"Portrait of Qilich Khan Turani", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album, Painting by La'lchand, Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

"Portrait of Qilich Khan Turani", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album

Painting by La'lchand
Mir 'Ali Haravi (d. ca. 1550)
Object Name:
Album leaf
recto: ca. 1640; verso: ca. 1530–50
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
The sitter of the portrait was governor of Lahore, and later became governor of Kabul and Kandahar after the latter was captured from the Safavids of Iran in 1637–38. Many portraits of the nobles who served under Jahangir and Shah Jahan were collected in this album; typical is the positioning of the figure against a plain green ground and the use of the profile view. verso–Calligraphy

THE LARGER lines in the upper part read:

If the dagger of your love
cuts my neck, it's fine with me,
For who still thinks of his head
will not reach the highest place.
Don't be lesser than the pen–don't
you see the secret is:
Pens become not perfect, friend,
if you do not cut their heads!
The poor [al-faqir] Mir-'Ali

These lines are followed by the latter part of a qasida in honor of Imam 'Ali and his family, and by a Persian praise poem for the eighth imam, 'Ali ibn Musa ar-Rida.

The poetry may well be by Mir-'Ali; the use of the pen, which has to be trimmed in order to write, as a metaphor of man who has to suffer in order to reach his final goal is fitting for a calligrapher. The imagery is, however, found rather frequently in mystical Persian poetry; for to give away one's head is the supreme goal of the martyr of love. (The same poem, penned in larger script by Mir-'Ali, is also found in the Berlin Album, fol. 12v.) Furthermore, Mir-'Ali was an ardent Shiite and wrote honorific poems in the eighth imam's mausoleum in Mashhad.

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

This VERSO page has an inner border virtually identical with that of MMA fol. 31r (pl. 72 in this volume), also in gold on blue. Its outer border is clearly by the same hand. The bottom border, beginning after the small plant in the left corner, shows a lily, a tulip, a dahlia, a lily, and another lily. A chrysanthemum is placed above the right-corner lily with, above it, a Lilium with another Lilium in the upper right corner and a third to its left. Next left comes a cyclamen-type flower, and second from the left is a Gesnerinceae (cult.). The third plant down in the left margin is a dianthus with a narcissus below it. While the artist here has varied the plant sizes, with medium-sized and tiny ones among the larger dominant plants, he does not use grass tufts nor does he include butterflies and insects. The same artist clearly painted both borders of this folio.

Marie L. Swietochowski in [Welch et al. 1987] recto–Qilich Khan Turani

INSCRIBED: (in Shahjahan's hand) shabih-i
Qilich Khan hakim-i qal 'a-i Qandahar
'amal-i La'lchand (a portrait of Qilich
Khan, governor of Qandahar Fort, done by

IN HIS YOUTH Qilich Khan was in 'Abdullah Khan's service and was a loyal follower of the general throughout his career. He held a number of important posts and governorships, including those of Delhi, Allahabad, and Multan under Shahjahan.

Qandahar Fort, a bone of contention between the Mughals and the Safavids of Iran for many years, had been held by the Safavids since 1625, when the Safavids, taking advantage of the internecine strife between Jahangir and Shahjahan, captured the fort. For the first decade of his reign Shahjahan was too preoccupied with other matters to undertake a campaign against Qandahar, but in the eleventh year, 1637, the imperial forces were sent toward the Punjab to take Qandahar. When the Safavid commander of the fort, 'Ali-Mardan Khan, sent to Shah Safi for reinforcements, the Safavid shah was secretly planning to have 'Ali-Mardan Khan killed and install his son Muhammad-'Ali Beg in his place. 'Ali-Mardan Khan, however, learned of this plot, forestalled the arrival of Siyavush Qullar-aqasi from Mashhad, and sent word to Sa'id Khan in Kabul and Qilich Khan in Multan that he was ready to hand over the fort to the Mughals. When Shahjahan was informed of this stroke of luck, he sent a message to Qilich Khan to "get yourself posthaste with all the forces available in Multan to Qandahar, along with Yusuf-Muhammad Khan (the governor of Bhakkar) and Jannisar Khan (the garrison commander of Sivistan)."[1]

Qilich Khan remained the governor of Qandahar for several years. He was reappointed to Multan, then to the governorship of the Punjab, where he died in 1654.

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

LEANING backward to support the weight of his shield, Qilich Khan is the quintessential military man. La'lchand–the equivalent of a skillful court photographer–has recorded his outer form from plume and whisker to toe, describing exactly his feathery beard, slightly protuberant belly, and pale skin. The superficiality of the characterization may disappoint, but there are delights in the soldierly still life of archer's rings hanging from the belt and of the inner side of a Mughal shield. The same proud officer can be seen in triumphant action, accepting the keys to a defeated city, and in frustration, at the siege of Qandahar, in stray folios–now in Paris and in the United States--from the

Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]

THIS portrait has the margin number 3 and would have originally faced the portrait of Khan-Dauran (MMA fol. 31v; pl. 71 in this volume), both leaves belonging to Group B. The two folios have identical cloud-band inner borders in gold on pink and outer borders of colored flowers on a buff ground, and the same artist appears to have painted both. The same hand has written identifications of subject and artist in the lower inner borders of both leaves.

Varieties of lilies appear at the upper left corner, second from right in the upper border, second down in the right border, and in the middle of the lower margin. The second plant from the left in the lower border may also be a lily, while the plant of the right center of the outer border may be either a lily or an iris. Above it is a poppy with another second from the right in the lower border, while the plant in the upper right corner may also be a poppy. Chrysanthemums are found in the lower right corner and in the center of the upper border. A narcissus is found in the lower right margin with a dianthus above it. The large plant second from the left in the upper border is a dahlia.

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


1. Muhammad-Salih Kanbo Lahawri. 'Amal-i salih. Ed. Ghulam Yazdani. 3 vols. Calcutta, 1923–39, II, p. 274.

2. Welch, Stuart Cary, India! Art and Culture 1300–1900. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985, nos. 162a and b. It has been noted by MLS that an early nineteenth-century copy of this portrait was auctioned at Sotheby's on October 14, 1980; she has remarked that although it is not illustrated, its description is consistent with this painting.
Signature: verso:
In Persian, in corner triangle of upper rectangle: The poor Mir 'Ali.

Inscription: recto:
In Persian, under portrait (in Shah Jahan's hand): "Portrait of Qilich Khan, governor of Qandahar Fort, work of La'lchand"

Marking: recto:
Margin number '3' is inscribed in the gilt margin.
Jack S. Rofe, Scotland (in 1929; sale, Sotheby's London,December 12, 1929, no. 122, 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. 69 and 70.

Sotheby's: Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures. London: Sotheby's, New York, 1929. no. 122.

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. 69, 70, pp. 222-224, 226, ill., verso pl. 69 (b/w); recto pl. 70 (color).