Equestrian Portrait of the Emperor Shah Jahan from the Kevorkian Album

Historical period(s)
Reign of Shah Jahan, early 19th century
Mughal Court
Mughal School
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W: 26.8 x 18.1 cm (10 9/16 x 7 1/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Album leaf with painting

angel, emperor, halo, horse, illumination, India, portrait, Reign of Shah Jahan (1628 - 1658)
Provenance research underway.

Shah Jahan, the third son of Jahangir, was reputed to be the wealthiest of all Mughal emperors and surrounded himself with opulent and sumptuous buildings. He was also the most ambitious of Jahangir's sons; he deposed the rightful heir to the throne and revolted against his father, causing considerable internal turmoil. Shah Jahan himself faced the rivalry of his son, Awrangzib, who deposed in father in 1658 and had him imprisoned for eight years at Agra, where he died.

Shan Jahan was an ardent builder; he restored Agra which was founded by Akbar, his grandfather, and constructed a new city called Shahjahanabad where he spent most of his time. He is probably best remembered for the construction of the Taj Mahal, the splendid mausoleum commemorating his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631 while giving birth to their fourteenth child.

The equestrian portrait of Shah Jahan depicts the Emperor in full majesty, attired in a dazzling outfit and bedecked with jewels. He strides serenely on a magnificent horse which is decorated with equal splendor. The city in the background most likely represents his newly-founded capital, situated on the shores of the Jumma River, a few miles north of Agra.

The angels above herald his coming and offer him symbols of royalty: a jeweled garland, a crown and a sword wrapped in brocade.

The painting is signed by Govardhan, who was previously employed by Jahangir. This artist specialized in portraiture and represented the princes and nobles of the court as well as the more humble members of the society, such a musicians, Mullahs (Muslim theologians) and ascetics.

Published References
  • Freer Gallery of Art. Gallery Book IV: Exhibition of May 22nd, 1940. Washington. .
  • Hermann Goetz. Geschichte der indischen Miniatur-malerei, V. vol. 8, no. 3 Berlin, May - June 1932. following p. 144, pl. 17.
  • Sotheby's (London). Catalogues of Valuable Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures, Comprising a series of very important Indian drawings by the court painters of the great Moghul emperors, Shah Jahan and Aurangzib, the property of a gentleman. London, December 12-13, 1929. no. 113, pp. 13-15.
  • Annette Hagedorn. Islamic Art. Germany. p. 92.
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Imperial Image: Paintings for the Mughal Court. Exh. cat. Washington, 1981. p. 189, fig. 32.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.