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Darbar Scene with Four Sons and Two Grandsons of Shah Jahan


Not on view

A number of genealogical pictures survive from Bhavanidas’s first period at the Mughal atelier in the service of Bahadur Shah (r. 1707–12). They share the same formal arrangement of picture elements, and various motifs recur in many of them—low tables with porcelain vases of flowers, carpets with floral patterns, and a canopy awning decorated with a pair of birds of paradise circling a solar motif. This work depicts the four sons and two grandsons of Shah Jahan, notably (clockwise, from upper right) Shah Shuja’ Bahadur, Aurangzeb, Bahadur Shah, A’zam Shah, Murad Bakhsh, and Dara Shukoh. In this hierarchically ordered group portrait, Bhavanidas did not attempt to present the princes of Shah Jahan’s household as personable individuals but rather was content to create an official portrait of two generations of Mughal princes.

About the Artist

Active at the Mughal court until ca. 1719, then at the court of Raj Singh (r. 1706–48) in Kishangarh to ca. 1748

The later eighteenth-century Mughal painter Bhavanidas is one of the important links between the imperial ateliers and workshops outside the Mughal empire’s centers of power. His career falls into two periods; for the first, he was at the Mughal court at Delhi until around 1719, and during the second, he worked in the principality of Kishangarh in Rajasthan.

In the first decades of the eighteenth century, Bhavanidas painted numerous pictures illustrating the genealogies of the great Mughal rulers. One of these, for example, depicts the sons and grandsons of the emperor Shah Jahan; another is a group portrait with Timur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty and his descendants. These works are characterized by a formal arrangement of the subjects, whereas others, for example a picture of Emperor Aurangzeb setting out on a hunting party, are structured with greater freedom and number among the last great works of the Mughal workshops. During Aurangzeb’s reign (1658–1707), these workshops were gradually dismantled, and the patronage and training of painters were increasingly neglected. Although a few artists, most notably Chitarman II and Mir Kalan Khan, achieved a last flowering of Mughal painting under Aurangzeb’s successors, others were obliged to seek their livelihood in other regions of India.

Bhavanidas was one of these who sought a new position far from the political centers of power. From around 1719, he worked at the Rajput court of Raj Singh (r. 1706–48) in Kishangarh. His appointment there was probably arranged through family connections between the Mughals and the princes of Kishangarh. During this period, Bhavanidas began to experiment with new genres such as depictions of famous horses and dreamlike landscape settings for portraits of rulers and paved the way for the expressive characterization of the Krishna and Radha theme, which was brought to perfection by Bhavanidas’s student Nihal Chand.

Darbar Scene with Four Sons and Two Grandsons of Shah Jahan, Bhavanidas (active ca. 1700–1748), Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, India (Mughal court at Delhi)

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