recto: "Portrait of Raja Suraj Singh Rathor", verso: Page of Calligraphy. Folio from the Shah Jahan Album
Painting by Bishan Das
Mir 'Ali Haravi (d. ca. 1550)
recto: late 16th century; verso: ca. 1640
Attributed to India
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
H. 15 1/4 in. (38. 7 cm)
W. 10 1/16 in. (25.6 cm)
Purchase, Rogers Fund and The Kevorkian Foundation Gift, 1955
Not on view
verso: This panel of calligraphy conforms closely to the type probably established by the celebrated calligrapher Sultan 'Ali about forty or fifty years earlier. The border illumination is signed by the artist Daulat, who executed paintings and marginalia for three generations of Mughal emperors, from Akbar to Shah Jahan. Mir 'Ali was both the calligrapher and author of the lines written here: One with the eye of gazelles hunted the bird of my heart, Robbed me of steadfastness, robbed me, poor lover, of rest. Counsel and good advice is no longer of use– There is no use anymore, friends, in counseling me! The poor 'Ali.
MMA 220.127.116.11 verso–Calligraphy
By its scribe [i.e., Mir-'Ali]
One with the eyes of gazelles hunted the bird of my heart, Robbed me of steadfastness, robbed me, poor lover, of rest. Counsel and good advice is no longer of use– There is no use anymore, friends, in counseling me! The poor [al-faqir] 'Ali
The verses surrounding this page are by Shahi and apparently belong to the same manuscript as those pasted on MMA 55-I2I.I0.2v (pl. 33 in this volume). Since in both cases the illumination is done by Daulat, the two pages seem to have been prepared in the imperial atelier at the same time.
Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]
OF ALL THE decorated borders collected in this album, only four are signed, and of these two are signed by Daulat as gilder and illuminator in tiny letters in the gold guard band between the inner and outer borders, as here. The design shows gracefully scrolling palmettes, leaves, flower heads, and buds on delicate stems with birds perched at intervals on them and with a ribbon band looping and arching above them. The rhythms of the design suggest lilting cadences, belying the incredible control of the brushstrokes. A comparison between this border and another in the album (MMA fol. 23 v; pl. 15) reveals the superior mastery of this hand. The painting of borders in gold on blue would appear to be Daulat's specialty at this time, although the gold plants on a pink ground bordering the portrait on the recto side of the folio were in all probability also by his hand.
Among the most memorable paintings of the artist Daulat are the border paintings of the Muraqqa'-i Gulshan in Teheran, a part of the same album made for Jahangir which is in the Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Külturbesitz, Berlin. Here, among other subjects, are penetrating portraits of some of Jahangir's leading artists (Abu'l-Hasan; Manohar; Bishan Das, "the nephew of Nanha"; and Daulat himself). Daulat delighted in humble epithets in his signatures, sometimes using his name, Daulat, in its meaning as "empire." Not only was he a superb portrait painter, as can be judged by his picture of 'lnayat Khan (pl. 26, upper right), but he also painted larger compositions. While it cannot be proven that the Daulat of the borders is the same painter whose signature appears on portraits and other paintings, the quality of sure and supple brushstrokes and similarities in the manner of signatures as well as writing strongly suggest one artist, an artist who in the latter part of his career seems to have turned exclusively to border paintings.
Marie L. Swietochowski in [Welch et al. 1987]
1. See Beach, Milo Cleveland. The Grand Mogul: Imperial Painting in India, 1600–1660. Williamstown, Mass., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1978, pp. 113–I6, for a list of some of Daulat's major works.
MMA 18.104.22.168 Recto–Raja Suraj Singh Rathor.
INSCRIBED: (in Shahjahan's hand?) shabih-i ... Raja Surajsingh Rathor, kar-i Bishandas (a portrait of ... Raja Suraj Singh Rathor, done by Bishan Das)
SURAJ SINGH RATHOR was the son of Udai Singh of Marwar in the province of Ajmer, who had joined the Mughal imperium under Akbar and had given in marriage to Prince Sultan-Salim (Jahangir) his daughter Manmati, who became the mother of Prince Khurram (Shahjahan). By virtue of this royal connection, Raja Suraj Singh, the maternal uncle of the prince, was given suitable ranks and a fief in Jodhpur after his father's death.
In 1608 Jahangir records a visit to court by Raja Suraj Singh, when he brought a Hindi poet, Shyam Singh, to recite some of his poetry in praise of the emperor. "Few Hindi verses of such freshness of purport have ever reached my ear," comments Jahangir, who was a great connoisseur of Persian poetry but not much taken with Hindi works.
