Many prints were produced in Europe in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries of soldiers and men-at-arms holding a variety of weapons including rifles, and often posed in a somewhat dramatic manner. On this occasion, the Mughal artist has faithfully reproduced most of the elements of de Gheyn's print, including the subject's posture, his garments, tilted-back hat, ruff, facial hair and even earring, although has stopped short of including the accompanying dog and background landscape. Perhaps the other notable difference is that the wooden club (and attached hare) of the de Gheyn print has been replaced in the Mughal version with a long wooden rod, possibly a pike or spear. It seems likely that the artist would have had access to the other works in the series of 'The Four Elements' as in the first of these, 'Aer', the subject is holding a long hunting spear with a similar shaft to that of the present painting, perhaps for which he substituted the wooden club. A related early seventeenth century drawing of a European holding a rifle, identified as the Portuguese admiral Albuquerque but more likely to be a generic European soldier/sailor type, is in the San Diego Museum of Art (Edwin Binney 3rd Collection), 1990.303.
The present work is painted in a style associated with the first decade of the seventeenth century and we can accurately date its painting between 1595, the date of de Gheyn's print, and 1613, the earliest of the many librarians’ notes and seal impressions on the verso (see below). It is one of four works in this catalogue that have similar library notes and seals on their versos and all seem to have been transferred to the Mewar collection in the late seventeenth century (see lots 1, 10 and 11). Three other works from the same group have been sold in these rooms in the past (23 April 1996, lot 5, 8 October 2008, lot 44, and 20 April 2016, lot 49) and most are painted in a related style characteristic of the period circa 1595-1610.
The inscriptions and seal impressions in the margin and on the reverse contain the following information:
In the margin of the painting, the word avval 'First [class]', a system of grading used in the Mughal Royal Library to indicate the quality of manuscripts and paintings.
During Jahangir’s reign it was inspected twice: in regnal year 8 (1613) and regnal year 10 (1615), the latter accompanied by the oval seal impression of ‘Abd al-Latif al-Husayni.
During Shah Jahan’s reign it belonged to Asaf Khan Khan-e Khanan (brother of Nur Jahan, thus Jahangir's brother-in-law, and father of Mumtaz Mahal, thus father-in-law of Shah Jahan), and was entrusted to Muhammad Sharif in the royal library in regnal year 15 (1642).
Entrusted to Muzaffar in regnal year 17 (1643).
Valued and entrusted to Shams in regnal year 18 (1644).
Inspected in regnal year 23 (1649).
Entrusted to La’l in regnal year 29 (1656).
Inspection note under Alamgir in 1069 (15 April 1659), accompanied by the seal of Azizullah (still using the Shah Jahani epithet).
Seal impression of Sayyid Ali al-Husayni dated 1075 (1664-65).
Mewari inventory number 17/55 (?) and clerical note dated 1111 AH (1699-1700).
For the importance of Mughal Library inspection notes and valuations, see John Seyller 1997, pp. 243-349. For information about Mewari inventory inscriptions see Topsfield 1995.
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