Jahangir portrait estimated to sell for £1 million in London

The Jahangir portrait set to go under the hammer. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Whether it's a reflection of true market conditions or an auction house's attempt to talk up the price, come April 5, Bonhams, one of the world's oldest auctioneers, of fine art and antiques, hopes the largest known Mughal painting to go under the hammer will fetch a staggering price of £1million. The painting in question is a unique six-foot high, life-size portrait of Emperor Jahangir. It is made in gouache with gold leaf on a fine woven cotton canvas. The emperor is shown on a European style throne holding a globe and wearing elaborate jewellery which is made from plaster and mica. Its border contains 26 inscriptions in Persian which praise the emperor. The portrait was done by Abu'l Hasan at Mandu and is dated AH1026/1617AD. This portrait will lead the auction and sale of other Indian and Islamic art at this London-based auction house founded in 1793.

The last time it was sold – at Sotheby's in 1995 – it fetched a little more than £half-a-million.

Alice Bailey, head of Indian and Islamic Art at Bonhams says: “The painting is attributed but not signed by Abu'l Hasan. He was Jahangir's favourite. We think it was painted by him because he was at Jahangir's court in 1617 when the painting was done. There was a signature at the bottom left corner of the painting but it has been rubbed out.”

Ms. Bailey also explains how the authenticity of the portrait was verified. “We have carried out a pigment analysis test which proves the painting is from the 17th century, apart from a radio-carbon dating test which proved that it dates between AD 1440-1640. Some restoration has been carried to the borders and back in the 19th century. We have also shown the work to leading academics such as Robert Skelton.”

The painting was exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery, London in 2010 and curators from the Victoria and Albert Museum such as Rosmary Crill have worked on it, she adds.

Hasan, whom Jahangir named “Wonder of the age” as his favourite painter, is also known for creations like “Jahangir Shooting at the Head of Malik Ambar,” “Jahangir's Dream of the Visit of Shah Abbas,” “Durbar of Jahangir,” and “Portrait of Shah Jahan” between 1615 and 1620. These works now grace Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Ireland, The Freer Gallery, Washington D.C., U.S. and Victoria and Albert Museum, London, respectively.

Bonhams hopes a major institution, museum, private collectors, or “the people of India” emerges as the likely buyers of Jahangir's portrait.

The auction, Ms. Bailey says, will also have a Mughal emerald and diamond bracelet, an Ottoman gold horse bridle belonging to Tipu Sultan, two very fine 17th century decoupage calligraphies from the Deccan era, apart from many other works of Indian and Islamic art from Turkey, Syria, and West Asia. Last year Bonhams sold “a tiger finial from the throne of Tipu Sultan for £4,64,000,” she shares.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 4:13:07 AM |

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