Portraiture is the art of representing the likeness of a human being. It may attempt to capture all or some of the traits of a subject, such as physical appearance, personality and spirituality. The likeness may be drawn from the actual observation of the person, or from memory, or solely through imagination-based on descriptions heard or read, or copied from an earlier rendering, or assimilated from known traditions, conventions, and beliefs related to such person’s rank or class.
In this Deccani painting, a young prince is seen inhaling the fragrance of a rose in the calm of a garden. He is wearing a red and golden dharidar turban, a cream- coloured jama decorated with purple irises, a beautiful zari pataka with a floral border and red slippers. A long sword, dagger and shield are tucked into his girdle. The prince is flanked by flowering plants on which birds and butterflies perch.
Though the costume of the Prince is typically Mughal, the facial features and the lyrical intensity of the painting betray a Deccani influence. Though the painting is not inscribed, it is likely to be a portrait of Prince Bidar Bakht, favourite grandson of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Bidar Bakht’s mother was Jani Begam, daughter of Dara Shikoh, and his father was Azam Shah, the eldest son of Aurangzeb. He was the Governor of Malwa and he looked after the of Deccani suba for few years after the siege of Golkonda.
When the province of Gujarat was invaded by the Marathas, Aurangzeb ordered Bidar Bakht to leave Deccan immediately to save Gujarat. In the war of succession that broke out after the death of Aurangzeb, he fought in support of his father against his step-uncle Prince Muazzam (later crowned as Bahadur Shah I). Father and son both died in the battle of Jajau near Agra in 1707.