"Shah Jahan Watching an Elephant Fight", Folio from a Padshahnama


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 463

In this page from the Padshahnama, the artist has created a unified space stretching from the foreground, where goaders are milling, to the top of the scene, where the emperor and his two sons are shown in profile at an open tripartite window. Although the white and red walls of the fort are unmodulated planes, the placement of figures before them gives a sense of spatial recession. The dynamism of the elephant combat balances the impassive family portraits. While the courtiers in the upper tier turn their backs on the melee to face the royals, and the lower figures seem more concerned with the combat, curiously, none of them look directly at the object of their attention, somewhat diminishing the work's psychological intensity. Nevertheless, the artist subtly suggests that the emperor, under his gilded roof, is the lord of all beneath him.

"Shah Jahan Watching an Elephant Fight", Folio from a Padshahnama, Bulaqi, Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper

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