Jahangir portrait sold for Rs. 10 crore at London auction

April 07, 2011 12:36 am | Updated 03:00 am IST - London:

The portrait of Jahangir that was sold for £ 1.42 million in London on Tuesday. Photo: Special Arrangement

The portrait of Jahangir that was sold for £ 1.42 million in London on Tuesday. Photo: Special Arrangement

A six-foot high, life-size portrait of Mughal emperor Jahangir, billed as one of the rarest and most desirable 17th century paintings ever to go under the hammer, sold for a whopping £ 1.42 million (Rs. 10 crore) at an auction here.

The portrait, attributed to Abu'l Hasan, Nadir al-Zaman and dated 1617 AD, was one of the top lots at the Indian and Islamic Art Sale at Bonhams on Tuesday. It went to a Middle Eastern museum. The sale total was £ 2.7 million, which included an inscribed 18th century Mughal emerald seal, owned by an officer of the East India Company, that fetched £ 90,000.

European-style throne

The Jahangir portrait in gouache heightened with gold leaf on a fine woven cotton canvas shows the emperor, who reigned from 1605 to 1627, 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 a carpet under his feet. The border has 26 cartouches of fine nasta'liq inscription.

Previously displayed 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 and wearing elaborate robes and jewellery.

Extraordinary detail

“This is one of the rarest and most desirable 17th century 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,” said Alice Bailey, head of Indian and Islamic Art at Bonhams.

The inscribed Mughal emerald personal seal was set in a diamond encrusted gold bangle and bore the name of Major Alexander Hannay, who was in the service of the East India Company under William Hastings. It sold for well above its pre-sale estimate of £ 40,000-60,000.

The rectangular, 18th century emerald is table-cut and was mounted in an enamelled gold bangle in the early 19th century.

The inscription on the emerald may possibly be the work of Muhammad Salah Khan, a known seal-engraver, working in Faizabad. He engraved emeralds for other East India Company officers during the later part of the 18th century.

Inscribed Mughal gem

“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 particularly appropriate and sympathetic to the long-standing Mughal tradition of combining gems and enamelling,” Ms. Bailey said.

The rulers of Mughal India often ordered their names and titles inscribed on rubies, emeralds and diamonds, a practice which originated in Iran under the Timurids (1370—1507).

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