This darbar scene is a model of Shah Jahan-period symmetry, and ‘Abid its greatest exponent. Within this formal ordering, he created an intensity of human interest, which he achieved through figures who break rank by staring out of the picture or otherwise infuse a human dimension to the regimented assembly. The colorful ensemble of nobles outside the railing are portraits of such compelling individuality that they compete for our attention, dare one say, with the presence of the emperor. This is a bold painting indeed. An allusion to Jahangir’s infatuation with allegorical imagery appears in the grisaille painting of a Sufi mystic (shaykh) holding up to the emperor and his son a globe, symbol of world kingship. About the Artist 'AbidBorn in India in the 1590s, active at the Mughal court 1604–45; son of Aqa Riza ‘Abid was perhaps the greatest painter of Shah Jahan’s atelier, yet one for whom no contemporary records survive, beyond one that names him as the son of Aqa Riza. The brother of Abu’l Hasan, ‘Abid presumably entered the atelier of emperor Jahangir around 1615, but he is known only from signed works made during Shah Jahan’s reign (r. 1628–58). He is largely invisible during the heyday of Jahangir’s fulsome patronage of his imperial studio, perhaps overshadowed by his father and especially by his brother, who found special favor with the emperor. ‘Abid only emerged from the shadows as a major artist with the accession of Shah Jahan. ‘Abid is known principally for court, procession, and battle scenes, a number of which are preserved in the Windsor Padshahnama, the official history of Shah Jahan’s reign. As the son of Aqa Riza, ‘Abid was meticulously trained in the Safavid tradition, and he excelled in technical virtuosity and complex compositions. He favored symmetrical formations and enlivened them with intensely dramatized characterizations and complex interplay of motifs and surface textures to create dense decorative effects. His portraits of assembled noblemen, be they soldiers in the battlefield or couriers at a royal audience, are always highly individualized, radiating a strong sense of personality and of authenticity rarely seen in painting of the period. Although he is known only through a few signed works, including the masterful battle scene shown herein, his compelling and daring approach to portraiture and figure characterization sets him apart from other painters of his generation. This master of virtuosity empathized with the aesthetics of Shah Jahan, who extolled the virtues of jewel-like perfection in all artistic matters, which were given fullest expression in his passion for jewelry and for the imperial architecture that climaxed in the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan could not have found a master painter better suited to expressing the highly personal aesthetic of his age.