The Elderly Shah Jahan

Portraits of the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan reflect the formality and grandeur of his reign. Angels bearing a gold crown studded with rubies and emeralds in the upper border convey the emperor’s right to rule. The three Muslim holy men depicted in the right border further sanctify his imperial authority. Absorbed in the activities of reading or hunched by age, they are studies in character that contrast with the aloof serenity of Shah Jahan.

This folio once formed part of a magnificent album assembled by Shah Jahan’s atelier. The album was innovative in its use of figural borders to expand upon the meanings of the portraits they surrounded.

The Elderly Shah Jahan
From the Late Shah Jahan Album
India, Mughal dynasty, ca. 1650 Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Purchase—Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler; Arthur M. Sackler Gallery S1986.405