‘Shah Jahan in the Time of Youth’ ascribed to Govardhan
India, Mughal, c.1630-1640
opaque watercolour with gold on paper, inscribed at lower left '…dhan' (the second half of [Govar]dhan), inner blue border, outer gold-flecked cream border, inscribed in the lower border 'shabihi shah jahan dar ‘alam juwani ‘amal-i govardhan', 'a picture of Shah Jahan in the time of youth the work of Govardhan'; reverse with a letter dated 1846 relating to the provenance (see below)
miniature: 23.8 x 14.2cm
visible area: 29.5 x 19.5cm
In the possession of an East Anglian collector, probably in or near Bury St. Edmunds, before 1846. A handwritten letter from R E Lofft dated 18th July 1846 describing the painting and giving interpretations of the inscription is pasted to the reverse of the frame.
This is an important and rare painting of a Mughal prince seated with his consort in a palace chamber. There is a later inscription in the lower border describing the scene as 'a picture of Shah Jahan in the time of youth…' and naming the artist as Govardhan, one of the leading Mughal royal painters of the first half of the seventeenth century. This attribution is apparently confirmed by a short inscription at the lower left of the painted area which reads '…dhan' - the second half of the name Govardhan. It is not clear why only the final letters of the name survive in this inscription, but it may simply be due to localised loss of pigment and subsequent retouching, of which there is evidence at the lower left corner.
The style of the painting is very close to Govardhan’s, in particular the subdued, brownish palette, the precisely drawn facial features of the two figures, the romance and palpable intimacy of the scene, and the candid gaze that the princess directs outwards towards the viewer. There are several works signed by or attributed to Govardhan that provide comparisons, of which the following are the most relevant: a scene of a prince (possibly Parviz) and his consort on a terrace, a scene of Jahangir celebrating Holi in the women’s quarters, and a scene of a gathering of princes in a garden (all three in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, see E Wright, Muraqqa’, Imperial Mughal albums from the Chester Beatty Library, Alexandria VA, 2008, nos. 39, 41, 44, pp. 302-303, 310-311, 322-323); two ladies on a daybed (Seitz Collection, see J Seyller, 'Mughal and Deccani Paintings', Zurich, 2010, no. 11, p. 55); a prince and consort (probably Jahangir and Nur Jahan) embracing on a terrace (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, see P Pal, 'Indian Painting', Los Angeles, 1993, no.71, pp. 259-261); a portrait of Jabha (see J Seyller, ‘Govardhan’, in Beach, Fischer and Goswamy, 'Masters of Indian Painting 1100-1650', Artibus Asiae Suppl. 48-1, Zurich, 2011, p. 369, fig. 13).
In terms of the general style and subject matter, there are several further works of the 1630s and 1640s that relate to the present painting, including a scene of Jahangir with Sultan Khurram