Prince Dārā Shikoh
Leaf from the Read Mughal Album, by Chitarman
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911
Dārā Shikoh (1615–1659) shared with his father, the Mughal emperor Shāh Jahān, an interest in calligraphy and art, becoming a great patron himself. His brother Aurangzeb had him killed in 1659, appropriated his art collection, and usurped Jahān's throne. Since the portrait is dated 1639–40, Dārā Shikoh was about twenty-four years old. He is shown fully armed, with the cosmic symbols of Mughal kingship; the sun (mandorla and halo) and moon beneath his feet. The artist's signature, He, who is dust under his feet, Chitarman, is written in gold beneath the shoes of his patron. Chitarman (active 1628–ca.1670) signed at least three other portraits of Dārā Shikoh, whose atelier he entered early in his career.
The Read Mughal Album
Pierpont Morgan purchased the Read Mughal album, along with a Persian album, from Sir Charles Hercules Read, Keeper of British and Medieval Antiquities at the British Museum, in 1911. The Morgan purchase consisted of thirty folios (including both Indian miniatures and the Mughal portraits presented here), but Read owned at least forty-eight others, now widely dispersed. The leaves were probably once bound in several lacquered bindings. The identity of their compiler has not been established, but many borders date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Mughal emperors of India commissioned biographies and were frequently portrayed by artists. Here the paintings are presented in the order of the emperor's reigns rather than the dates of the miniatures, starting with Bābur (r. 1526–30), the Muslim founder of the dynasty, and ending with Shāh Jahān (r. 1628–58), builder of the Taj Mahal.