Payag : Portrait of Shah Jahan on Horseback (1630)
(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA)
A piece made by the Indian artist known as Payag (active ca. 1591–1658). This page comes from a book known as the 'Shah Jahan album'. Consisting of 50 illustrated and calligraphy folios it contains nature studies, calligraphy, portraits of the royal Mughal family and various dignitaries. The album was started by the Mughal emperor Jahangir (reign 1605–27) and for the next 200 years various Mughal emperors added pieces to the album until 1820 when it was bound again. This page offers a portrait of the famous Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the 5th emperor and the builder of the Taj Mahal. The young emperor is shown riding on a horse while wearing beautiful clothes and decorated weapons. The reign of Shah Jahan is known as the golden age of the Mughal empire: many buildings were constructed (the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, the Wazir Khan Mosque, the Moti Masjid, the Shalimar Gardens etc) and the empire reached its greatest extent. Shah Jahan was married multiple times but his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal (1593-1631), is the best known who was buried after her early death in 1631 in the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan was ousted by his son Aurangzeb after a short civil war. Jahan was put under house arrest in the Agra Fort, overlooking the Taj Mahal, until his death in 1658. Page from around 1630.