Humayun Seated in a Landscape

Humayun, the second Mughal emperor, lived from 1508 to 1556. Almost a century later, his great-grandson the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan commissioned this posthumous portrait to legitimate his own reign.

Humayun pensively holds a sarpech, a jeweled turban ornament of the type that Mughal emperors bestowed on family members as a sign of imperial favor. Other elements in the portrait refer to the Mughals’ renowned ancestors, the Timurid dynasts of Central Asia and Persia. The gold sky, flat lavender hill, and plane tree are characteristic of Persian painting. Moreover, the angels in the upper border hold a Timurid crown. The courtier in the lower left corner carries the emperor’s sword swaddled in maroon cloth.

Humayun Seated in a Landscape From the Late Shah Jahan Album
Inscribed to Payag (act. ca. 1591–1658)
India, Mughal dynasty, ca. 1650
Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper
Purchase—Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections
Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery S1986.400