Jahangir, the great Mughal emperor and an equally great patron of arts, succeeded his father Akbar in October, 1605 and ruled till 1627. On ascending the throne, as a popular measure, he granted general amnesty, releasing all his opponents and other prisoners, and promulgated twelve rules of conduct to be followed by his subjects, and set up the famous chain of justice. A man of immense visual alertness, Jahangir gave special recognition to portraiture. His interest in the particular and recognizable characteristics of the work of each of his artists led to the intense cultivation of individual artistic styles. Abul Hasan and Bishan Das developed their expertise as portraitists during his reign.
This small but warmly drawn portrait of Jahangir is one of the best studies of the emperor, as also one of the best portraits the world has ever created. Jahangir, like his father, was liberal to all religions. His interest in Christianity is shown in his studying the picture of Virgin Mary. The emperor’s head is set in a nimbus with fine rays radiating from the circle. The border is decorated with floral designs executed in gold with beautiful calligraphy in the Nastaliq script. Tradition of embellishing borders by meaningful visuals gave birth to newer experiments, one of the foremost being a well laid text around the main painting. The Mughal miniature portraying Jahangir holding the picture of Madonna has used extracts from the Holy Qu’ran for framing his portrait and balancing the otherwise empty spaces. The Qu’ranic verses,inscribed by Khwaja Abulla Ansari, the well-known calligrapher of Jahangir’s court, are contained in symmetrically drawn columns using decorative elements. The text part in this portrait is neatly and elegantly rendered.