Not currently on display
Miniature of a Mughal prince
Northern India, about AD 1610
This miniature painting shows an encounter between a member of the Indian Mughal Empire elite and an ascetic, or holy man.
The holy man is a dervish, a person who has taken vows of poverty and living an austere life. His cell is depicted as a pavilion and he sits surrounded by his meagre possessions: a walking stick, pouch, book, small ceramic bowl and his prayer beads. A young attendant with a peacock-feather fan stands behind him to the left. His visitor is a youthful prince, sometimes identified as the young Jahangir (ruler of Mughal India 1605-27), who joins his hands together respectfully towards the holy man. The prince is attended by a number of figures who bear gifts for the dervish.
Many Mughal princes and emperors often visited important holy figures – both Muslim and non-Muslim personages – and also received them with great honour at court. One of the most unique characteristics of the Mughals was that they were Muslim rulers who governed a mostly non-Muslim population. This is a fact that sets them apart from other Islamic states during that time.
Miniatures reflect many aspects of Mughal life, its literature and history, its court ceremonies, its politics and personalities, its pleasures and intellectual interests. The Emperor Jahangir prided himself on his connoisseurship in this area:
‘As regards myself, my liking for painting and my practice in judging it have arrived at such a point that when any work is brought before me, either of deceased artists or of those of the present day, without the name being told me, I can say on the spur of the moment that it is the work of such and such a man.’
This miniature shares many characteristics of the long tradition of Islamic miniature painting. It has incredible detail both in the foreground and background, and rich and subtle colours with a close and accurate depiction of nature.