"Shah Jahan Watching an Elephant Fight", Folio from a Padshahnama
Folio from an illustrated manuscript
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
15 in. high 9.75 in. wide (38.2 cm high 24.7 cm wide)
Harris Brisbane Dick, Louis V. Bell, Pfeiffer and Dodge Funds, 1989
Not on view
In this page from the Padshahnama, the artist has created a unified space stretching from the foreground, where goaders are milling, to the top of the scene, where the emperor and his two sons are shown in profile at an open tripartite window. Although the white and red walls of the fort are unmodulated planes, the placement of figures before them gives a sense of spatial recession. The dynamism of the elephant combat balances the impassive family portraits. While the courtiers in the upper tier turn their backs on the melee to face the royals, and the lower figures seem more concerned with the combat, curiously, none of them look directly at the object of their attention, somewhat diminishing the work's psychological intensity. Nevertheless, the artist subtly suggests that the emperor, under his gilded roof, is the lord of all beneath him.
Inscription: Definition: Persian Translation: Four inscriptions: 1) Under window: Likeness of the servants of the highest Presence and likenesses of the prince of the inhabitants of the world Work of (?) the lowliest ...(?). 2) Above the gate: Work of the lowliest houseborn [slaves], Bulaqi son of Hushang, year 104. 3) Above left elephant: Likeness of (?) [name not fully legible, may be Hindi bhairo, "terrible, formidable," or bhir, "hero, brave." 4) Above right elephant: Likeness of War-brave soldier
Marking: See additional card.
Nasr ud-Din Shah, Shah of Iran (probably from 1739; gifted to Petermann); Mr. Petermann ; M.F. Engle-Gros, Ripaille, France; [ Parish-Watson & Co., New York, in 1924]; Samuel C. Davis, St. Louis; Alita Davis Weaver(until 1989; her estate sale, Sotheby's New York,March 22, 1989, no. 63); [ Terence McInerney, New York, 1989; sold to MMA]
"March 22, 1989." In Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art 1989. New York: Sotheby's, New York, 1989. no. 63, ill. fig. 63 (color).
Dalrymple, William, and Yuthika Sharma. "in Mughal Delhi, 1707–1857." In Princes and Painters. New Haven and London: Asia Society, 2012. no. 1, pp. xi, 70, ill. (color).
Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 48, no. 2 (1989-1990). pp. 14-15, ill. (color).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daniel S. Walker, Arturo Ponce Guadián, Sussan Babaie, Stefano Carboni, Aimee Froom, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, Tomoko Masuya, Annie Christine Daskalakis-Matthews, Abdallah Kahil, and Rochelle Kessler. "Colegio de San Ildefonso, Septiembre de 1994-Enero de 1995." In Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994. no. 26, pp. 96-97, ill. p. 97 (color).
Kossak, Steven M., ed. Indian Court Painting 16th–19th century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. no. 25, pp. 53, 55, ill. pl. 25 (color).