence, creating a triad of emperors.

Balchand, a Hindu artist who may have converted to Islam in later life,[3] specialized in imperial subjects, which he painted with humble devotion and tenderness.[4] Although he was allowed within the royal enclosure, even into scenes of imperial intimacy, he sketched from a suitable distance. Akbar's concerned sweetness of expression typifies the gentleness of Balchand's rewardingly restrained but penetrating characterizations, which were executed in immaculately brushed and burnished, crisply edged areas of highly personal color, such as the chocolate brown, faded green, subdued red, black, and violet of Akbar's costume and glove. A painstaking worker with a penchant for arabesques, Balchand lavished these designs on carpets, jewelry, daggers, sashes, gloves, and minute ties of coats.

The mood of Balchand's pictures is solemn and stately. Even as a very young man–as can be seen in his work for the Chester Beatty Akbarnama[5]–he portrayed people and animals in arrested motion, as though crystallized. However actively they run or dig, Balchand has consciously posed them as in nineteenth-century photographic tableaux vivants. But he was also a trenchantly analytic observer, as is apparent from his three miniatures for the Windsor Padshahnama. Jahangir Receiving Shahjahan Prior to His Departure to Attack Mewar (fol. 43v; Appendix, fig. 16) recalls Mir Sayyid 'Ali's record of the Safavid court (Appendix, fig. 15) in its documentation not only of people but also of carpets, weapons, textiles, glassware, and imperial standards. So knowingly detailed are such objects as the jeweled wand terminating in a carved bird (held over Jahangir by a eunuch) that the artist himself is likely to have designed them. Like his Shahjahan Attended by His Four Sons (fol. 72v; Appendix, fig. 17), in which Balchand portrayed himself (arms upraised at left center),[6] this picture reveals the Mughal court with a heightened, almost visionary clarity. Balchand's profound–even worshipful–respect for the Mughal family and his closeness to it are also apparent in his third painting for Shahjahan's history, Shahjahan Attacks a Lion That Had Thrown Down Anup Singh (fol. 134r; Appendix, fig. 18). Based upon Abu'l-Hasan's more immediate depiction, it exemplifies the detailed reconstruction
of historical incidents admired at the Mughal court.[7]


Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]

This verso page has the margin number 36; it therefore belongs to Group B. There is no innermost border of cutout poetry and the inner border is a simple flowerhead scroll in gold on a pink ground. The outer border shows the crisply drawn, rather straight-stemmed, and somewhat simplified plants with plenty of air around them, characteristic of this artist, who probably also created the borders for MMA fol. 18r and FGA 39-50b (pls. 52 and 19 in this volume). Recognizable are a tulip in the lower right corner with perhaps a narcissus-like plant above it and above that a plant whose flowers closely resemble the narcissus but whose leaves are not those of the narcissus. In the upper right corner the plant may be a freesia (cult.). In the left border the third plant from the top is a tulip, while below it is a poppy or dianthus, and below it an iris. The second plant from the left along the bottom is an iris; there is a lily in the center of the bottom.


Marie L. Swietochowski in [Welch et al. 1987]

Footnotes:

1. Jahangir Gurkani, Nur al-Din Muhammad. Jahangirnama: Tuzuk-i Jahangiri. Ed. Muhammad Hashim. Teheran, A.H. 1349/ A.D. 1970, p. 20.

2. Ibid., p. 22.

3. See Beach, Milo Cleveland. The Grand Mogul: Imperial Painting in India, 1600–1660. Williamstown, Mass., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1978, p. 95, figs. 5 and 6, for evidence that Balchand tied his jama on the right side, the usual practice of Muslims.

4· See Welch, Stuart Cary. Imperial Mughal Painting. New York, 1978, pl. 35, for his touching marriage portrait of Shah Shuja' and the daughter of Mir Rustam Safavi, a great courtier who was related to the Safavid royal family.

5. Arnold, Thomas W, and Wilkinson, J. V. S. The Library of A. Chester Beatty: A Catalogue of the Indian Miniatures. London, 1936, II, pl. 24.

6. For enlarged details of this self-portrait and another–from fol. 43v–showing him as a younger man, see Beach 1978 (note 3), p. 95.

7. See Welch, Stuart Cary, India! Art and Culture 1300–1900. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985, no. 117, a contemporary sketch by Abu,lHasan for the Jahanginama done from firsthand accounts or from observation.


MMA 55.121.10.19 recto–Calligraphy

Since this stone-hearted one afflicted my heart,
No moment of rest is there for my heart.
The cure for the poor heart is patience, but oh!
I do not know patience–woe to my poor heart!
By its scribe [al-katib], 'Ali

The same quatrain appears on MMA fol. 28v (pl. 93 in this volume) without the phrase "by its scribe."

The general style of the calligraphy seems too hard for Mir-'Ali, especially the initial letters m and s, while the style of MMA fol. 28v (pl. 93) is more in harmony with his usual style. Yet the signature here suggests that it is his own handwriting.


Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

The inner border of this recto page is identical to that of the verso except that it is gold on a blue ground. The outer border has gold flowering plants on a pink ground. Since the gold does not stand out distinctly against this soft ground color, plants are very difficult to identify. A tulip appears in the lower left margin, and a stylized iris in the middle right margin; there is a narcissus in the upper left comer and another, probably, in the lower right border. The same artist painted both floral borders of this album leaf.

This album leaf and MMA fol. 34r with the margin number 45, a portrait of Mulla Muhammad of Bijapur (pl. 38 in this volume), have the same border schemes on portrait and calligraphy pages and, since neither has cutout poetry around the portrait, may well have originally been part of the same album.

Marie L. Swietochowski in [Welch et al. 1987]
Signature: 55.121.10.19 recto:
In Persian, last line of calligraphy: By its scribe, 'Ali.

Inscription: 55.121.10.19 verso:
In Persian, in border below painting (Shah Jahan's hand): Done by Balachand.

Marking: 55.121.10.19 verso:
Margin number '36' is inscribed in the gilt margin.
Jack S. Rofe, Scotland (in 1929; sale, Sotheby's London,December 12, 1929, no. 104, to Kevorkian); [ Hagop Kevorkian, New York, from 1929]; [ Kevorkian Foundation, New York, until 1955; gift and sale to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Emperor's Album: Images of Mughal India," October 21, 1987–February 14, 1988, nos. 11 and 12.

Zurich. Museum Rietberg. "Wonder of the Age: Master painters of India, 1100–1900," April 30, 2011–August 21, 2011, not in catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India, 1100–1900," September 26, 2011–January 8, 2012.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India, 1100–1900," September 26, 2011–January 8, 2012.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Wonder of the Age: Master painters of India, 1100–1900," September 28, 2011–January 8, 2012, not in catalogue.

Sotheby's: Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures. London: Sotheby's, New York, 1929. no. 104.

Welch, Stuart Cary, Annemarie Schimmel, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, and Wheeler M. Thackston. The Emperors' Album: Images of Mughal India. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. nos. 11, 12, pp. 100-103, ill., verso pl. 11 (b/w); recto pl. 12 (b/w).

Okada, Amina. Imperial Mughal Painters: Indian Miniatures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Paris: Flammarion, 1992. p. 30, ill. fig. 29 (b/w), verso.



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