A fine and unusual double-sided album page from the Imperial Mughal Library during the reign of the Emperor Aurangzeb, with scenes from the life of the Sufi Shaykh Majd al-Din Baghdadi Herat, 16th Century, with Deccani and Mughal additions of the second half of the 17th Century

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Lot 4* R
A fine and unusual double-sided album page from the Imperial Mughal Library during the reign of the Emperor Aurangzeb, with scenes from the life of the Sufi Shaykh Majd al-Din Baghdadi
Herat, 16th Century, with Deccani and Mughal additions of the second half of the 17th Century

Sold for £ 69,000 (US$ 93,624) inc. premium
A fine and unusual double-sided album page from the Imperial Mughal Library during the reign of the Emperor Aurangzeb, with scenes from the life of the Sufi Shaykh Majd al-Din Baghdadi
Herat, 16th Century, with Deccani and Mughal additions of the second half of the 17th Century
recto, six scenes in gouache and gold on paper, perhaps excised from a manuscript of Jami's Nafahat al-Uns, laid down on an album page with an inner silver-sprinkled light blue border, nasta'liq inscriptions within gold cloudbands in upper and lower border, outer border with undulating foliate motifs in gold on a light pink ground, seal impression of Mughal Imperial Librarian at lower right corner; verso, a circular painting of a noblewoman, Mughal, late 17th Century, laid down on sections from Deccani and Mughal gilt-decorated album page borders of the late 17th-early 18th Century, gold-sprinkled inner borders, fine marbled border outside these, upper outer border with nasta'liq inscription, lower border with two lines of text in nagari script in gold (trimmed at right-hand edge), perhaps later, numbered 69 in Arabic at lower left corner
each scene recto 100 x 95 mm. and slightly smaller; painting verso 103 mm. diam.; album page 390 x 278 mm.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    The Imperial Mughal Library, apparently during the reign of the Emperor Aurangzeb (reg. 1658-1707).
    Private US collection, early 1970s-present.

    The seal impression in the lower right corner (recto) is that of a Mughal official, and reads: sohrab khan khaneh zad-e 'alamgir padshah, 'Sohrab Khan, born in the household of 'Alamgir Padshah'. The date is not clear, but it is clearly from the reign of Aurangzeb/'Alamgir I (1658-1707), and judging by the terminology, probably the early years of his reign. The seal impression of Sohrab Khan is found on other album pages including one in the Philadelphia Museum, while another was on a portrait of the Mughal nobleman Farrukh Fal, dated 1650-75, with Francesca Galloway (Indian Miniatures, London 2005, pp. 16-17, no. 6). This also had the same kind of nagari inscription indicating a Rajput collection, perhaps Amber. An album page with Sohrab Khan's seal impression, depicting a Mughal nobleman recto and with calligraphy by Javaher Raqam verso, dated to the third quarter of the 17th Century, was sold at Sotheby's, The Khosrovani-Diba Collection, 19th October 2016, lot 15.

    The Persian text verso consists of a couplet in praise of the beauty of a lady (perhaps by implication, that depicted in the painting below). The nagari text at the bottom also praises her beauty, comparing it to spring.

    The fragments of plants on a gold ground are reminiscent of imaginary plant studies in a dispersed manuscript of Indian philosophy, the Aparoksha Siddhanta, produced in the Deccan, at Aurangbad, and dated 1669 (see Francesca Galloway, op. cit., pp. 4-7, nos. 1, 2; also N. Haidar, M. Sardar, Sultans of Deccan India 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy, New York 2015, pp. 292-293, no. 169).

    Marbling is of course a technique strongly associated with the Deccan, and the example here in the outer border verso is particularly striking. The petal-like differentiated areas were probably created using some sort of stencil or resist-masking technique for blocking off sections (though there is some suggestion that the technique is decoupage). For examples of Deccani marbling, and a discussion of the technique, see Haidar and Sardar, op. cit., pp. 156-169, esp. p. 158.

    The absence of text makes it impossible to say if the paintings recto were excised from a manuscript of Jami's Nafahat al-Uns, or another text on Sufis, or were simply depictions of the life of Shaykh Majd al-Din, made in an album for a specific patron.
    Jami's Nafahat al-Uns told the lives of six hundred and eleven Sufi saints. Shaykh Majd al-Din Baghdadi was a pupil of Najm al-Din Kubra. Khwarazm Shah asked the Caliph of Baghdad to send him a physician and Majd al-Din was sent. The Khwarazm Shah threw him in dajlah (referring, it seems, to a river as large as the Tigris - a scene perhaps depicted at lower left). Examples of the complete text have appeared at auction a few times: the only illustrated instance was a single leaf, dated to Herat, circa 1500 (see Christie's South Kensington, Indian and Islamic Works of Art and Textiles, 11th April 2008, lot 102. For complete examples of the text, see: Christie's, Islamic, Indian and Armenian Art and Manuscripts, 12th October 1999, lot 80 (dated AH 910/AD 1504); Bonhams, Islamic and Indian Art, 5th December 2002, lot 496 (Afghanistan or North India, 17th Century); Christie's, Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, 31st March 2009, lot 138A (a Turkish translation, dated 1520).

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A fine and unusual double-sided album page from the Imperial Mughal Library during the reign of the Emperor Aurangzeb, with scenes from the life of the Sufi Shaykh Majd al-Din Baghdadi Herat, 16th Century, with Deccani and Mughal additions of the second half of the 17th Century
A fine and unusual double-sided album page from the Imperial Mughal Library during the reign of the Emperor Aurangzeb, with scenes from the life of the Sufi Shaykh Majd al-Din Baghdadi Herat, 16th Century, with Deccani and Mughal additions of the second half of the 17th Century
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