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Mughal Masterpiece: Portrait of Emperor Jahangir Sells for £1.4 Million at Bonhams
Mughal painting of Emperor Jahangir who ruled India from 1605 to 1627. EPA/Bonhams.


LONDON.- The magnificent portrait the Mughal Emperor Jahangir who reigned from 1605-1627, attributed to Abu'l Hasan, Nadir al-Zaman and dated AH 1026/AD 1617, sold for £1,420,000 at Bonhams Indian and Islamic Sale today, April 5th. It went to a Middle Eastern museum. The sale total was £2.7m.

The picture is a political tour de force in which the Emperor lays claim to a world-wide ambition. This is achieved through its full life-size magnificence, use of precious items in it s creation, and the words that accompany it, all make his all conquering ambition plain.

The portrait in gouache heightened with gold leaf on a fine woven cotton canvas shows the Emperor seated on a European-style throne. His head is surrounded by a radiating nimbus and he is wearing an embroidered floral tunic over a patka and striped pyjama, with applied plaster jewellery. There is a circular pendant around the Emperor's neck set with mica, with jade and glass vessels at his side and carpet under his feet. The border has 26 cartouches of fine nasta'liq inscription.

Previously shown in the National Portrait Gallery in an exhibition on the Indian Portrait in 2010, the Emperor is shown seated on a gold decorated throne holding a globe, wearing elaborate robes and jewellery. The surrounding Persian inscription states it was painted at Mandu in AH1026/AD1617.

Alice Bailey, Head of Indian and Islamic Art at Bonhams comments: “Thisis one of the rarest and most desirable 17thcentury paintings ever to come to auction. There is no other work of its kind known and its importance cannot be underestimated. The extraordinary detail and complexity of the painting both fascinate and bewitch the viewer. We are honoured to have sold it.”

INSCRIBED 18TH CENTURY MUGHAL EMERALD SEAL OWNED BY OFFICER OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY SELLS FOR £90,000
Another important item in the sale was an inscribed Mughal emerald personal seal set in a diamond encrusted gold bangle and bearing the name of Major Alexander Hannay, an East India Company officer. It sold for £90,000, well above its pre-sale estimate of £40,000 to £60,000.

The rectangular 18th century emerald is table-cut and was mounted in an enamelled gold bangle in the early 19th century. The three-line Persian inscription on the face of the emerald is in nasta’liq script and reads: "Amin al-Mulk Ashraf al-Dawla Alexander Hannay Bahadur Arsalan Jang AH 1185/ AD 1774-5".

Major Alexander Hannay was in the service of the East India Company under William Hastings at the time when the company had transferred its trading role into a more military administrative one. In 1778, Hannay left Hastings’ service and entered that of the Nawab of Oudh. He managed the district of Gorakhpur, when during this period there were a number of disturbances as a result of his suspected oppression and misconduct.

The bangle has passed down through the family to the present owner.

Alice Bailey, Head of Indian and Islamic Art at Bonhams, comments: “This is a particularly fine example of an inscribed Mughal gem whose history and known provenance adds to its interest. The glorious Victorian setting is in particularly appropriate and sympathetic to the long-standing Mughal tradition of combining gems and enamelling.”

The rulers of Mughal India often ordered their names and titles to be inscribed on rubies, emeralds and diamonds, a practice which originated in Iran under the Timurids (1370-1507). Some of these gems ended up in the collection of the Mughal emperors who continued the tradition.






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