Lot 206
  • 206

The Sons of Shah Jahan, ascribed to Balchand and Lalchand, Mughal, circa 1635-50

18,000 - 25,000 GBP
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  • Ink with colour on paper
ink with use of colours on paper, each figure identified with inscriptions, two inscriptions naming artists: lower right amal-i Balchand and upper centre right amal-i Lalchand, further inscription describing a pendant page, laid down on later stout cream paper, inscription in upper border naming the three mounted princes, reverse inscribed 'No.13' in 19th-century English hand, also numbered '12' in Persian and '4' in English, 19th/early 20th-century label at upper left of reverse; the reverse of the drawing paper (now laid down against the backing paper) bears a sketch of Jahangir shooting an arrow at the head of Malik Ambar (visible if held up to the light)


English private collection, 19th/early 20th century

Catalogue Note

These very interesting drawings exactly echo the compositions of three separate Jahangiri and Shah Jahan-period imperial paintings by Balchand, Lalchand and Abul-Hasan, two of which are drawn here in reverse. The fully-coloured original of the main drawing of the three mounted princes is by Balchand, datable to circa 1635 and is in the Minto Album (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, IM. 13-1925, see Stronge 2002, pl.117, p.155). The fully-coloured original of the perpendicular drawing of Shah Shuja' is by Lalchand, datable to circa 1640 and is also in the Minto Album (V&A, IM. 15-1925, see the museum's website). A third, hidden drawing is present on this folio. It is on the verso of the original sheet of paper, but because the folio has been laid down on a later piece of paper, the drawing is invisible unless held up to strong light. It shows a sketch of the torso of Jahangir shooting an arrow at the severed head of Malik Ambar, which is also shown. The fully-coloured original of this is by Abu'l-Hasan, datable to circa 1616 and is also from the Minto Album (Chester Beatty Library, 7A.15, see Leach 1995, vol.1, 3.26, p.399; Wright 2008, cat.50, pp.344-5). The two visible drawings on the front have inscriptions. The three mounted princes are identified as Murad Bakhsh (uppermost); Aurangzeb (middle); Shah Shuja' Bahadur (lower). This is in fact the opposite (and wrong way round) compared with the original by Balchand, in which Shah Shuja' is uppermost and Murad Bakhsh lowermost. To the right of the three mounted princes is an inscription amal-i Balchand ('work of Balchand'). This is the same artist who painted the original in the Minto Album. Above this is a further inscription that translates as "Opposite this page, a portrait of Shah Jahan [and] Dara [Shikoh] on horses and accompanying men". This refers to the pendant page in the original album setting, which is indeed a depiction of Shah Jahan riding through a landscape with Dara Shikoh and attendants (IM. 12-1925). This latter painting was originally by Manohar and probably depicted Jahangir and Shah Jahan, but the faces were later altered by Murar to show Shah Jahan and Dara Shikoh (see Stronge 2005, pl.95, p.130). The perpendicular drawing at the top of the page of Shah Shuja' has an inscription as follows: shabihi farzand Shah Shuja' Bahadur amal-i Lalchand ("Portrait of the son, Shah Shuja', the work of Lalchand"). This is the same artist who painted the original of this portrait in the Minto Album.

The drawings and the folio as a whole are highly interesting, but puzzling. They are certainly executed by an artist of considerable talent who was confident and skilled. But it is not clear whether they are working sketches associated with the original execution of these paintings in the context of the royal atelier during the reign of Shah Jahan, and are by Balchand and Lalchand themselves, or whether they are later versions after the fully-coloured originals - possibly made within the Mughal atelier soon after. The fact that the name Dara Shikoh in the longer inscription has been slightly defaced may imply that the drawings and inscriptions were executed when Dara Shikoh was still crown prince before his defeat by Aurangzeb in 1658-59, but was then defaced soon after Aurangzeb's victory.