Rare Imperial painting soars to £42,000

Rediscovered 17th century painting thought to depict Shah Jahan and his tragic empress, the inspiration for the Taj Mahal, was purchased by a buyer in Hong Kong for £42,000


A painting attributed to one of the greatest court artists of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan soared to £42,000 after being discovered in a private collection in Suffolk.

The miniature painting (23.8 by 14.2cm) had been in the same collection since 1846, when a handwritten document by an expert in Arabic and Persian manuscripts was pasted to the back. 

Dated 18th July 1846, the document by R. E. Lofft describes the painting and interprets its inscription, and it also includes the opinion of H. H. Wilson, a prominent Sanskrit scholar and the librarian at East India House in London at the time.

An important and rare painting, it depicts a Mughal prince seated with his consort in a palace chamber. The later inscription in the lower border describes the scene as “a picture of Shah Jahan in the time of youth…” and names the artist as Govardhan, one of the leading Mughal royal painters of the first half of the 17th century. A short inscription at the lower left of the painted area appears to confirm this attribution. It reads “…dhan”, the second half of the name Govardhan. It is not clear why only the final letters of the name survive in this inscription, but it may simply be due to localised loss of pigment and subsequent retouching, of which there is evidence at the lower left corner.

 

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