"Portrait of Zamana Beg, Mahabat Khan", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album, Painting by Manohar (active ca. 1582–1624), Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

"Portrait of Zamana Beg, Mahabat Khan", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album

Painting by Manohar (active ca. 1582–1624)
Mir 'Ali Haravi (d. ca. 1550)
Object Name:
Album leaf
recto: ca. 1610; verso: ca. 1530–40
Attributed to India
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
H. 15 1/4 in. (38.7 cm)
W. 10 5/16 in. (26.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund and The Kevorkian Foundation Gift, 1955
Accession Number:
Not on view verso–Calligraphy

Maulana Mir-Husayni says
[a riddle! about the name Bahman.

O grief, that the good news of union was finally delayed,
And that the heart, a house full of grief, was finally upset.
Tell the messenger of death that my heart has finally enough
Of life without the cheek of that moon of fourteen.
Written by the poor sinful slave 'Ali the scribe [al-katib]

The "moon of fourteen [days]," i.e., the full moon, is the ideal beautiful young beloved, preferably fourteen years old. However, the meaning of the riddle remains incomprehensible to the uninitiated.

The calligraphy is surrounded by verses by Auhadi Kirmani, written in minute script.

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE UNUSUALLY large plants on this verso page are similar to those on the recto. There is, however, much more space around them, although they are surrounded by tiny plants. As bold as that of the recto, the border here is restrained and tranquil. The plants along the top may be identified as Codonopsis, left corner; narcissus, center; poppy, next right, and Lilium, right corner. A chrysanthemum type is in the middle right border, with a primula in the lower right comer and a poppy next to it. Third frmn the bottom in the inner border is a Melanopsis, with an iris above it.

Marie L. Swietochowski in [Welch et al. 1987] recto–Zamana Beg, Mahabat Khan

ZAMANA BEG was the son of Ghayur Beg, a nobleman of Shiraz who left Iran and settled near Kabul. As a young man Zamana Beg entered the service of Prince Salim (Jahangir) as a footsoldier and was soon granted a rank in recognition of outstanding service. His first act of real distinction, however, for which he received the rank of 500 and the title Mahabat Khan, was the murder of Ujjainiya, the raja of Bhojpur, who had annoyed the prince with his overbearing manner.[1]

After Jahangir's accession to the throne in 1605, Mahabat Khan was raised to the rank of 1500, then 2000/1300, and then 3000/2500 in 1606 and to the splendid rank of 4000/3500 in 1612.[2] In 1611, however, Jahangir had married the redoubtable Nur-Jahan Begum, and there began the period of the ascendancy of Nur-Jahan, her father I'timaduddaula, her brother Abu'l-Hasan Asaf Khan, and her favorite, Prince Khurram (Shahjahan), who effectively closed all avenues of approach to the emperor and advancement against their enemies, chief of whom was Mahabat Khan. Although the combined forces of Nur-Jahan's clique were unable to depose Mahabat Khan from his exalted military position, they managed to block his advancement and keep him away on unimportant campaigns until 1622, when I'timaduddaula died and Nur-Jahan had become disenchanted with Shahjahan and needed the general to deal with Shahjahan's rebellion against Jahangir.

In March 1626 Mahabat Khan, having once again fallen into implacable enmity with Nur-Jahan over the question of influence over the emperor and the question of succession, resolved to take matters into his own hands. While Jahangir was camped on the banks of the Jhelum en route to Kabul, Mahabat Khan captured the emperor. Before this attempted coup was fully resolved, Jahangir died in October 1627, and Mahabat Khan ingratiated himself with Shahjahan, who confirmed him as Khankhanan and supreme military commander.[3]

During Shahjahan's reign Mahabat Khan was twice governor of the Deccan, governed Delhi, and commanded the conquest of Daulatabad. He died in 1634 with the rank of 7000/7000, the highest-ranking person not of royal blood at Shahjahan's court.[4]

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

IN MUGHAL INDIA it was often helpful to be served by such men as Zamana Beg, Mahabat Khan. His orange pajamas, canary yellow jama edged in purplish red with blue ties, and bright green slippers bear the same stamp of aggressiveness that made him useful–if unpredictable and occasionally dangerous–to his imperial masters. His profile with its broken nose and sly mouth bespeaks fierceness; if his left hand is fit to hold a pink, his right is poised to grab a dagger. Lingering less pleasurably than usual on arabesques, curls of hair, and the delicate indentations of an ear, Manohar stabbed Mahabat Khan onto the paper as the embodiment of a side of Mughal life one would as soon overlook.

