Jahangir Preferring a Sufi Shaykh to Kings

Around 1615 Jahangir’s artists begin to create allegorical portraits with symbolic references. This painting, for example, asserts that Jahangir favors the spiritual over the worldly. He hands a book, the most respected of objects in both Islam and the Mughal court, to a Sufi shaykh (a religious scholar). Below (and therefore implicitly less important than) the shaykh stand an Ottoman sultan and King James I of England. Bichitr’s self-portrait in the lower left corner conveys the respect that Jahangir accorded to painters.

Jahangir Preferring a Sufi Shaykh to Kings
From the St. Petersburg Album
Signed by Bichitr
India, Mughal dynasty, ca. 1615–18 Margins by Hadi, Iran, dated AH 1169/1755–56 CE
Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper Purchase
Freer Gallery of Art F1942.15