In 1615 Jahangir was highly pleased by the presentation of an elephant named Ranrawat from Suraj Singh "It was such a rare elephant that I put it into my private stud," writes the emperor. A few days later Suraj Singh gave Jahangir another elephant, but this time he notes that the second could not be compared to the first, "which is one of the wonders of the age and is worth 20,000 rupees."
Suraj Singh was sent to Gujarat with Prince Murad and later with Prince Danyal when he was posted to the Deccan in the latter years of Akbar's reign. Under Jahangir he served with Shahjahan in the expedition against the rana of Mewar and in the Deccan campaign. He died in the Deccan in 1619, and Jahangir records his death as follows: "On Saturday news came of the death of Raja Suraj Singh, who had died a natural death in the Deccan. He was the descendant of Maldeo, who was one of the principal landholders of Hindustan and had a holding that vied with that of the rana of Mewar, whom he had even-overcome in one battle .... Raja Suraj Singh, through the good fortune of being brought up by the late king and also by this supplicant at the Divine Court, reached high rank and great dignities. His territory surpassed that of his father or grandfather. His son is called Gaj Singh, and during his father's lifetime he turned over all his financial and administrative affairs to him. As I knew him to be capable and worthy of favor, I promoted him to the rank of 3000/ 2000 with a standard and the title of raja and his younger brother to that of 500/ 250 and gave him a fief in his native country."
Wheeler M. Thackston in [Welch et al. 1987]
RAJA SURAl SINGH stands before the emperor, his hands obediently crossed, paying homage and awaiting orders. As in most portraits painted for Akbar (but see Prince Danyal, pl. 18 in this volume), little space was lavished round the figure; when this one was remounted, it was set into a larger expanse of green.
This is an early work by Bishan Das, whose apprenticeship and early career were spent in Akbar's ateliers. His talent as a portraitist was encouraged by Jahangir, who described him in the Tuzuk in connection with the Mughal embassy to Iran in 1613: ''At the time when I sent Khan 'Alam to Persia [as ambassador], I had sent with him a painter of the name of Bishan Das, who was unequalled in his age for taking likenesses, to take the portraits of the shah and the chief men of his state, and bring them. He had drawn the likenesses of most of them, and especially had taken that of my brother the shah exceedingly well, so that when I showed it to any of his servants, they said it was exceedingly well drawn." On the embassy's return in 1620, Jahangir wrote that "Bishan Das, the painter, was rewarded with the gift of an elephant."
Another version of this portrait in the Berlin Album is inscribed in Jahangir's firm hand with the artist's name and the fact that Suraj Singh was the tugay (maternal uncle) of Prince Khurram (Shahjahan). The date–1608–refers not to the year of the painting but to that of the writing.. Both portraits are in the style of Akbar's reign and must have been painted in the 1590s. They represent the artist's work before Jahangir's patronage had further aroused his talents for psychological acuity and exquisite technical fineness.
Bishan Das excelled not only in portraiture but in panoramic historical miniatures which he painted under three reigns with unfailing masterfulness. Although Jahangir did not honor Bishan Das as one of his "wonders," he so admired the artist that he called upon him to rework displeasing passages in major earlier Iranian pictures.
Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]
MOST OF THE verses surrounding the portrait are a lyrical poem on the appearance of the crescent moon of the Feast of Fast breaking at the end of the month of Ramadan. The poet, whose pen name appears to be Mani, rejoices that he can drink wine again. This poem is followed by Persian verses that end:
I am the one who drinks the dregs from the earthen vessel of the dogs at your door– I do not drink the Water of Life from a golden goblet!
The poet thus states that the lowliest thing belonging to his beloved is more precious to him than even the mysterious water that bestows immortality on the seeker.
Another verse from the same poem appears at the border of V&A 123A–1921, where the poet claims:
If you gave me poison, I would eat it from your hand like honey, But from the hands of others I do not eat sugar.
Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]
THIS RECTO PORTRAIT page has the margin number 4 and so belongs to Group A. In what has been designated Album I, it would have been found opposite the portrait of Rup Singh (MMA fol. 8v; pl. 29 in this volume), a verso portrait page with the margin number 3. As mentioned earlier, two other leaves also beloriged to this album: the leaf with the portrait of Prince Danyal (MMA fol. 32r; pl. 18 in this volume) with the margin number 52 and the leaf with the portrait of Jahangir Beg, Jansipar Khan (MMA fol. 37v; pl. 67 in this volume) with the margin number 35.
