Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Height: 170.000 mm
Width: 102.000 mm
ME OA 1937.4-10.02
Portrait of Sultan Ibrahim cAdil Shah II, an album painting in gouache on paper
Bijapur, Deccan, India
Around AD 1615
Ibrahim cAdil Shah II was a descendant of the Ottoman dynasty of Turkey, and ruled the Shi'a Muslim sultanate of Bijapur in the Deccan from 1579 to 1627. The various sultanates of the Deccan mostly remained independent from the powerful Mughals in Northern India, apart from a period of occupation by the Mughal emperor Awrangzib between 1687 and 1724.
The Sultan was an inspired patron of painting, music and poetry. Ambassadors from the Mughal court reported that he would fall into a reverie while listening to musical performances, and in this portrait he holds a pair of castanets in his left hand, to show his particular love of music. The handkerchief in his right hand is a symbol of kingship. He was a spiritual person, interested in both Hindu and Muslim mysticism: here he is wearing a rudraksha necklace of dried berries, typically worn by Hindu holy men and used as a rosary.
The Sultan stands in a garden, with a walled white palace in the background. Most of the middle ground is painted black, and the pale white and gold of his costume stand out effectively against the darkness.
B. Brend, Islamic art (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)
M. Zebrowski, Deccani painting (London, Sotheby Publications, 1983)