Painting of kneeling gentleman wearing turban, attributed to Aqa Riza
Lot 324
A courtier wearing a crimson jama and a white turban kneeling in a landscape Mughal, circa 1630
Sold for £121,250 (US$ 203,799) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
A courtier wearing a crimson jama and a white turban kneeling in a landscape
Mughal, circa 1630
gouache and gold on paper, laid down on an album page with a gold-decorated floral inner border, outer borders of silver-sprinkled paper, creased, framed, the backboard with inscription Persian Portrait. Aga Riza Before 1590
miniature 146 mm x 71 mm; album page 226 mm. x 148 mm.


  • Provenance: UK private collection since the 19th Century. Another painting from the collection was sold recently in these rooms (Bonhams, Islamic and Indian Art, 5th April 2011, lot 23).

    The courtier wears a crimson robe jama with central opening and gold collar over a blue shirt, a loosely knotted striped cummerbund around his waist, and a purplish stole falling over one arm and held in his hand. On his head rests a high white turban with pyramidal cap (kulah) and small black plume. A slim gold dagger (kard) with hardstone terminal hangs at his waist. In the background there is a hilly landscape with green bushes including prickly pears and a young tree.

    This fine portrait was probably painted around 1630, in a style which might be called 'Persian tradition in a Mughal style.' The main features of the costume are Persian, with the jama fastening with buttons rather than Mughal ties. This style of dress does however appear in some work by Aqa Riza and his son Abu'l Hasan under the Mughals, for example in the Anvar-i Suhayli in the British Library (see J.V.R. Wilkinson, Lights of Canopus, pl. III, IV). The folded gold collar is also a contribution from the Mughal style.

    The facial characteristics differ from the traditional moonfaced beauties of Persian portraiture. Here the slightly beaky quality of the nose and puckered lips recall a portrait recently sold as part of the Stuart Cary Welch Collection (Sotheby's, The Stuart Cary Welch Collection: Part One: Arts of the Islamic World, 6th April 2011, lot 35) and may be derived from the old men painted by Aqa Riza in the 1630s, particularly in the treatment of the shading on the left cheek emphasizing the nose. These characteristics can also be seen in some portrayals of the Emperor Babur, developing over time into the high cheekbones, angular jaw and pointy beard associated with a 'Mongol' appearance (see, for instance, Babur Reading (British Museum, 1921 10-11-03) and Timur hands Babur the Crown (Victoria and Albert Museum I.M. 8-1925)). The unusually small plume in the turban has some similarity to that worn by Babur in Babur and Humayun, of circa 1650 (Sackler Gallery s86.0401). The draped stole, retouched from its original silver colour, is also influenced by the paintings of Aqa Riza. The appearance of the stole can indicate religious leanings but in the present picture would seem more likely to be a stylistic prop.

    Aqa Riza

    Aqa Riza of Herat, also called Riza-yi 'Abbasi, trained in Isfahan and had entered the service of the Emperor Akbar in 1584. Prince Salim, later the Emperor Jahangir, was drawn to Aqa Riza's markedly Persian style, which favoured the Safavid tradition, and to which he remained faithful to throughout his career. His style became slightly more naturalistic with passing years, but he never renounced his Safavid heritage. Although Salim appreciated Aqa Riza's Persian style in his younger years, when he became Emperor in 1605 he lost interest in the conventional and conservative work of the old Persian master in favour of the more innovative paintings by other artists of the atelier.

    Aqa Riza's son, Abu'l Hasan, who was born at the court in 1588, went on to become Nadir al-Zaman, the Wonder of the Age, under Jahangir, and was famous as a miniature artist. He also painting a life-size portrait of the Emperor in 1617 (Bonhams, Islamic and Indian Art, 5th April 2011, lot 322).

    We would like to thank Dr. Barbara Brend for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.
  1. Matthew Thomas
    Specialist - Islamic and Indian Art
    101 New Bond Street
    London, W1S 1SR
    United Kingdom
    Work +44 20 7468 8270
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 8283