All the portrait sides have flowering plants in gold on a pink ground with inner borders of cutout poetry surrounded by a band of palmette and floral scrolls in gold on a blue or pink, as in this leaf, ground. All have abstract floral scroll patterns in gold on a blue ground on the calligraphy side.
Here, an iris is identifiable in the middle of the inner border and slightly below the middle in the inner side of the outer border.
Marie L. Swietochowski in [Welch et al. 1987]
1. Jahangir Gurkani, Nur al-Din Muhammad. Jahangirnama: Tuzuk-i Jahangiri. Ed. Muhammad Hashim. Teheran, A.H. 1349/ A.D. 1970, p. 80. A line of poetry ascribed to "Mirza Raja, Shahjahan's maternal uncle" is recorded in Mirza Muhammad-Tahir Nasrabadi. Tadhkira-i Nasrabadi. Ed. Wahid Dastgardi. Teheran, n.d., p. 55.
2. Jahangir. The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri; or Memoirs of Jahangir. Trans. Alexander Rogers. Ed. Henry Beveridge. 2 vols. London, 1909–1914, vol. 1, p. 289.
3. Jahangir, Jahangimama,(note 1) p. 313f. See also Shahnawaz Khan, Samsam al-Dawla, and 'Abd al-Hayy. Maasiru-l-umara; Being Biographies of the Muhammadan and Hindu Officers of the Timurid Sovereigns of India from 1500 to About 1780 A.D. Trans. H. Beveridge. Rev. ed. Calcutta, 1941–52, vol. II, pp. 914ff.
4· The artist may have returned from Iran before the embassy, however, for one of his liveliest and finest portraits, showing Ray Bharah and Jassa Jam, is likely to have been painted in 1618 (see Welch, Stuart Cary. The Art of Mughal India: Painting and Precious Objects. New York, Asia Society, 1963, no. 34).
5· Kühnel, Ernst, and Goetz, Hermann. Indian Book Painting from Jahangir's Album in the State Library in Berlin. London, 1926, pl. 35.
6. An early nineteenth-century copy of this portrait was auctioned at Sotheby's on October 14, 1980, lot 205. It is not illustrated, but the description follows the original. [ MLS]
7. The author agrees with Milo C. Beach in the attribution of this picture, which brings to mind the artist's equally marvelous description of incidents following the birth of Jahangir. See Beach, Milo Cleveland. The Grand Mogul: Imperial Painting in India, 1600–1660. Williamstown, Mass., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1978, p. 110, and Welch, Stuart Cary, India! Art and Culture 1300–1900. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985, cat. no. 114.
8. See Welch, India, (note 7) no. 139.
Signature: 22.214.171.124 verso: In Persian, in upper right corner triangle: By its scribe. In Persian, in lower left corner triangle: The poor 'Ali.
Inscription: 126.96.36.199 recto: In Persian, in lower part of second border: Portrait of...Raja Suraj Singh Rathor, done by Bishan Das.
188.8.131.52 verso: In Persian, in the narrow gilt magin: Illuminating and gilding work of Daulat.
Marking: 184.108.40.206 recto: Margin number '4' is inscribed in the gilt margin.
Jack S. Rofe, Scotland (in 1929; sale, Sotheby's London,December 12, 1929, to Kevorkian); [ Hagop Kevorkian, New York, from 1929]; [ Kevorkian Foundation, New York, until 1955; gift and sale to MMA]
Washington. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. "Garden and Cosmos: Painting from Jodhpur," October 11, 2008–January 4, 2009, no. 4.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi’s Miniature Paintings," July 29, 2013–February 2, 2014.
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. 27, 28, pp. 135–38, 140, ill. pls. 27, 28.
Okada, Amina. Imperial Mughal Painters: Indian Miniatures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Paris: Flammarion, 1992. p. 157, ill. fig. 189 (b/w), recto.
Diamond, Debra, Catherine Glynn, and Karni Singh. "The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur." In Garden and Cosmos. Washington: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2008. no. 4, pp. 58-59, 259, ill. p. 58 (color).
Beach, Milo C., Eberhard Fischer, and B.N. Goswamy. Masters of Indian Painting. Vol. Vols. I, II. Zurich, Switzerland: Artibus Asiae Publishers, 2011. vol. I, p. 261.
Alexander, David G., and Stuart W. Pyhrr. "in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." In Islamic Arms and Armor. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. p. 218, ill. fig. 35 (color).