For another portrait of Mahabat Khan attributable to Manohar, see the impressive darbar of Jahangir in the album of the Institute of the Peoples of Asia, Leningrad.[5]

Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE PORTRAIT is surrounded by a Persian mathnavi about the relation of word and meaning.

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE NUMBER 6 is faintly discernible in the margin, making this a Group A leaf. The portrait side has a border of gold flowering plants on a pink ground, and the calligraphy side has flowering plants in color on a buff ground. Three other leaves in the Kevorkian Album have the same border arrangement. Of these two must have belonged to the same album (MMA fols. and .6; pls. 25, 26, 73, and 74 in this volume) and the third probably to a different one (MMA fol.; pls. 35 and 36 in this volume). The gold flowers against the pink ground are unusually large and bold with a wonderful variety of leaf forms. It seems that when painting in gold the artist felt free to cover most of the ground in a riot of flowers which give off a shimmering effect when the light catches them. An iris can be identified in the left border in the second tier from the bottom, with tentative identifications of a lily in the lower left corner and a poppy next to it. Both the gold-on-blue inner border and the innermost border with its two rows of cutout verses are wider than usual, probably in response to the small background area surrounding the portrait.

There is a very similar portrait of Mahabat Khan in the Jahangir Album in the Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Külturbesitz, Bcrlin.[6] An early nineteenth-century copy of a portrait of Mahabat Khan was sold at Sotheby's on October 14, 1980, lot 191. It is not illustrated, but from the description it seems to be a copy of the present portrait.

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


1. 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. I, p. 10.

2. Jahangir Gurkani, Nur al-Din Muhammad. Jahangirnama: Tuzuk-i Jahangiri. Ed. Muhammad Hashim. Teheran, A.H. 1349/ A.D. 1970, p. 14, and Jahangir. The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri; or Memoirs of Jahangir. Trans. Alexander Rogers. Ed. Henry Beveridge. London, 1909–1914., vol. I, pp. 77, 146, 217. For a discussion of these ranks and titles, see M. Athar Ali, Apparatus of Empire, 1985.

3. Muhammad-Salih Kanbo Lahawri. 'Amal-i salih. Ed. Ghulam Yazdani. Calcutta, 1923–39. vol. I, p. 266.

4· For other portraits of Mahabat Khan, see Beach, Milo Cleveland. The Grand Mogul: Imperial Painting in India, 1600–1660. Williamstown, Mass., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1978, pp. 62 (a leaf of a Jahangirnama manuscript, ca. 1620, from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, no. 14.654, showing Mahabat Khan, who is identified on his turban band, directly beneath the emperor), 70, and 84 (Shahjahan in darhar with Mahahat Khan and a sheikh, in the Vever Collection).

5. Ivanov, A. A.; Grek, T.; and Akimushkin, 0. F. Al'bom indiyskikh i persidskikh miniatyur XVI-XVIII v.v. Moscow, 1962, no. 32.

6. Kühnel, Ernst, and Goetz, Hermann. Indian Book Painting from Jahangir's Album in the State Library in Berlin. London, 1926, fol. 22b, pl. 35.
Signature: verso:
In Persian, in lower rectangle of main calligraphy panel: Written by the poor sinful slave 'Ali the scribe.

Inscription: recto:
In Persian, on the pink and gold border (in Shah Jahan's hand): A portrait of Mahabat Khan, done by Manohar.

Marking: recto:
Margin number '6' 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. 23 and 24.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament Part II: Vegetal Patterns," September 10, 1998–January 10, 1999, no catalogue.

Memoirs of Jahangir. London, 1829. p. 30.

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. 23, 24, pp. 127-130, ill., verso pl. 23 (color); recto pl. 24 (color).