Art/ Collection/ Art Object

"Portrait of Maharaja Bhim Kanwar", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album

Painting by Nanha
Mir 'Ali Haravi (d. ca. 1550)
Object Name:
Album leaf
verso: ca. 1615–29; recto: ca. 1540
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)
H. 6 7/16 in. (16.4 cm)
W. 3 13/16 in. (9.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund and The Kevorkian Foundation Gift, 1955
Accession Number:
Not on view
Maharaja Bhim Kunwar wears a diaphanous jama tied to the left, an ornately decorated patka, or sash, and a sword hanging from his waist. He is set against a cyan background, typical of portraiture of the early seventeenth century.

Bhim Kunwar, son of the Rajput ruler of Mewar, Rana Amar Singh, was given the title of maharaja by Shah Jahan, and was a staunch supporter and ally of the Mughal house. As demonstrated by the inclusion of his portrait in the Shah Jahan Album, Hindu nobility featured prominently in the ranks of the Mughal empire; Shah Jahan himself was the son of a Rathor Rajput princess. verso–Maharaja Bhim Kunwar

INSCRIBED: (on portrait in Jahangir's hand)
'amal-i Nanha, shabih-i Bhim Kunwar walad-
i Rana Amar Singh ke khitab-i maharajagi
yafta bud (by Nanha, a portrait of Bhim
Kunwar, son of Rana Amar Singh, who received
the title of maharaja); (below in Shahjahan's
hand) bihtarin nawkaran-i ma dar
ayyam-i shahzadagi Maharaja Bhim o Raja
Bikramajit budand o har do bi-kar-i ma amadand
(our best servants during the days of our
princehood were Maharaja Bhim and Raja
Bikramajit, and they both took our part)

THE LAST STRONGHOLD of Rajput independence against the Mughal imperium was at Mewar, and Rana Pratap's heroic but unequal struggle against Akbar's attempts to annex Mewar is one of the subjects of Rajput bardic literature. In 1597 Rana Pratap was succeeded by his son Rana Amar Singh, who was unable to withstand the concerted efforts of the Mughals under the command of Prince Khurram (Shahjahan) and was finally forced to capitulate in 1614. The rana was so humiliated by his defeat that he abdicated in favor of his eldest son Karan, while the younger son Bhim joined the Mughals. In 1619 Jahangir writes: "On this day came the news of the death of Rana Amar Singh, who died a natural death at Udaipur. Jagat Singh, his grandson, and Bhim, his son, who were in attendance on me, were presented with robes of honor, and an order was given that Raja Kishan Das should proceed with a gracious firman conferring the title of rana, a robe of honor, a horse, and a private elephant for Kumar Karan."[1]

Bhim Kunwar, who was given the title of raja by Jahangir and later elevated to maharaja, was a firm and loyal supporter of Shahjahan. During the prince's rebellion of 1623–24 against Jahangir, it was the impetuous Rajput Raja Bhim who prevailed against the better advice of Shahjahan's other military commanders and persuaded the prince to engage the imperial forces under Prince Parviz. Although Raja Bhim and his Rajputs fought fiercely at the Battle of the Tons, the Rajput prince lost his life in this battle, which is described as follows by Shahjahan's court historian: "With the violence of the wind and a leonine attack with manly spear thrusts, they brought down the elephant, which in its fury and madness had no equal; and Raja Bhim rushed toward Sultan-Parviz. At this time an immense pitched battle took place. As the other commanders no longer had the advantage of assisting him, he turned his face toward his Dispenser of Grace and, with twenty-seven lance-and sword-wounds, fell."[2]

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

AIR AND LIGHT permeate this monumental little portrait of a brave Rajput, whose transparent muslin jama billows in the wind. As though to symbolize the role of a Rajput in Mughal service, he is sumptuously adorned and yet tightly confined by his richly adorned pajama and patka (sash). These garments can be interpreted as reminders of the imperial policy of armed might and bribery that reduced Mewar–the senior Rajput house–to submission. During the ninth year of his reign Jahangir described his offerings to Bhim Singh's elder brother, Karan Singh: ''As it was necessary to win the heart of Karan, who was of a wild nature and had never seen assemblies and had lived among the hills, I every day showed him some fresh favour, so that on the second day of his attendance a jewelled dagger, and on the next day a special Iraqi horse with jewelled saddle, were given to him. On the next day when he went to the darbar in the female apartments, there were given to him on the part of Nur-Jahan Begum a rich dress of honour, a jewelled sword, a horse and saddle, and an elephant. After this I presented him with a rosary of pearls of great value. On the next day a special elephant with trappings (talayir) were given. As it was in my mind to give him something of every kind, I presented him with three hawks and three falcons, a special sword, a coat of mail, a special cuirass,
and two rings, one with a ruby and one with an emerald. At the end of the month I ordered that all sorts of cloth stuffs, with carpets and cushions (named takiya) and all kinds of perfumes, with vessels of gold, two Gujarati carts, and cloths should be placed in a hundred trays. The Ahadis carried them in their arms and on their shoulders to the public audience hall, where they were bestowed on him."[3]

Nanha's characteristically spirited portrait of the young Mewari prince was probably painted in 1615,[4] a date supported by an inscription dating it prior to 1619, when Bhim's son Jagat succeeded him as rana. Since 1615 Bhim had lived at the Mughal court representing his family and was so admired by Jahangir for his military talent that he was given the jagir of Merta. Transferred by imperial order to the service of Prince Khurram (Shahjahan), he served him during the years of rebellion and secured for him the province of Bihar by capturing Patna.

Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]

IN THE upper line and on the left side of the border there is a ghazal by Shahi; on the right side there is a ghazal without end verse, which is probably by the same poet. It seems that the poems on the borders of this leaf and of pl. 32 in this volume belong to the same manuscript. Since their old border numbers are consecutive, they were probably prepared at the same time in the royal ateliers.

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THIS VERSO PORTRAIT has the margin number 57 and thus belongs to Group A. It would have faced MMA fol. 1r (pl. 32 in this volume) in an album. The flowering plants of the border around the portrait are different from other designs showing colored flowers on a buff ground in that the stems are gold. The flower heads are brushed with gold, and flowers, stems, and leaves have dark outlines. The coloring of the flowers is lyrical, with delicate shading into darker centers. The leaves are all one shade of ocherish green, and the brushwork is of an unsurpassed lightness and sureness. While this is the second folio in the Kevorkian Album whose verso border is signed by Daulat (cf. MMA fol. 7v; pl. 27 in this volume), the present border appears to be the only one of flowers in colors and gold on a buff ground in the album by this artist–a great pity since it is a masterpiece. In spite of their exquisite delineation only four plants are identifiable–a poppy in the left border (second from the bottom), another poppy on the inner side of the right border (fifth from the bottom), with a Rununculus above it,
and to the right of that an iris.

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


I. Jahangir. The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri; or Memoirs of Jahangir. Trans. Alexander Rogers. Ed. Henry Beveridge. 2 vols. London, 1909–1914, II, p. 123.

2. Muhammad-Salih Kanbo Lahawri. 'Amal-i salih. Ed. Ghulam Yazdani. 3 vols. Calcutta, 1923–39, I, p. I88.

3. Jahangir, Tuzuk (note 1), I, pp. 277–78.

4. A slightly later version of this portrait was given by John Goelet to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. For an early nineteenth-century traced drawing in reverse of Nanha's portrait, see Loan Exhibition of Antiquities: Coronation Durbar, 1911. Delhi Museum of Archaeology, [1911], no. C.154, pl. LXIIIa. Inasmuch as this drawing is inscribed in the same fashion as the Kevorkian Album picture, referring both to Raja Bikramajit and to Maharaja Bhim Kunwar, it must have been taken from the Metropolitan Museum miniature, probably at the time the Kevorkian Album was being made up from originals and copies. Like several others of the same sort exhibited in 1911, it is dabbed with color notations, and it was lent by L. Bulaki Das of Delhi. recto–Calligraphy

You can well ensnare men's minds by kindness–He
who is not gracious wins no hearts;
Those who helplessly implore him
Do not relish his coquettish ways.
The poorest of slaves [afqar al-'ibad], 'Ali

The surrounding verses belong to the divan of Shahi; one of them was illustrated in a dispersed manuscript of the divan created during Akbar's time.[1]

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

IN THE GOLD beneath the inner floral border it is stated that the illumination is by the "slave of the threshhold" Daulat. On a leaf of the plant in the middle of the outer border in the second tier from the bottom is written in gold on gold the name Harif. None of the other borders in the album have a name placed within the border design. Was Harif a pupil of Daulat's who had some part in the decoration of the border and slipped his name in where his master might easily not see it? The very beautiful border of the painting of the spotted forktail (MMA fol. 15r; pl. 40 in this volume) has an inscription at the bottom of the painting stating that the gilding was by Harif. If Harif was a pupil of Daulat's, his work is certainly worthy of his master and is stylistically inseparable from it. Perhaps Harif was the real name of the artist who used Daulat as his pen name later in his career.

This border has another unusual feature: many of the flowers do not exhibit brushstrokes but a very fine stippling of the gold, producing a very dense and rich effect. The artist has superb control of his material.

Since this leaf and MMA fol. I (pls. 31 and 32 in this volume) are the only two folios with this particular border arrangement, there is no possibility of confirming or denying whether it was originally part of Album I of Group A to which MMA fols. 7, 8, 32, and 37 (pls. 27–30, 17, 18, 67, and 68 in this volume) belong and which also has a leaf (MMA fol. 7v; pl. 27 in this volume) signed by Daulat. It is likely that a number of albums were worked on simultaneously in the royal atelier by the same group of artists.

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


1. Welch, Stuart Cary. The Art of Mughal India: Painting and Precious Objects. New York, Asia Society, 1963, pl. 5B
Signature: recto:
In Persian, in lower left corner triangle: The poorest of slaves, 'Ali.

Inscription: verso:
In Persian, on the green ground to the left of portrait in Jahangir's hand: By Nanha, a portrait of Bhim Kunwar, son of Rana Amar Singh who received the title of Maharaja.
In Persian, on the pink and gold floral border in Shah Jahan's hand: Our best servants during the days of our princehood were Maharaja Bhim and Raja Bikramajit, and they both took our part. recto:
In Persian, on the gold border: Illumination the work of the slave of the threshold Daulat.

Marking: verso:
Margin number '57' 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]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Emperor's Album: Images of Mughal India," October 21, 1987–February 14, 1988, nos. 33 and 34.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Perfect Page: The Art of Embellishment in Islamic Book Design," May 17, 1991–August 18, 1991, no catalogue.

Museum of Archaeology: Loan exhibtion of antiquities. 1911. ill. pl. LXIII.

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. 33, 34, pp. 148-149, 151-153, ill., verso pl. 33 (color); recto pl. 34 (color).

Haidar, Navina. "Visual Splendour: Embellished Pages from the Metropolitan Museum 's Collection of Islamic and Indian Manuscripts." Arts of Asia vol. 42 (2012). pp. 111-112, ill. fig. 7 (color), (folio

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