"The Emperor Shah Jahan with his Son Dara Shikoh", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album, Painting by Nanha, Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Margins: Gold and opaque watercolor on dyed paper

"The Emperor Shah Jahan with his Son Dara Shikoh", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album

Painting by Nanha
Mir 'Ali Haravi (d. ca. 1550)
Object Name:
Album leaf
verso: ca. 1620; recto: ca. 1530–50
Attributed to India
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Margins: Gold and opaque watercolor on dyed paper
H. 15 5/16 in. (38.9 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
This superbly painted image framed by a splendid border shows the future emperor Shah Jahan admiring jewels with his favorite son. Holding a tray of emeralds and rubies, the father contemplates a ruby in his right hand, while the child grasps a peacock fan and a turban ornament. The sumptuousness of court life is conveyed in the detailed depiction of the jewels, the gilded furniture, the textiles, and, most spectacularly, the large bolster with its designs of figures and plants. verso–Shahjahan and Prince Dara-Shikoh Toy with Jewels

INSCRIBED: (in Jahangir's hand) "work ['amal] of Nanha"

INTIMATELY seated upon a small golden throne, father and son enjoy an imperial pleasure: inspecting rubies and emeralds. The five-year-old prince, whose light skin and incipiently aquiline nose identify him as Dara-Shikoh (1615–59), is festooned with pearls, as befits the eldest and favorite son of Shahjahan.[1] Although the turbaned, daggered, and earringed boy resembles a diminutive imperial adult, his eye fixes on a dish of gems with childish covetousness, and his tiny hands playfully wave a peacock chowrie and jeweled turban ornament–perhaps birthday presents from a fond father. Nanha's portrait offers an appealing glimpse into imperial family life and, in its fineness of finish and naturalism, demonstrates his success in keeping abreast of developments in the imperial studios.

In keeping with Shahjahan's supremely royal proclivities, this folio is particularly rich. A splendid bolster is covered in brilliantly colored Safavid figural brocade, and the heavenly park of birds and flowers in the borders is unequaled in lyrical sumptuousness. In the lower border the peacock's spreading tail proclaims its (and Shahjahan's) amorousness.

Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]

THIS VERSO portrait has the margin number 7 and so belongs to Group A. The inner border has the standard flower-head, palmette, and leaf-scroll pattern in gold on a blue ground, here within cartouches. There is no innermost border with cutout poetry. While other borders do contain birds among the foliage, this is the only one in the album in which they play as important a role as the flowers. In the upper border, above the figures, fly two birds that may with caution be identified as birds of paradise (Paradisia species?), symbols of royalty. The pair of birds flying in the upper right are a species of pigeon, while the partridges below them are chukors (Alectoris chukar) and the pair below them are demoiselle cranes (Anthropoides virgo). The group at the bottom center are Indian peafowl(Pavo cristatus). The identifiable plants are all clustered in the upper right with a narcissus in the corner; there is a rose beneath it with a poppy on its left and a crocus left of that. What may possibly be a peach is situated above the bird of paradise to the left.

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


1. The identification of Prince Dara-Shikoh is supported by numerous portraits of Shahjahan's sons, particularly Bichitr's Shahjahan Receiving His Sons at Court, fol. 50v, in the Windsor Padshahnama (reproduced in Gascoigne, Bamber. The Great Moghuls. London, 1971, p. 145). recto–Calligraphy

By its scribe

Your black eye murdered poor lamenting me–what can I
It carried off my heart's tranquillity–what can I do?
I have no patience now without you, say–what can I do?
In short, the whole affair slipped from my hand–what can
I do?
The sinful slave 'Ali

The piece is surrounded by fragments of two ghazals and by a ruba'i.

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE BORDER design of this calligraphy page has an innermost border of cutout verses with an inner border of the same basic pattern as on the verso but without cartouches. The outer border, in gold on a pink ground, has an all-over geometric pattern of quatrefoils and rosettes with floral and leaf sprays within and around them. The verso bears the margin number 7, while here, in the gold band beneath the inner border, is the margin number 21; this indicates that the leaf must have been part of two different albums before entering the Kevorkian Album. Its border scheme has no relationship with that of any other folio in the album.

Marie L. Swietochowski in [Welch et al. 1987]
Signature: recto:
In Persian in lower right corner triangle: The sinful slave 'Ali.

Inscription: verso:
In Persian, to the lower left of the stool (in Jahangir's hand): "the work of [the painter] Nanha".

Marking: verso:
Margin number '7' is inscribed in the gilt margin. recto:
Margin number '21' is inscribed in the gilt margin.
Jack S. Rofe, Scotland (in 1929; sale, Sotheby's, London,December 12, 1929, no. 129, 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. "Masterpieces of Indian Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 18, 1973–April 1, 1973, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 22, 1983–August 14, 1983, fig. 12.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Emperor's Album: Images of Mughal India," October 21, 1987–February 14, 1988, nos. 55 and 56.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Indian Court Painting," March 25, 1997–July 6, 1997, no. 21.

Salem, MA. Peabody Essex Museum. "Asia in Amsterdam," February 27, 2016–June 5, 2016, no. 79b.

Sotheby's: Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures. London: Sotheby's, New York, 1929. no. 129.

Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn, and Manuel Keene. Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983. pp. 104-105, ill. fig. 12 (color).

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. 55, 56, pp. 194-197, ill., verso pl. 55 (color); recto pl. 56 (b/w).

Kossak, Steven M., ed. Indian Court Painting 16th–19th century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. no. 21, pp. 49-50, ill. pl. 21 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, and Claire Moore, ed. "A Resource for Educators." In Art of the Islamic World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. pp. 156-157, ill. pl. 30 55.121.10.

Corrigan, Karina, and Jan van Kampen, ed. "The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age." In Asia in Amsterdam. Salem, MA: Peabody Essex Museum, 2015. no. 79b, pp. 283, 285, ill. pl. 79b (color).