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Miniature of a Mughal prince

1610/1610

British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This miniature painting shows an encounter between a member of the Indian Mughal Empire elite and an ascetic, or holy man.

The holy man is a dervish, a person who has taken vows of poverty and living an austere life. His cell is depicted as a pavilion and he sits surrounded by his meagre possessions: a walking stick, pouch, book, small ceramic bowl and his prayer beads. A young attendant with a peacock-feather fan stands behind him to the left. His visitor is a youthful prince, sometimes identified as the young Jahangir (ruler of Mughal India 1605–27), who joins his hands together respectfully towards the holy man. The prince is attended by a number of figures who bear gifts for the dervish.

Many Mughal princes and emperors often visited important holy figures – both Muslim and non-Muslim personages – and also received them with great honour at court. One of the most unique characteristics of the Mughals was that they were Muslim rulers who governed a mostly non-Muslim population. This is a fact that sets them apart from other Islamic states during that time.

Miniatures reflect many aspects of Mughal life – their literature and history, court ceremonies, politics and personalities, pleasures and intellectual interests. The Emperor Jahangir prided himself on his connoisseurship in this area:

‘As regards myself, my liking for painting and my practice in judging it have arrived at such a point that when any work is brought before me, either of deceased artists or of those of the present day, without the name being told me, I can say on the spur of the moment that it is the work of such and such a man.’

This miniature shares many characteristics of the long tradition of Islamic miniature painting. It has incredible detail both in the foreground and background, and rich and subtle colours with a close and accurate depiction of nature.

Details

  • Title: Miniature of a Mughal prince
  • Date Created: 1610/1610
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 25.40cm (sheet); Width: 12.00cm; Width: 14.20cm (sheet); Height: 21.90cm (image); Width: 10.40cm (image)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: drawn
  • Subject: prince/princess; attendant; religion/belief
  • Registration number: 1920,0917,0.4
  • Production place: Made in India
  • Place: Found/Acquired India
  • Period/culture: Mughal dynasty
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Transferred from British Library. Previous owner/ex-collection Stowe

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