The Mughal Prince Dara Shikuh (1615-59 CE), the eldest and favourite son of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, was profoundly interested in mysticism and his writings centre on Sufi topics and poetry. A noted patron of the arts and calligraphy, the prince presented his wife with an album of paintings and calligraphy now known as the Dara Shikuh Album and held in the British Library. The present portrait is compositionally and stylistically very similar to paintings in the album by an artist identified by Falk and Archer as “Artist B” (Falk and Archer 1981, pp. 73, 383). It has been suggested that “Artist B” was influenced by the work of Govardhan, the celebrated Mughal painter whose paintings of sages and ascetics are full of life, psychological depth, a subdued palette and perspective. All of these elements are present in this extraordinary portrait. On the reverse of the album leaf is a calligraphy specimen by Mohammad Hosayn al-Kashmiri, the famous Akbari calligrapher known as “Golden Pen” (Zarin Qalam).
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