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"Portrait of Rup Singh", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album

Artist:
Painting by Govardhan (active ca. 1596–1645)
Calligrapher:
Sultan 'Ali al-Mashhadi (active late 15th–early 16th century)
Object Name:
Album leaf
Date:
verso: ca. 1615–20; recto: ca. 1500
Geography:
Attributed to India
Medium:
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions:
Page: H. 15 5/16 in. (38.9 cm)
W. 10 1/8 in. (25.7 cm)
Painting with border: H. 8 13/16 in. (22.4 cm)
W. 6 5/16 in. (16 cm)
Painting without border: H. 5 7/8 in. (14.9 cm)
W. 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm)
Mat: H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
W. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
Classification:
Codices
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund and The Kevorkian Foundation Gift, 1955
Accession Number:
55.121.10.8
Not on view
The subject of this painting, Rup Singh, son of Ram Chand (not Rai Chanda, as per Jahangir's inscription), was one of the officials at the court of Shah Jahan. The portrait is surrounded by verse fragments from a Persian masnavi, which belongs to Amir Khusrau's Khamsa (Quintet).
55.121.10.8 verso–Rup Singh.

INSCRIBED: (probably in Jahangir's hand) shabih-
i Rup Singh pisar-i Ray Chanda, 'amal-i
Govardhan (a portrait of Rup Singh, son of
Ray Chanda, done by Govardhan

APPARENTLY this is Rup Singh, the son of Ram Chand (not Ray Chanda as Jahangir [?] has inscribed) and grandson of Jagannath Kachhwaha.[1] He is mentioned but once in the chronicles of Shahjahan's reign, and that in the course of the long list of persons who were sent to chastise Jujhar Singh and Bikramajit.[2]

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

ALTHOUGH painted by Govardhan whose studies of ascetics are among the most profound Mughal characterizations, this picture exemplifies imperial portraiture in all its coolly documentary excellence. Colors please, and arabesques, flowers, sword, hamess, turban, and jewels–the stock-in-trade of Mughal elegance–are flawlessly rendered. But we suspect that the emperor was not much concerned about Rup Singh, and Govardhan shared his lack of enthusiasm. His usually limpid and vital brushwork is evident only in the sinuous outline of the pajamas, perhaps owing to his self-disciplined adjustment to the court mode of the later 1610s. We sense the strong influence of Abu'l-Hasan's technical perfection, which Govardhan emulated successfully but reluctantly. (For more penetrating portraits by Govardhan, see pls. 9, 63, and 76 in this volume.)

Stuart Cary Welch in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE MINIATURE is surrounded by a fragment from a Persian mathnavi which belongs to Amir Khusrau's Khamsa (Quintet).

The star of my kingship [khusrawi] rose
And made Nizami's tomb tremble.

These lines show that the author, who took Nizami's Quintet as his model, considers his own poetry to be much superior to that of his predecessor.

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THIS VERSO PORTRAIT has the margin number 3. The border is filled with gold flowers on a pink ground and would have faced the portrait of Raja Suraj Singh Rathor (MMA fol. 7r; pl. 28 in this volume), which has the margin number 4· It is interesting to note that the practice was to write the margin number on the portrait side, whether it is on the recto or verso of the folio. Of all border schemes, gold flowering plants on a pink ground are the hardest to read as it is difficult to separate the gold from the ground of almost equal value. The original pink may have provided more contrast, since the color may have faded. Closer inspection reveals delicate insects and butterflies among the graceful plants with cloud bands at the top of both upper and lower border. The inner border here is gold on blue, while on the portrait opposite (pl. 28 in this volume) it is gold on pink. The innermost border of each has cutout verses. It was apparently of no concern to the border artist, in this case most likely Daulat, that the portraits were strongly contrasting in background color, in the addition of details such as landscape plants or lack of them, in costume, and to a lesser extent in figure scale.

