A large equestrian portait of Safdar Khan Deccan, Hyderabad, circa 1790-1810

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Lot 88
A large equestrian portait of Safdar Khan
Deccan, Hyderabad, circa 1790-1810

£ 20,000 - 30,000
US$ 26,000 - 39,000
A large equestrian portait of Safdar Khan
Deccan, Hyderabad, circa 1790-1810
gouache and gold on paper, identifying inscription in large nasta'liq script at top, yellow, red and blue outer borders
565 x 438 mm.

Footnotes

  • The inscription reads as follows: J(?)..... khan ji al-mukhatab be-safdar khan bahadur babi 'alamgir shahi.
    'J(?) [undeciphered]... Khan Ji, titled Safdar Khan Bahadur Babi [of] 'Alamgir Shah'.

    According to Robert Skelton, the index in vol. I of the Ma'athir ul-Umara lists three men with the title Safdar Khan who served the Mughal regime during the reign of the emperor Aurangzeb. (Nawab Samsam-ud-Daula Shah Xawaz Khan and his son Abdul Hayy, The Maathir-ul-Umara: Biographies of the Muhammadan and Hindu Officers of the Timurid Sovereigns of India from 1500 to about 1780 AD, Second Edition dated 1780, vol. I., trans. H. Beveridge, revised, annotated and completed by Baini Prashad, 1941-1952, pp. 314, 563, 567 and 788). The closest fit in details and most probable identification for our nobleman is Safdar Khan Jamaluddin, the younger son of 'Azim Khan Koka, also known as Fedai Khan, the Mughal high official and military leader from Lahore who became subhadar (governor) of Bengal in the 21st regnal year. When 'Azim Khan Koka died 1678 after only one year as governor, Safdar Khan and his elder brother Muhammad Salih Khan, were sent mourning dresses by Aurangzeb. Safdar Khan's name Jamaluddin may the indecipherable word beginning with a 'J' in the inscription.

    Jamaluddin received the title of Safdar Khan in the 27th year of Aurangzeb's reign, during which he was made faujdar (garrison commander) at Gwalior. He gained further social distinction by becoming the son-in-law of his uncle Bahadur Shah Zafar Jang Kokaltash, a foster brother of the emperor and the governor of the Deccan. The Bahadur that follows Safdar Khan in his titles is similar to that in his father-in-law's titles and means 'brave', an epithet well deserved as Safdar Khan died in battle in Gwalior in 1691, the 33rd year of Aurangzeb's reign. The word babi may mean 'confidante'.

    An anomaly in the painting is its combinations of dates: the perspectival treatment of the European-style city in the background, while quite typical of Jaipur and Kutch, is not normally thought of in connection with the Deccan, which the overall style of the work and its inscription suggest. Such landscape treatment must have come to Hyderabad and the surrounding region by the late 18th Century. In addition, while Safdar Khan is dressed as a nobleman of the Aurangzeb period, the sepoys in the townscape would seem to indicate a late 18th or early 19th Century date for the scene behind and the painting as a whole. It could therefore be possible that this posthumous portrait was done for one of Safdar Khan's descendants living in the Deccan.
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