This coin bears a Libra symbol found on the other objects in the collection, but it was not created for talismanic purposes. This sign instead corresponds to the month in which it was minted. In his memoirs, the Mughal emperor Jahangir recorded his inspired idea for the unusual design of this and other coins depicting the signs of the zodiac.
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Title:Coin with Sign of Libra
Date:dated 1034 AH/1625 CE
Geography:Attributed to India, Agra
Dimensions:Diam. 7/8 in. (2.2 cm) D. 1/16 in. (0.2 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Joseph H. Durkee, 1898
Five Coins with Signs of the Zodiac (99.35.7402, .7403, .6552, .7401, .2391)
These gold coins were minted in India during the reign of the Mughal emperor Jahangir (r. 1605–27). On the reverse of each there is an image of the constellation corresponding to the month of issue, and on the obverse a poetic inscription, a number for the year of Jahangir’s reign, and the corresponding year in the hijra calendar. The Metropolitan Museum owns ten of these rare coins, five gold and five silver; shown here are the gold mohurs corresponding to the months Urdibihisht (Taurus), Murdad (Leo), Mihr (Libra), Day (Capricorn), and Isfand ( Pisces).
Jahangir took a strong interest in the coins to be minted during his reign, specifying their names, denominations, weights, and inscriptions.In his memoirs, one can find mention of several decrees he issued regarding the designs of new coins, including the following, which relates to his decision in April 1618 to create this unique issue:
Prior to this, it has been the rule that on one side of gold coins my name has been engraved, and on the other side the name of the minting place, the month, and the regnal year. Around this time it occurred to me that instead of the month a figure of the constellation representing the month should be depicted. For example, for the month of Farvardin a figure of Aries could be made, and for the month of Urdibihisht the figure of Taurus, and so on for every month in which a coin was minted, one side would bear a picture of the constellation in which the sun rose. This method is peculiarly my own and has never been used before.
There are slight variations in the zodiac coins issued between 1618 and 1625 (when production stopped), which indicates that different dies were used to strike them.
These coins are quite unusual in the context of both Indian and Islamic numismatics because those issued by Muslim rulers tend to have no figural decoration, and no other Indian coins have astrological imagery. Together with the portrait and figural coins issued during Jahangir’s reign, these specimens provide a fascinating complement to the other works of art related to this emperor’s exacting patronage.
Marika Sardar in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
2. The dates provided here differ slightly from those given in earlier publications because determining exact Gregorian equivalents for the dates that appear on Jahangir’s zodiac coins is complicated by several factors. The dies used to create them were reused over several years, and the regnal and hijra years were not always accurately or identically updated. In addition, the coins appear to have been minted in each city only when Jahangir was present; therefore the obverse and reverse dies were sometime incorrectly matched to keep up with his itinerant schedule. See Kulkarni, Prashant P. “Die Linkage of the Zodiacal Mohurs of Jahangir.” The Journal of the Numismatic Society of India 66 (2004), pp. 68–84.
3. Other examples are held by the British Museum, London; the Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen; the National Museum, New Delhi; the Indian Museum, Kolkata; and the State Museum, Lucknow.
4. See, for instance, Jahangir. The Jahangirnama: Memoirs of Jahangir, Emperor of India. Translated, edited, and annotated by Wheeler M. Thackston. Washington, D.C., New York, and Oxford, 1999, pp. 27, 123–24, 241.
5. Ibid., p. 260.
Nine coins from the reign of Jahangir: 99.35.2382, .2391, .2394, .2397, .6552, .7401, .7402, .7403, .7405
The Mughal ruler Jahangir (r. A.D. 1605–27) had, among his many artistic interests, a particular concern for the appearance of the coins struck during his reign. He explained in his autobiography that since dated coins, minted at the time, bore the month in addition to the year, he had devised a plan to replace the months with images of the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Following this idea, a spectacular series of coins was produced in both gold and silver, with images of a sign of the Zodiac and of the sun (the latter was a royal symbol) on the obverse and an inscription that included Jahangir's name, the date, and the mint on the reverse.
The Metropolitan Museum owns ten of these rare coins, five gold muhurs and five silver rupees, nine of which depict different signs of the Zodiac (Leo appears on both silver and gold coins, while those with Virgo, Sagittarius, and Aquarius are missing). It is fascinating to learn from Jahangir himself that each sign is meant to correspond to the month of coinage, with Aries presumably the first month, and so on. According to this system, these nine coins would have been minted, in chronological order, in January 1618, January or February 1618, March 1618, November or December 1619, June or July 1621, September 1622, February or March 1624, and April or May 1625. However, a brief study of these coins reveals some inconsistencies in this respect, since in two cases the A.H. year, the year of Jahangir's reign (also stamped on the reverse), and the month/sign of the Zodiac do not correspond. For example, the coin on which Leo is shown, supposedly struck in February or March 1624, and the coin with Libra (to the right of Leo), minted fourteen months later, in April or May 1625, bear the same year of Jahangir's reign, the nineteenth, stamped on the reverse. This would suggest that the equation, sign=month, in strict accordance with Jahangir's will, was not always followed.
Inscription: Inscription in Persian in nasta‘liq script on obverse: یافت در اگره روی زر زیور از جهانگیر شاه، شاه اکبر The face of gold was decorated in Agra by Jahangir Shah, [son of ] Shah Akbar.
(Translation from "Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," 2011, p. 366).
Joseph H. Durkee, New York (until d. 1898; bequeathed to MMA)
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art," February 4–August 31, 1997, no. 10.
Carboni, Stefano. Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. no. 10, pp. 26–27, ill. (b/w).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby, and Navina Haidar, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 256C, pp. 366–67, ill. fig. 256C.
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