Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Shah 'Abbas I Of Iran Attended By A Page
Mughal, 18th century CE
Materials and technique
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Page 39.2 x 25.3 cm; Image 18.1 x 12.3 cm
Shah 'Abbas I (r. 1587-1629 CE) kneels on a rock and is attended by a young page wearing a fur-lined gold coat with embroidered decoration, a purple robe and an elaborate turban with aigrette feathers. He holds out a tray with a cup to Shah 'Abbas. This is a Mughal portrait of the Safavid ruler which highlights Shah 'Abbas’s small stature by placing him in a kneeling position at eye level with his opulently dressed page. They are set low and small within an undefined space. There is a similarly unflattering portrait of Shah 'Abbas in the British Museum (Canby 2005, pp. 36-37) attributed to the Mughal artist Bishn Das, who was in Iran to record the meeting between Shah 'Abbas I and Khan 'Alam, the Mughal ambassador. The present portrait of Shah 'Abbas has been mounted onto an album page with wide margins decorated with sheep. The sheep recall another biased Mughal depiction of the Safavid ruler, in which Shah 'Abbas is standing on a lamb, locked in an embrace with the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (r. 1605-27 CE; Freer Gallery of Art, 42.16). In that imaginary meeting, painted by Abu’l Hasan (c.1618-42 CE), Jahangir is clearly in the dominant position: he stands on a lion, a symbol of kingship, and towers over the smaller Safavid ruler whose stance on a lamb symbolises peace but also weakness in comparison to Jahangir’s lion. The reverse of this page contains verses by Hafiz written in diagonal lines of elegant nasta'liq by 'Abd al-Rahim al-Haravi ‘Anbarin Qalam’.
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