This album page created for Emperor Jahangir exemplifies the high level of naturalism and refinement achieved by Mughal court artists at the end of the 16th century. The painting depicts a young Mughal prince and his attendant, identifiable by their turban and attire. They stand in the presence of a Persian Sufi poet or scholar, who wears a different style of turban and a distinguished chola (overcoat). With open books in their hands, they converse in natural, next to a babbling brook and beneath a flowering tree. In the background, Persian-style rock formations and a European-inspired city scape are silhouetted against a vivid, late-afternoon sky.
Calligraphy was considered the highest art form in the historical Islamic cultures. Master calligraphers were like famous artists today; they were well known, they signed their works, and art connoisseurs, like Emperor Jahangir, could recognize the work of a specific calligrapher from his writing style. Examples of calligraphy were collected and preserved in albums and were frequently mounted with painted and illuminated borders. This folio Jahangir’s Gulshan Album demonstrates the format of Imperial Mughal albums, which displayed paintings and calligraphy on reverse pages. Translation: (Remainder of a poem) “The sapling of his stature took such root in my heart That if you were to uproot it 1,000 times, it would still grow” Faqir (the poor) ‘Ali