A Mughal Nobleman
Accession Number: IU Art Museum, 60.32
Date and Location: 17th century, Mughal India
Dimensions of work: 29.2 x 19.2 cm
Dimensions of painting: 15.8 x 10.6 cm
Portrait paintings of court officials collected in albums were a trademark of Mughal court painting, a tradition started by the emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605) and practiced by his son Jahangir (r. 1605-1627) and grandson Jahan's (r. 1627-1658) courts as well. Album portraits made during the reign of Jahangir are known for their forest green backdrops marginal floral decorations. This folio is thus likely to date from the period of Jahangir's reign and probably depicts a contemporary court official.
The margins are the finest part of this composition as each flower is outlined with sparkling gold illumination and rendered with the utmost care. The floral marginalia is in dialogue with the flower held by the sitter. The seated figure smelling a flower is a convention also seen in Ottoman imperial portraiture where the flower represents literary skill, knowledge, and the arts. The unidentified sitter is shown leaning up against a cushion as he sits on a rug. It is possible that this individual was not a prince or nobleman since his clothing is modest and he wears no jewelry except for an earring.
For similar Mughal paintings, see: Grube, Islamic Paintings from the 11th to 18th Century in the Collection of Hans P. Kraus, 288 (cat. 249); and Kessler, “In the Company of the Enlightened,” 31 (fig. 5) and 32 (fig. 7).