An early nineteenth-century copy of this portrait was auctioned at Sotheby's on October 14, 1980, lot 196 (illustrated, p. 77). The nineteenth-century copyist has not attempted to reproduce the gold flowering plants on a pink ground of the seventeenth-century border and has added instead a border of flowering plants in colors and gold (or so it appears from the black-and-white photograph) on a buff ground. The soft, indistinct style of drawing is identical to that of the border of the copyist of Ibrahim 'Adilshah II and must surely be by the same artist, who perhaps also painted both portraits.


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

Footnotes:

1. According to 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. 2 vols. Rev. ed. Calcutta, 1941–52, vol. I, p. 725.

2. Muhammad-Salih Kanbo Lahawri. 'Amal-i salih. Ed. Ghulam Yazdani. 3 vols. Calcutta, 1923–39, vol. II, p. 104.

55.121.10.8 recto–Calligraphy

[A page from Jami's Baharistan (Garden of Spring)]

Sahl ibn 'Abdallah at-Tustari–may God bless his soul!–says:

"Anyone who sets his mind in the morning on [the question]
of what he should eat–leave him alone!
Anyone who gets up in the morning with his head full of
nothing but the idea of eating–don't expect the rites of
wakefulness from him!
And he who washes his hand when taking out his foot from
his bed [in order]
To bring his hand to the meal–wash your hands of him."
Jotted down (mashaqahu) by the slave, Sultan-'Ali
Mashhadi, may his sins be forgiven, in the
royal capital of Herat

Sahl at-Tustari was a noted mystical leader of the ninth century in Iraq. His main contribution to Sufi thought was the development of the doctrine of the Light of Muhammad. This concept–that the Prophet Muhammad is the first manifestation of the Divine Light, sent as an illumination to the dark world–has colored Muslim mystical thought and poetry for centuries.

Sahl's little saying, elaborated by Jami into a Persian verse, is in tune with the ascetic mood of early Sufism: when one thinks of food when getting up, one will not be able to lead a truly spiritual life.[1]

The calligraphy is surrounded by fragments of a mathnavi in the mutaqarib meter, possibly from Sa'di's Bustan (chapter I, section 13).

Annemarie Schimmel in [Welch et al. 1987]

THE BORDER of gold scrolling leaves, blossoms, and palmettes is interspersed with five complete stars and two half ones at the inner margin formed of two intersecting equilateral triangles, one of the oldest, simplest, and continuously popular geometric designs in Islamic art. The interior hexagons contain a bird or, in the case of the center one in the outer margin, a pair of birds surrounded by foliage, which also fills the points of the star. Because they are in gold rather than natural colors, the birds are not identifiable. The flowing rhythms, mastery of line, and unusually fine brushstrokes, similar to MMA fol. 7v (pl. 27 in this volume), allow this unsigned border to be attributed to Daulat. There seems no reason to suggest a different artist for the verso. The verso of fol. 2 in the original marginal numbering system would have had a comparable gold-on-blue abstract pattern border.

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

Footnotes:

1. About Sahl at-Tustari, see Böwering, Gerhard. The Qur'anic Hermeneutics of the Sufi Sahl at-Tustari (d. 293/896). Berlin, 1979.
Signature: 55.121.10.8 recto:
In Persian, in last two lines of calligraphy: Jotted down by the slave, Sultan 'Ali Mashhadi, may his sins be forgiven, in the royal capital of Herat.

Inscription: 55.121.10.8 verso:
In Persian, on the brown background along the left edge of the central panel (in Jahangir's hand): A portrait of Rup Singh, son of Rai Chanda, done by Govardhan.

Marking: 55.121.10.8 verso:
Margin number '3' 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. 29 and 30.

Dimand, Maurice S. "An Exhibit of Islamic and Indian Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n. s., vol. 14 (December 1955). p. 97, 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. 29, 30, pp. 139, 141-143, ill., verso pl. 29 (color); recto pl. 30 (color).

Okada, Amina. Imperial Mughal Painters: Indian Miniatures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Paris: Flammarion, 1992. p. 197, ill. fig. 233 (b/w), verso.

Beach, Milo C., Eberhard Fischer, and B.N. Goswamy. Masters of Indian Painting. Vol. Vols. I, II. Zurich, Switzerland: Artibus Asiae Publishers, 2011. vol. I, p. 359.

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