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"Portrait of Shaikh Hasan Chishti", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album

Object Name:
Album leaf
Date:
recto and verso: early 19th century
Geography:
Attributed to India
Medium:
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions:
H. 15 1/8 in. (38. 4 cm) W. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm)
Classification:
Codices
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund and The Kevorkian Foundation Gift, 1955
Accession Number:
55.121.10.26
Not on view
This portrait of a sufi is identified along the right border as being the likeness of Shaikh Mu`in al-Din Hasan Chishti (1141-1230), an important member of the Chishtiyya sufi order.
Shaikh Chishti was a sufi mystic who lived in the village of Sikri near Agra. The prayers of this spiritual master are said to have cured the sick and answered a variety of needs. For this reason, the Mughal emperor Akbar went to Sikri to seek him out, and asked the great Shaikh to pray that he might be granted a male heir. Akbar vowed was that should his prayer be granted, he would establish his capital near the abode of the mystics.
True to his promise, when Akbar’s son Prince Salim (Jahangir), was born one year later, Akbar’s gratitude for the divine favor led him to found a city on this holy ground. Shortly thereafter, Fatehpur Sikri (City of Victory) became the primary royal residence. This was the beginning of several decades of Sufi influence on the Mughal dynasty. After Shaikh Salmin Chishti died, Akbar ordered a tomb be erected above the site of the original khanqah (sufi meeting place), which is today still a popular site for pilgrims of a variety of faiths.
55.121.10.26 verso–Shaykh Hasan Chishti

INSCRIBED (in fine nasta'liq): (at right) "blessed
likeness of Hazrat Shaykh Hasan Chishti
Jahangirshahi"; (at left) "work of the servant
of the palace Bichitr"

ESPECIALLY fine in detail, muted in coloring, and forceful in its characterization, this is the most impressive of the later copies in the Kevorkian Album. Nevertheless, the shaykh's garb is a muddle of form-concealing wrinkles and folds; the cut flowers and vases are prettified; and the arabesques of the carpets are typically nineteenth century in their undisciplined meanders.

Like the other copies in the Kevorkian Album, the technique of this picture differs from that of seventeenth-century works. No longer are colors applied in painstaking, burnished, enamel-like layers. Instead, in imitation of English watercolors, fine strokes of opaque as well as transparent color are brushed on in minute dashes and stippling to lend roundness of form. Far less time-consuming and less prone to flaking off–except in large areas of white, as in the textiles here–the imported method resulted in a less jewel-like color and a matte surface. It also tended to discourage the sharp outlining that lent articulate crispness to traditional miniatures.[1]

Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE CALLIGRAPHY, of mediocre quality, is written directly on the miniature. The poem is a didactic qasida in which the reader is reminded that "healing and health come after illness, and happy spring after winter" and that everything will be ultimately changed into its contrary, for whatever begins has of necessity an end.

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE INNER border of this picture is a palmette and flower-head scroll in gold on a rather grayish blue ground; the outer border is made up of flowers and leaves in an arabesque pattern. Both colors and drawing betray its late date.


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

Footnotes:

1. This was published in 1955 as a seventeenth-century picture; see Dimand, Maurice S. ''An Exhibition of Islamic and Indian Paintings." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s. 14 (1955), p. 99.

55.121.10.26 recto–A Fantastic Bird

INSCRIBED (in fine nasta'liq): "This bird is called
bu qalamun. Work [kar] of the servant of the
palace Mansur Jahangirshahi''[1]


UNKNOWN TO ornithologists, this bird is a pleasing fantasy and an amiable cornpanion to the holy man on the verso. Bright-eyed and chirping, the bu qalanmun sports every hue in the spectrum, as well as gold. However soft and inarticulate the forms, this artist took pride in his work; when he inscribed this picture to Mansur, he probably did so less to deceive than to render homage to the renowned master.

Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]

THIS PICTURE is surrounded by a pleasant qit'a. The poet finds in his bath a piece of clay (used for rubbing the body), which is extremely fragrant. Asked the reason for its delightful odor, the clay replies that it has been sitting close to a rose and has become valuable thanks to this precious company.

There are also a fragment of a short mathnavi about the rose and the rose garden and two verses about the "tongue" (that is, the rnanner of speaking), which is the "key to the treasure of the virtuous" and can reveal whether a man is a jeweler or a glassmaker.

The rnediocre calligraphy is contemporary with the picture.


Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE BORDERS around the painting of this pigeon-like bird follow those of the verso, although the inner one is on a pink rather than a grayish-blue ground, while the outer one has flowering plants in the same color scheme as the verso border. The borders are rather better than those of some of the other nineteenth-century copies.

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

Footnotes:

1. Annemarie Schimmel has pointed out that the term bu qalamun usually refers to a chameleon, not a bird; it is, however, also used to
describe various colorful items, such as silk.
Inscription: 55.121.10.26 recto:
In Persian, in nasta'liq, in upper left: This bird is called buqalamum. Work of the servant of the palace Mansur Jahangir-shahi.

55.121.10.26 verso:
In Persian, in nasta'liq, along the left border: Blessed likeness of Hazrat Shaikh Hasan Chishti Jahangir-shahi.
In Persian, in nasta'liq, along left border: Work of the servant of the palace Bichitr.
Jack S. Rofe, Scotland (in 1929; sale, Sotheby's London,December 12, 1929, no. 115, 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. 91 and 92.

New York. Brooklyn Museum. "Light of the Sufis: an introduction to the mystical arts of Islam," June 5, 2009–September 7, 2009, no. 17.

Houston. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Light of the Sufis: an introduction to the mystical arts of Islam," May 16, 2010–August 8, 2010, no. 17.

Sotheby's: Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures. London: Sotheby's, New York, 1929. no. 115.

Dimand, Maurice S. "An Exhibit of Islamic and Indian Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n. s., vol. 14 (December 1955). p. 99, ill. (b/w).

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. 91, 92, pp. 266-269, ill., verso pl. 91 (color); recto pl. 92 (b/w).

Akbarnia, Ladan, and Francesca Leoni. "The Mystical Arts of Islam." In Light of the Sufis. Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2010. no. 17, pp. 52-53, ill. p. 53 (color).



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